KS4 lessonThere is probably more material already on the web for GCSE history teaching at KS4 than for any other key stage. Much of it is written for students. This section of the site is for teachers. The long and growing list of lessons on most sections of most specifications has been created from actual lessons, in the hope that it will stimulate even better ideas in your department. These lessons were taught by teachers whom I have seen in action and with whom I have discussed the lesson. You will find no lessons that have not been carefully validated by a highly experienced expert – me.

Adapting Keystage history lessons – FAQs

1. Why are lessons still called ‘outstanding’? I am often asked how the lessons section of the site should be…

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How can we explain the incredible margin of victory at the referendum for Anchluss in 1938?

How can we explain the incredible margin of victory at the referendum for Anchluss in 1938?     You need…

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berlin wall
Berlin Wall – If relations between the superpowers were improving in the late 50s, why was the Berlin wall built in 1961? A Bone in the throat

This multi-faceted session starts with students having to shape their understanding of the reasons for the building of the Berlin…

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Migration – If England was the safest place in Europe for Jews to live in Henry II’s reign, why then did Edward I expel them just 100 years later?

By posing this enquiry question in a slightly paradoxical way, students are encouraged to go deeper in the explanation than…

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vietnam war helicopters
Vietnam War – Why did Johnson really escalate the war in Vietnam?

If Johnson claimed that he wanted peace when he became president, why did he escalate the war in Vietnam and…

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top 10 history teaching
Teaching GCSE thematically: 10 approaches that really work

Now that all schools have to teach a thematic study I thought I’d share my experience of observing hundreds of…

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crime and punishment
Teaching Crime and Punishment

I am sure you all know of the excellent websites out there to help you, but I would particularly recommend the Durham…

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New evidence of Anglo-Saxon mutilations as punishment

Ninth-century England was a bad place to be a criminal, new findings suggest. The skull of an Anglo-Saxon teenager discovered…

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1931 Nazi election poster
Teaching Germany 1919-45

Hodder produce some of the best GCSE books on Germany whether for the Modern World and for the SHP Depth…

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Elizabethan vagrancy
Terror of the Tramp: Why did vagrancy become such an important issue in Elizabethan England?

GCSE lesson in which students work through a range of differentiated clues to work out 8 reasons which help answer…

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Richard I: Lionheart or loser should we keep his statue – SMART TASK

This short task puts pupils in the role of spin doctors who have to ‘big up’ the reputation of Richard…

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Medieval Britain: The Crusades

Great lesson on the reasons for the First Crusade which uses a Zone of Relevance activity to show students how…

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Rotten apple or …. How should we portray Dyer’s motivation in the Amritsar massacre?

This enquiry asks students to look critically at the depiction of the massacre in the film Gandhi as a way…

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Dime Novel Cover
Teaching American West at Key Stage 4

Schools have been teaching the American West as part of the SHP course for over 30 years. I introduced it…

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Medieval medicine
Teaching the History of Medicine

As you all know, the trick with teaching this course is to marry a strong contextual knowledge with an understanding…

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How should Germany be treated at the Paris peace conference? KS3 or KS4 task

This short but engaging task precedes any detailed analysis of the terms of the treaty itself. It has four distinct…

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Which cartoon best explains the paradox of the Nazi Soviet pact?

The Unholy Alliance: why on earth did Hitler and Stalin sign the Nazi-Soviet Pact when they clearly hated each other?…

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Lynching in the US in the 20th century 1919-54

Crammed into this very active lesson are: slow reveal of an arresting image; interesting information about the role of the…

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battle of the somme
Causes of World War One: problems of evidence. Why is it so difficult to work out who caused the First World War? Smart Task

This is a very short 5 minute warm-up activity to help students get a feel for the partisan sources that…

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police car lights
Bringing GCSE Crime and Punishment right up-to-date

Latest statistics prove invaluable when making comparisons across time Today, fewer than 5% of street robberies and burglaries are being…

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History of medicine
Fun anachronism-spotting activity set in 1796, for GCSE History of Medicine

Most anachronism activities used in schools are the rather naff ones put before Y7 pupils in an introduction to What…

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Transported for defacing this bridge in the 1820s
Transportation; what questions can we raise and answer from the statistics?

This is the first of two lessons on transportation and owes its genesis to an idea from Richard McFahn when…

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american railroad
SMART TASK: A history puzzle – Opening up of the Western frontier by the railroads. A history mystery

This history puzzle focuses on a well-known painting, Across the Continent, but one which is actually more puzzling than might at…

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Why were mining towns such lawless places?
SMART TASK: Why were mining towns such lawless places?

This is a very straightforward, yet highly effective task which asks students to distinguish between the generic and the specific,…

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Sample from resources
The likely impact of the Railroad: time for de Bono’s thinking hats and some creative products

Students are taken back to the year 1860 before there was a transcontinental railway. They are asked to speculate about…

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Dime Novel Cover
Was the life of a cowboy really so adventurous?

This lesson draws heavily on the ideas of Sarah Herrity, Advanced Skills Teacher, Wyvern Technology College, near Winchester. It moves…

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Who went west and why?
Who went west and why?

This lesson worked really well with lower attaining Y10 students who had already studied the Plains Indians and the contact between…

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changing warfare
Teaching GCSE History: Changing Warfare (Edexcel)

This SHP option, offered by Edexcel only, builds on the success of the A2 paper for which colleges such as…

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KS4 lesson
Teaching GCSE History: Media Through Time

Your best place to start is undoubtedly the AQA scheme of work which offers learning foci for each of the three strands….

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history of medicine
SMART TASK: History of medicine Renaissance physicians; Is the artist taking the piss?

In this short activity students are shown two contrasting images of a physician inspecting a patient’s urine. Students have to…

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Medieval medicine
SMART TASK: Medieval medicine. What can we work out from the picture?

A smart task based on an original idea from Lorna Hunter, of Swanmore Technology College. This deceptively simple example of…

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SMART TASK Revision: name your best squad

To help students remember who the key individuals were in the history of medicine, you might like to present them…

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Jenner’s ideas on vaccination
SMART TASK: Why was there so much opposition to Jenner’s ideas on vaccination in the 19th century?

This is a short, fun SMART task.  All the instructions are on the PowerPoint presentation.  Start with slide 2 which…

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SMART TASK Key Stage 4: GCSE SHP Medicine: 18th century surgery

This quick activity asks students to explore the detail in Rowlandson’s cartoon called ‘Amputation’.  They score one mark for each…

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glass half full
SMART TASK: Was the Weimar Republic doomed from the start? A glass half empty?

The lesson starts with a glass of water which you have filled to roughly half way. Students have to say…

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SMART TASK: How successful was Nazi policy towards women and families?

This short task was designed to combat the tendency many students have to simply describe rather than evaluate the policy. …

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SMART TASK: 10 features of the Cold War but can you spot them?

Students often learn about the Cold War in chronological order. This activity offers them an opportunity to explore 10 aspects…

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Peace Pledge Union website
Ideas for teaching GCSE history Britain 1890-1918 using ICT

For suggestions for 20 top ICT activities using a wide range of data and applications click here to download PDF file. Resources…

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lenin airbrush
SMART TASK: Now you see it, now you don’t. A fun starter showing how Lenin and Stalin used the ‘airbrush’

Fascinating starter in which students have to spot and then explain the differences between three pairs of photos of Soviet…

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back lbj
Smart Task: How popular was the Vietnam war? What can we learn from just two photographs?

This simple starter uses just two contrasting photographs, one showing the popularity of Johnson’s policy towards Vietnam, the other opposition…

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vietnam war
SMART TASKS: Why did the US get involved in the Vietnam War?

Three separate short activities help students produce  a top grade answer to the question. Task I – brainstorming early ideas…

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rosa parks bus
SMART TASK: How significant was the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the history of Civil Rights?

Quick ranking activity for GCSE/AS students Students are asked to consider the relative significance of 11 possible arguments that have…

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wall street crash
SMART TASK: Causes of the Wall Street Crash

Students are given a set of influence cards which help them to work out the answer to an apparent paradox….

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franklin d roosevelt
Hoover’s rubbish: Roosevelt moves in

This lesson on a fairly familiar theme approaches GCSE cartoon analysis in a different way.  Instead of showing the students…

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stalin on korea
SMART TASK Key Stage 4: Stalin and the Korean War: can you interpret the cartoon?

This Smart task uses a Punch cartoon as part of a lesson on the Korean War.  It carefully steers students…

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fall of the berlin wall
SMART TASK: Why did Communism end when it did in Eastern Europe?

Prior to writing an answer to this question students will need to organise their thinking. These factor cards might help….

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Penicillin: From discovery to world-wide use? Who should take the credit?

Students have to divide a $100 million bequest to those people who did most to develop penicillin. But in what…

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usa flag
Teaching USA 1900-1990 to Key Stage 4

The first batch of lessons focuses on four examination favourites but each adds a different subtle twist that lifts the…

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Teaching international relations 1945-1990

This section, dominated by the Cold War focuses mainly on teaching its origins, its main crises and the reason why…

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america 1920
Did everyone benefit equally from life in the USA in the 1920s? A market place activity. SMART TASK KS4

This activity is great for getting students off their feet and talking to every other students in the class –…

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