Working out where pupils struggle in history and making learning visible

Identifying the areas where pupils struggle in history and converting these into explicit teaching opportunities should be at the heart of what we do. I’m not just talking about diagnostic assessment tasks, though these are  helpful, but more about the everyday interactions such as carefully thought out hinge questions so judge who has ‘got it’ and who hasn’t. But more important still is the need to making learning visible. Can pupils see what it is they need to know and understand. How do we model? How do we show ourselves thinking aloud through a problem and deciding how to answer a question? How do we inculcate in young pupils to ability to adopt learning strategies that we often take for granted. How do we help them understand what is relevant to an answer. Show them and explain your thinking.

We could also profitably spend a bit longer working up good analogies to help pupils grasp key concepts. Those that make learning visible and help pupils to organise and communicate their ideas are very important. Many of you teaching KQ1 of the Britain at War topic will have drawn on the analogy of the playground bully when struggling to explain appeasement.

I use a lot of devices to encourage pupils not to see things in simple black and white terms. A glass half full/empty often helps pupils to answer the questions why is half of it empty. I use the simpler device of drawign round pupils’ hands to provide an outline of five arguments written on the finger shapes for one side and five ‘on the other hand’. It all helps with thinking out loud prior to writing

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