Using living graphs in history at KS4 and 5: don’t let the activity replace the thinking and long-term recall

I have long been a fan of using living graphs, especially to help students appreciate extent and speed of change as well as identifying turning points. Having said that I have noticed a worrying trend recently which has crept in. What happens is that students are given a set of event cards and then have to award them marks out of 10 and place them on a living graph spectrum. So far so good. where it goes wrong is that two things fail to happen. The first is lack of any sense of judging whether students’ graphs are in line with current thinking. Now we don’t want identikit images  because it is  in discussing the different interpretations that students come up with that the adds so much value to the activity. I always try to model my own thinking for students stressing how other historians would differ.

The second element that is missing is the expectation that students will be able to recreate and explain the shape of the graph WITHOUT THE EVENT CARDS in front of them. So how about starting the next lesson with students annotating a pre-drawn graph  you have given them, with the key events? And how about next time asking them to draw the shape themselves from memory, drawing on what they have learned AND REMEMBERED! That way they remember the content , not just the activity.

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