Mrs Humanities

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Guest Post from @Lisamoniquepool – Teaching History in a specialist school

guest post

Teaching History in a specialist school: a peek at life as a non-specialist specialist.

Even with just two years experience in a specialist school, there are lots of thoughts to share about the experience as a History teacher.  The school is a specialist provider for dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and a range of other learning difficulties and it was, to be honest, a tentative leap for me to accept the job without the specialist SEND training I thought would be essential. Pupils at this school are well-behaved, polite, largely tidy, funny, caring, flexible, motivated and deserving the absolute best service possible.  They also usually have negative baggage from mainstream struggles, late identification of needs and anxiety.  The science behind children developing these difficulties is an area I don’t yet fully understand. I haven’t cracked the best way to help them learn yet – but  the door has just chinked open a little.

‘Back in the day’, in 1999, trainees learned to deliver and develop a subject and SEN understanding was limited largely to differentiation, an overview of some ‘common’ learning difficulties and the behaviour management that could result from pupils ‘kicking off’ due to inadequate meeting of needs;  I’m not aware it has changed much, and the chances of emerging as a qualified teacher with a parallel, comprehensive specialist knowledge of SEN, are still rare.  Therefore, schools with specific areas of expertise like mine, employing subject experts needed to meet national curriculum demands, means 3 things: a very steep learning curve, dependence on advice from experts  & quality CPD, & a sense of justice.  Achievement for our pupils is the high bar it is anywhere else, & it is up to me to make sure I don’t do them the mightiest disservice by not helping them learn their way.

So, the scene is this.  Small classes, no more than 8.  A full gamut of subjects and the expectation to sit GCSEs.  No TAs.  Pupils dropping in and out for therapy sessions.  The usual ‘no pen, Miss’ and ‘X is winding me up’ but no extraordinary behaviour (in fact, the opposite – the energy required, the latent frustrations and anxieties, previous learning experiences, developmental lags should imply some really difficult pupils but there are none, behaviourally).  Classrooms are typical – some over-busy and jolly (guilty), others more functional.  Chairs get left untucked, bags forgotten, pupils loiter when you secretly need a coffee.    Breaktimes are lively and way more important than the bits in between (obvs) but boundaries are clear, routines set (& quite often known!)  In short, nothing really different to any mainstream school, it might seem.

So what does it mean to teach History in such a school?  At a crass & simple level (& no disrespect to my pupils with the generalising), pupils struggle with writing, generally have reading ages considerably lower than chronological ages (at worst, by half), struggle with spelling (‘Lebensraum? Harsh, Miss!’).  So reading and writing are onerous?  Hmmokay.  They find sequencing illogical and taxing, find chronological sweeps of time impossible to fathom.  Right, so cause and consequence is an early obstacle, and don’t even start thinking about change and continuity.  They can struggle with empathy and inference, so sourcework & interpretation is really confusing.   Memorising 10 key words & meanings is a massive feat, so let’s not even contemplate how hard pure exam-based GCSEs will be (4 topics crammed with content – yikes).  Formulating ideas and communicating non-verbally is tough.  Getting started and knowing how to organise thoughts can be a spaghetti mess.  Time-pressure is a nightmare – where all pupils have 25% extra time as a minimum, how to manage a 1-hour lesson and accelerate all pupils’ learning simultaneously?  Letters on a page – even a well-crafted, colour-coded, diagram-based page – jump around and have a party.  Dates?  Well… Recording understanding and ideas, when nearly all pupils are entitled to a Scribe in exams, is either uncomfortable or impossible, or anything in between.

Ah ha, you say – all those skills that historical thinking and understanding are built on?  Well fundamentally, yes.   However, as the Historical Association freebie postcards told us a few years ago, History is ‘gossip well told’ so, provided I can crack the methods, everyone loves good gossip so what’s the problem?   The solution is to go west and differentiate, my friend!   In fact, differentiate like never before – pupils at my school are not weak learners, or unlikely to achieve – far from it on both fronts and the school motto of ‘the same road by different steps’ suggests that, at one level, History teaching is no different to any other school, as long as you target it appropriately and personally, which is what we’re all supposed to do anyway.  Pupils at my school have extraordinary intelligences, probably more unorthodox, sometimes disguised, more empowering and more unique than I ever understood so, hey, if I can tap into these intelligences, I’m flying, right?   Well yes.  But how does it work? What needs to be done that is different?    ‘Bespoke learning’ & ‘tailored lessons’ may be fashionable eduspeak but actually, it comes down to that basic bottom line – knowing pupils’ needs and ensuring they can access, enjoy and stretch.

In a typical day, I need to consider font size.  Paper colour.   Chunking instructions.  Colour.  Processing time.  Key words and meanings.  Access to sensory tasks.  Which pupils need a finger fidget.  Which pupils need an escape card.  Which pupils can read comprehensively and still understand very little of what they have read.   Who needs to fire up the laptops immediately (&who needs to process instructions before tippy-tapping).  Who needs scaffolding.  Who needs more, much more, teasing out of thoughts.  Who needs extension work that fits.  Who needs 3 chances to clarify instructions.  Quite a list, but is it THAT different to the thoughts of (history) teachers in any school?    I’m not sure whether my SLT team would agree, but I believe that the development in History learning & teaching is a 60-40 balance:  60% tapping into, planning for my student’s individual needs and 40% how much I love my subject.  How can I explain how very cool and clever David Low was?  How can I make it easy to understand the physical lapse of time between Alfred’s victory at Edington and the Battle of Hastings?  How can I best relay the consequences of the consequences of the Boston Tea Party?  How can I explain that a non-King – William Marshall – was as important as a King in 1216?  It’s about thinking more creatively than ever and making resources specifically for my pupils.

Visually fantastic clips that appear to tick all the content boxes have narration that is too quick.  There’s no chance to process before the next bit is up.  Powerpoints often have captions that also move too quickly – pausing and re-reading helps, but loses the impact and flow.  Textbooks are an enigma: all those letters on a page, partying away & dancing around.  The weight of reading material, and even the content expected to be processed, can cause alarm, disengage pupils and immediately elevate the subject into ‘wordy’ and therefore to be avoided/loathed.  But at the same time, should my pupils be deprived of that overview, reference point, glossary etc?  The chance to look through and get a holistic ‘feel’ for the topic?  I suspect, despite the convention that most textbooks don’t work for us,  that actually they would.  Trial to start in September!

Please be sure, I’m no guru.  I don’t have the background knowledge about what creates special educational needs and disabilities.  I don’t have a teaching legacy in SEND.   I don’t have a full armoury of every strategy ever developed, but I’ve made a start.  I do have no-singing, no-dancing lessons.  I do occasionally have lessons that would horrify Senior Leader or Ofstedians.   I do get it wrong, quite often.    But it’s a superb challenge, with infinite possibilities and I think I’m getting a bit more of a handle on it and, really exciting, it’s probably helped me celebrate my passion for History because it’s the one resource I have, for free, in spades.

Lisa (@Lisamoniquepool)

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History on TV

history on TV

Whilst I set up Geography on TV I thought I should probably set up a History on TV.

Since I do like a bit collaboration, I’ve set up a collaborative google doc might be useful. It’s pretty simple, if you know of a show or have watched a show add it to the week it will or was broadcast. Then other teachers can see what’s on or what will be on.

history template

If it’s already been broadcast well don’t worry, add it anyway. With the power of technology these days, it can then be searched for on one of the many catch up sites or channels. Simple.

Here’s an example for Geography for the week commencing the 12th June.

12th june

If you’d like to help create this it’s really easy to collaborate. Simply click here to be taken to the google drive folder. Find the relevant week, organised by week commencing and add the following details

  • name of show
  • time its on

If it’s on a channel not listed as the ‘core’ channels add it to the ‘Others’ row and all include the channel name.

Hope we can produce something useful for each other and our students.

Mrs Humanities

 


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Mrs Humanities shares… 10 History Teachers to follow on Twitter.

mrs humanities shares

This is the second in my new series of posts – Mrs Humanities shares… In each post from the series I will be sharing some of the stand out practice I’m regularly inspired by, interesting ideas, recently shared resources, news stories etc. If there’s something in particular you’d like to see then suggestions are warmly welcomed.

This time I’m really excited to be sharing some fantastic practitioners that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person on several occasions and love sharing ideas with. Others I’m yet to meet but find them a source of inspiration regularly. In no particular order then…

Tom Rogers

Tom Rogers
Head of History and owner of  RogersHistory.com
This man is the mind behind #TMHistoryIcons, a quality source of inspiration for both the historian and general teacher alike. Often in agreement with much of what he writes both on twitter and for the TES.

Mr Allsop History

Mr Allsop History
Head of Humanities and author of 366 Days: Compelling Stories From World History
If you’re a history teacher and you’ve never come across Scott’s site(http://www.mrallsophistory.com) then I’d be very surprised; it’s a wealth of material as is his twitter feed. Scott regularly shares interesting links, ideas and his own resources.

Mr. Thornton

Mr. Thornton
Subject Leader
A twitter feed of regular inspiration. In my #PedagooHampshire2016 workshop I referred to Mr Thorntons idea for marking crib sheets and it was an instant hit with the attendees. I think his hits shot up from that day (just kidding). You’ll find a continuous source of inspiration on his twitter feed and a can access many of them on his site – https://mrthorntonteach.com/

LoveToTeach

LoveToTeach
Subject Leader
Kate is another of the #TMHistoryIcons team and a valued member of the twitter teaching community. She regularly shares a variety of general teaching and learning ideas as well those for the historian or geographer. Kate runs the blog lovetoteach87.com, check it out.

Russel Tarr

Russel Tarr
History teacher and author of A History Teaching Toolbox: Practical classroom strategies
Russel is probably one of those history teachers that you’d be ashamed to find you missed out of a list of history teachers to follow on twitter. A constant source of inspiration for both subject specific and general teaching and learning ideas. Probably most famed for his sites – activehistory.co.uk and classtools.net His twitter feed is a constant source of inspiration much of which is linked to his own practice.

Heather Mary James

Heather Mary James
Humanities Teacher and Head of Department for Citizenship and PSHE
A ray of sunshine on my feed at times; often shares teaching and learning ideas across the Humanities with a good dose of teacher well-being thrown in. You can also find Heather blogging at thelondonhumanitiesteacher.com

MissSouthernHistory

MissSouthernHistory
Head of History
A lovely lady I’ve had the pleasure to meet at #TMHistoryIcons that regularly shares ideas, links and articles. Regularly shares photos of what’s happening in her classroom, which I love, particularly when the kids are dressed up and bringing their learning to life.

LA McDermott

LA McDermott
History Teacher
Many an interesting idea shared, plenty of inspiration to get your mind lesson planning. Amongst all the good practice you’ll find a few subject specific links.

J Mosley

J Mosley
History Teacher
You’ll find plenty of inspiration on this feed. A consistent source of creativity and plenty of lesson ideas to help with your planning.

Jonny Hemphill

Jonny Hemphill
History Teacher
Now I can’t say I interact with Jonny at all, what I mean is I see inspiring ideas, articles and links shared by him but I don’t think I’ve ever said anything to him even though I’ve shared his tweets on MagpiedPedagogy numerous times. Now I feel bad, so Jonny, here’s a big HIGH FIVE to you, thanks for what you share.

Well hopefully there is someone new on the list for you to follow.

If there’s someone I’ve not included but you think should be, feel free to name them and add a link to their twitter feed in the comments.

 

Mrs Humanities


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Changing Role and Status of Women

Seeing as I’m no longer teaching history but have hundreds of resources, I thought I might start sharing them for others to make use of. So I’m starting with one of my favorite topics from the AQA Specification B (Final exam 2017) on the Changing Role and Status of Women.

AQA women.png

I loved teaching this unit so hope you can make use of the resources which can be found here.

 

mrs-humanities

 


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Resource – Spanish Armada Double Lesson

Today I’m sharing with you one of my favourite double lesson on the Spanish Armada and its defeat.

I particularly love it for two reasons; firstly I was observed teaching part 1 by Ofsted and received a glowing report from the inspector, secondly it enables students to demonstrate progress their progress very easily over the two lessons.

The resources are an amalgamation of my own ideas and that of others from resources I’ve collated the past few years.

Lesson 1 – The lesson starts with an empathy exercise – putting yourself in the image – and has 3 options for students to choose how to approach the task. Students imagine they are in the image which zooms in and out, I also put sound effects on as students enter the classroom.

starter
I’ve edited a few bits out that were relevant to the previous lesson so this resource follows on with a bit of information about the Navy Royal and some rather famous ships. It’s at this point I assess prior knowledge asking questions to obtain what students already know about the Spanish Armada (usually very little).

Next we watch a video and carry out a true or false exercise followed by self-assessment of the answers. To print off the tables off go to the end of the PowerPoint slides for a printable version.

After further discussion we move onto interpreting sources, starting with carrying out an example together.

Finally it’s on to the main task.

main task

This involves looking at sources to interpret why the Spanish were defeated. The activity has been differentiated into 3 bands of challenge.

Spice Level 1 = designed for the lowest ability

Spice Level 2 = designed for the middle range most students choose to do this one

Spice Level 3 =  designed towards the most able in the year group

bronzeSilverGold

Students have the opportunity to choose the level of challenge  so they can go above but not below their target level. e.g. students working toward previous level 4 in year 8, would have been aiming to complete the bronze criteria for the topic and therefore would have been guided towards the Spice Level 1 task but could choose to do the Spice Level 2 task, whereas a student working towards level 7 would have only be allowed to do the Spice Level 3 task.

Students make it progress to different parts of the task sheet, dependent on the level of the task they are working on.

To finish the lesson, students select the criteria they would like assessed by their peer assessment buddy. See the criteria on the slide below. Students are encouraged to pick their weakness for peer assessment. Students then swap books and using the peer assessment pens (green) they use the marking codes or highlight relevant text. Finally they provide a kind comment and a level up target for the student to focus on next lesson.

peer assessment.png

peer assessment 2.png

Lesson 2

Students finish off the work they started the previous lesson, however this time every time the do the level up target they write in pink pen to evidence their progression.

DIRT.png
I’ve found that when students use a different colour pen to demonstrate the their progress they work a lot harder at doing it correctly e.g. if in lesson 1 a student kept spelling Armada wrong, in lesson 2 they use the pink pen when they use the word in their work. For others it has been for example using punctuation, every time they did a capital letter and full stop it would need to be in pink, this approach made them more conscientious of their work.

Finally if time students self-assess and peer-assess their work using the feedback grid I would use to mark it. They would simply tick the criteria they felt they’d achieved.

When marking the work I would then highlight in one colour the achieved criteria and highlight in a separate colour the criteria they could improve on. For some classes I set improvements as homework others have time in a DIRT lesson later in the term.

feedback

If you’d like to download the resources click here.

Hope the resources can be of use to you.

Mrs Humanities