Enquring Minds: Year 8 Local History Projects

Phew!

I’ve had another couple of year 8 lessons, and before they fade from my memory I thought I’d try to put down some thoughts

  1. Pupils in and out of lessons;
  2. Engaging interest
  3. moving from collecting to ordering / analysing
  4. pressure of time

Pupils in and out of lessons

I’ve got a class with four children (out of about 18) who regularly miss lessons, usually through illness.  Two are in aproximately every second lesson, though sometimes they are there for two or three in a row.  This has made ‘delivering’ this course really hard – they’ve still not decided their focus when others have done so and are sifting through evidence.  Some are still not sure what the whole course is for because they missed the first couple of lessons.  This seems to be less of a problem with traditional history schemes, as the narrative / thematic flow continues, and when there are concrete activities.  It’s also occured to me that the activities, the flow of the scheme is in fact obscuring the problems that these students have, and that therefore this approach is forcing me to differentiate more because these problems are more visible.

Engaging interest

About half the class have really taken off with this and are interested.  Most of the rest are chugging along, but there are a significant minority who have rejected this way of learning and are not interested.  There might be a number of reasons for this – perhaps they’re not interested in the local history of the area (I need to work on earlier lessons in order to engage interest even more).  Perhaps they feel un-comfortable with the lack of direction (I need to work on structuring these lessons when there are so many people at different stages doing different things).  Perhaps they don’t like the responsibility of looking after their own learning – after all, they’ve been in school along time, and I imagine that they see teachers as being in a certain role (probably the banking role that FutureLab alude to in their guide) and their own role as being correspondingly passive.

Interestingly I’ve (unwittingly) been running a bit of ad hoc comparitive research on this.  I’ve been teaching two year 9 groups about the holocaust.  One group (the middle set) has been really vocal in terms of questions and wondering outloud about the issues we’ve covered.  They’ve often been interrupting lessons with questions like ‘what happened under the Nuremburg laws to couples that included a German and German Jew?’.  When these have come up, so as not to interrupt the flow, I’ve been noting them down in a smart board (attached).  We then had a lesson where they had to pick two and then, using their textbooks and (after they’d drafted up a list of potential key words / phrases to search) the internet.  They loved it – and really got stuck in, working together in ad-hoc groups, discussing strategies, arguing, presenting to each other what they’d found.  It was an excellent lesson, we really enjoyed it.

So, I tried to use the lesson with my other group – a top set who had been interested in the course, but had not asked the same number of questions.  So, I borrowed the list of questions from the other class.  This lesson was a disaster.  They didn’t give a monkey’s.  Which shows me the power of student’s asking their own questions, and of engaging their interest early on.  Now all I’ve got to do is consider why one clas was interested, and the other not!

Moving from gathering to manipulating evidence and information

This part isn’t working – under pressure of time I’ve tried to conflate these parts of the process, without reference to the guide and in order that students are prepared to do work over the holidays (the damn thing’s got to be in after they come back!).  Looking back at the guide I see a lot of questions that I could have been asking with my students:

 

  • What can you find out quickly?
  • What is left unanswered?
  • What direction do you want to go?
  • What aspects are most interesting?
  • What are the key areas?
  • Are there different perspectives?
  • Who might be able to help you or who might think differently about this?

      

    To be honest, my attention has been towards fixing some behaviour problems with certain members, and as a result I’ve used the planning tool I created as a way of assessing how far they’ve come.  I have lots of cutting and pasting, though many students (most) have tried to use the evidence to answer at least one of their three questions. 

    Pressure of Time

    As you can see, I’m feeling under pressure.  Next year when I try this approach again (and I will) I think I’ll start the process off in homeworks some weeks before its slot in the schemes of work.  This should allow me and the students to build up a head of steam before the official clock starts ticking.  I’m also going to use the resources this year, and refer to some of the self audid tools in Ginnis’ Teacher’s Toolkit (amazon link) to help me plan student’s activities.

     

     

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