Mrs Humanities

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Guest Post from @TeachYesterday – Breaking down exam skills with ‘source windows’

Breaking down exam skills with ‘source windows’

Inference can be a tough skill to teach, particularly at KS3. The nuance and context that surrounds a source can be incredibly complex, but, like any other skill, improving a students’ inference can be achieved by the consistent repetition of good practice (easily said, I know).

During my training year, my SENCO emailed me a template of a ‘source viewer’ he had seen on Mrs. Humanities (a website which then became my professional life-raft), I decided to adapt the source viewer to make it suitable for my lower attainers (Figure 1).

Originally, I was trying to create a resource that would help them with the basic provenance of Time, Audience, Author and Place.

Figure 1


The students enjoyed using the laminated source viewers and asked to use them again. So following this mini success, I decided to adapt another version of the viewer (Figure 2) or ‘source window’, as the students had named it.

Figure 2

This one focused on the exam specific interpretation and source skills needed for the AQA GCSE History papers. This viewer had three sides which were colour coded; the purple panel included generic versions of all the source and interpretation questions found in the AQA papers. The orange and green panels featured questions that broke the required skills down, making the students’ answers more of a step by step process. The challenge for each student is then to attempt one question from the colour above at some point during the lesson.

Feeding Back

The students are directed to the colour panel of questions that is appropriate to them on feedback sheets I use to mark their books. I assess their source analysis using the AO skills sheets (Figure 3) and assign them one of the three colours.

I was then able to say to a class “Everyone answer questions 1-4 on the source window for Sources A, B and C” and the class would then be answering three versions of a GCSE question differentiated based on their level without me having to micro-manage three tasks to one group.

Figure 3

This was a big hit with that same SENCO as I was then able to differentiate by task on all my source work without any extra resources and at any point during the lesson.

Feeding Forward

After source analysis tasks students then consult their AO skills sheets (Figure 3) and assess their own answers and identify one skill from the next level of difficulty that they will work on in the future. I even make them write it in the ‘progress focus’ box to ensure each student is aware of their target. I then encourage them to refer back to this the next time we are doing source work.

Figure 4

I then stared to create other resources (Figure 4) that all use generic versions of KS4 questions which also break the required skills down into the same three levels. These resources allowed me to create ‘circuits of progress’ in students’ books that make the students’ progress clearer to the student themselves. This enables them to move up through the tiers refining their skills as they go, outlining a pathway so the students know exactly what they need to do to improve. I have shared my adapted source viewer on Twitter and other people, (some from around the world) have made their own versions adapting the questions to their own exam papers. Create your own and share it!

Thank you to @MrsHumanities for the inspiration

Mark Grantham – DCCA
Follow Mark on twitter @TeachYesterday

Download a copy here.