When I read Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (£) one of the things that really resonated with me was the difference that the authors draw between ‘rule learners’ and ‘example learners’ – between those who can see the wood for the trees and those who can only see the individual trees. Whilst I first thought that this was not an easy concept to fit over my experience of history teaching, there being no ‘rules’ in history to learn. The more I thought about it in the light of my own teaching, the more important this idea seemed to be. There are lots of students who know a great deal of things. But, they seem to have difficulty being able to say anything about all these things that they know.
My year 9s are doing some work on slavery, we’ve been borrowing some ‘big picture’ slavery lessons from Dan Nuttall at Ilkley Grammar, and interspersing it with detailed lessons on slavery during the 18th and 19th Centuries. I’ve been wanting them to be able to make generalisations about slavery, and to support these with evidence, and we’ve had some success. To help others over the line, I borrowed an idea I also stole from someone else, from the Teacher’s Toolkit: Raise Classroom Achievement with Strategies for Every Learner (£), called ‘target notes’ – I encouraged the students to write explaining sentences about the impact or effects of the three ‘topics’ in the middle circle and examples to support in the outer circle. Most of them did well, but a crucial number didn’t – and it’s these I can work on to help them understand the difference between the ‘rule’ or the ‘generalisation’ and the ‘evidence’.