#SHP16: My workshop

This year at SHP my workshop was titled Stickability and it was all about classroom practice that helps to embed knowledge across the two year GCSE course. I’ve been dipping into Make It Stick all year and most of what I shared was focused on interleaving and spaced practice. As I write my new schemes of work for GCSE I am going to embed a few things right from the very beginning: a benefit of having to rework an entire qualification is the opportunity to do this.

My focus for next year is going to be on core knowledge tests, 5-a-day sheets and flashcards for the units we’re teaching. Meanwhile, I’ll be rewriting the KS3 programme of study for my new school to reflect the change in GCSE units, and creating the generic core knowledge competition that I have been thinking about for the latter half of this year.

Here are my slides from the workshop, as a pdf – sorry, no PowerPoint this time but if you want my Smartnotes slides, please email me.

SHP16 Sally Thorne slides

Most of the handouts are available on this blog somewhere – American West/Crime and Punishment flashcards, Three Truths and a Lie, all my Crime and Punishment 5-a-day sheets. I’m afraid if I wait to add links to these, this post will languish unpublished for months, so please do a search but get in touch if you want something and can’t find it.

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Resources for revising Crime and Punishment

Just reading back over my last blog post. “Less busy”, haha.

Anyway, I have a couple of helpful things to share. The first is a set of Crime and Punishment flashcards I made for my Y11s. These are modelled on the American West ones I made a couple of years ago and are pitched at the Edexcel B specification. They are wildly popular; a couple of my girls asked me if I would create some for the Protests unit too. Unfortunately the clock might have run down for that one.

This is an Excel file and the definitions are back to front, so that when you print them double sided they match up with the correct term.

Crime Revision Flashcards

Secondly, a set of starter/revision/homework sheets. Before half term I saw Matt (@26mxw) tweeting about a 5-a-day starter sheet he read about in this blog post. I very much appreciated the uniformity of this approach and thought it might be a good way to help my Y10s to prepare for their mock. I had a bit of free time in the following school day so I set about creating a few for the following term.

I must confess that I was not thinking of these as quick 5-10 minute starter tasks; this was more about tackling the particular issues I have found Y10 struggling with, to wit:

  • Differentiating among the strands of the topic, eg the difference between law enforcement and punishment (I knew I should have gone back to teaching it thematically)
  • Treating sources as evidence
  • That tricky “how useful?” source Q3
  • Correctly ordering the chronology, particularly in the 50-1350 section

In addition, since I see my Y10s for a double every week and a single every other week, I created these with that double lesson in mind. It will make a good starter that we can revisit twice later in the lesson: once to complete, once to mark. Then I can collect and mark the bits they can’t. If I’ve got a particularly packed lesson planned, I can set as a homework.

The first three are pegged quite closely to last summer’s Crime paper, since that will be their mock. I haven’t tried it yet, so if you try it and like it, please let me know; likewise if you try it and have suggestions for improvements.

5-a-day starter 6-6

5-a-day starter 13-6

5-a-day starter 20-6

5-a-day starter 27-6

5-a-day starter 4-7

Matt has been working on something a lot snappier for Medicine so please tweet him if you’d like to see what he’s been doing.

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2015: That was the year that was

2015 was an exceptionally busy work year, even for me.

At school, I completed my first calendar year as Head of History. I oversaw a rise in the number of students opting for History GCSE, nearly launched a new A-level (maybe this year) and brought home GCSE results that bucked the school trend in terms of A*/A grades and 4 levels of progress. We introduced new A-level units, changing board from AQA to OCR. I reworked the program of study at KS3 to reflect the increase in curriculum time from three hours a fortnight to four. I wrote a new KS3 assessment model which I presented to a senior leader panel as part of the school’s Aspiring Leaders in Education program. I interviewed and welcomed an NQT, and an observer in the department who is now going to train with us under Schools Direct next year. I organised a WW1-themed off-timetable day for year 8.

At the exam board, I completed my sixth series as an assistant principal. I completed and passed the three written assignments for the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors’ Excellence in Assessment course I was doing; in October, I sat and passed the exam, so I am now (MCIEA). I also completed the six-module senior examiner training run by the exam board.

I presented at four points this year. Firstly, I reprised my role as the expert examiner for Keynote, at their Medicine Through Time student conferences in the spring. Secondly, I spoke as part of our local Bristol history pizza group (#BristHist, as I like to call it) on assessment after levels at the Historical Association conference in May. Thirdly, I ran a very popular workshop at the SHP summer conference, which I titled “Assessment for the Bewildered.” It was originally aimed at NQTs so I was daunted when a lot of experienced people turned up, but hopefully everybody took away something new to use in the classroom. Finally, I led a training day on preparing to teach the new Edexcel GCSE in London in October, for Philip Allan. I think presenting to my peers is always going to be the thing I find most nerve-wracking and this was no different; but it was a supportive crowd and I really enjoyed the experience. It was also very helpful to have to dig through the rationale for the new GCSE so thoroughly.

There have been some other bits that don’t fit in elsewhere: I am really proud to have been made regional adviser for SHP for the southwest, and taken over as SHP’s web manager. As part of SHP’s new GCSE, I am consulting editor for the team writing the Dynamic Learning package for Hodder, which will support the textbooks that are being written. This is a really exciting set of resources. I’ll be writing the exam advice for them in the coming months.

And finally, the writing. I wrote up my assessment after levels work for Teaching History; this was published in December 2015. And, since the summer, I have been working on Pearson’s Medicine Through Time textbook, for the new specification. I’m currently in the process of completing the chapter edits. This has been really fascinating and I have really enjoyed the opportunity to immerse myself in history books for the past few months.

There was some inset – TLAB in March was a notable highlight. I also managed to squeeze in holidays to Wales, Devon, Budapest and Berlin, an epic road trip around California, and a school ski trip to Italy (the 8th I have organised). It’s a good job I like keeping busy.

For 2016? There are a couple of exciting things on the horizon. We’re focusing on sources at #BristHist for the year. I’m speaking at the SHP day conference in March, delivering a keynote on stickability; I’m likely to reprise my Philip Allan conference in June. I’m going on three foreign visits with school in the next 12 weeks.

Realistically, I’d like to work a bit less. I do enjoy working hard, but it makes the time pass so quickly. I can’t believe how quickly 2015 whizzed by. Now the textbook is done, though, I think that should help me to achieve this goal. I mean, look! – blogging on a Saturday night instead of looking up medieval remedies for the Black Death. Progress!

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Adventures in Assessments: Life After Levels

During the holiday, I came across Alex Ford’s advice to a new HoD whose school is introducing GCSE criteria to grade KS3 students. I think I have mentioned before that I am also in that boat; it was comforting to see that Alex had mentioned many of the arguments I presented to SLT when they ran the consultation on this. Unfortunately, I was the lone voice of dissent among the middle leaders, and so the model was adopted. I can understand why: as a data manager it is important to know exactly where students are and if staff can forecast how they will do at GCSE even better.

I’m pretty grumpy, love getting my own way and mostly think I know everything so I did not take this well and had to go away to think about it for a great deal of time before I was able to come to terms with it. Luckily I was attending the course with the CIEA that I’ve mentioned before; I was completing an Aspiring Leaders in Education course at school; I had the pizza group to commiserate and discuss with; and I have an extremely supportive line manager who was willing to chew the fat with me extensively, particularly in the later stages of the year. All of these things helped to prod me into creating what will hopefully be a workable model. I’m still not quite there, but I need to put it into practice now so that I can see where the holes are.

Here’s my advice, then:

1. Read everything you can get your hands on. This document from the DfE, all about the way that the new standards are being set, is a good place to start. A couple of interesting points from this – level 9 is not actually a thing; it is simply the top 20% of students achieving L7 and above. Secondly, the model chosen was the one that the exam boards most favoured. By its very nature, this is going to be the best model best suited to taking a snapshot of progress, not assessing it over time. Keep that in mind.

The Teaching History from December 2014, all about assessment, is also a must-read. Don’t feel wistful about all the spectacular, mould-breaking, new-wheel models people are coming up with: you can pick the best bits of theirs and incorporate it.

I didn’t read this before I created my model, but Daisy Christodoulu has written extensively about assessment design on her blog recently. She mentions the No More Marking website which I want to use next year for making A-level essays.

2. Consider your context. Do you have non-specialist teachers? Are you a combined Hums department and, if so, does your model need to be similar to other Hums subjects? What sort of units and assessments work best for your students? Do you offer an A-level, or a fringe qualification (like Classical Civilisation)? Factor this in when building your model.

3. Remember that you are the specialist in this. Your model needs to work to show progress in history over time and adequately prepare students for GCSE. It’s unlikely, unless your SLT is all history specialists, that anybody will ask too many questions as long as it is fit for this purpose.

4. Pick a GCSE. This was really quite straightforward for me: I’ve been examining for so long that it was sensible to go with the exam board for whom I work. Once you’ve done this, you can pick the spec apart to find out how the exam board have met the assessment objectives, and this will help you write your model.

5. Make sure your assessments work for the new model. We’re cutting right back on the amount of extended writing that students will be doing, since there is no requirement for extended writing at GCSE anymore. If we’re assessing to GCSE criteria, we should be completing GCSE-style assessments, is the argument. It feels seventeen shades of wrong; thankfully I’m long enough in the tooth now to have had times when something that felt counter-intuitive actually worked out quite well, so we’re giving it a go.

6. Don’t forget your content. There was a suggestion, during the introduction of the model, that the content taught at KS3 should be what students need for GCSE. We are not going to do that. However, we have tweaked our KS3 PoS to make sure there is a good foundation of knowledge on which to build the GCSE topics.

I wrote Assessing Progress in History, a briefing document, for the other history staff on how the new model will work. It picks up the threshold concept work I blogged about in May. This was completed some time ago now so things have moved on a little since then. I am in the process of constructing a ladder for progression through the levels (1-9 and, to fit the school model, B1-5 which sit below level 1…with pluses and minuses this presents us with 42 different levels at which a pupil can be working) so I will share that when it is fit to be seen.

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What’s still good about SOLO

I recently read this blog by Toby French, in which he shares the tale of his adventures with SOLO in the classroom and how he came to decide, at the end of it, that it was all castles in the air and, actually, nothing is a good substitute for knowledge.

Long-time readers might recall that I have form on SOLO. I heard Didau enthuse about its virtues at TMClevedon. I attended an excellent mastery learning session with John Stanier at SHP, which set out how to ensure students build layers of knowledge through a GCSE course. This was the final push to investigate and I spent a lot of time reading about and working with it over the following year; this culminated in the workshop Lesley Anne McDermott and I ran at SHP the following year. Since then I have had a lot of questions and comments, mostly through this blog, about implementing SOLO in the classroom. Most recently somebody approached me at SHP last weekend for advice.

Unfortunately, I have none to give, since I don’t share the SOLO specifics with my students. In that respect French and I may agree. However, it was then, and continues to be, an extremely useful planning tool that helps me build knowledge across my lessons and schemes of work, and better differentiate my activities. Thus, I write in defence of SOLO: remember it’s a taxomony, not magic.

This year’s CIEA course has prompted a new respect for it, as we considered stuctures of learning and how students acquire knowledge. The lecturers went through SOLO in a comparison with Bloom’s (the updated A&K version); as you might expect from taxonomies of learning, I found there to be similarities across the ideas and I was reminded of how much I liked the simplicity of SOLO compared to the bulkiness of Bloom’s (personal choice).

Using it as a long-term planning tool has been extremely useful as I have rewritten the KS3 PoS in preparation for the new GCSE: I have considered the knowledge that students will acquire in a multi-structural way and how it should all start to fit together on a relational level as they move through years 7, 8 and 9, providing a solid foundation on which to build their GCSE studies and sending them into KS4 already prepared with enough baseline knowledge to start having a crack at the extended abstract. Having just completed my 15th exam series as an examiner, I am reminded of how powerful that extended abstract can be when deployed with carefully selected knowledge to answer a question. There is a clear case here for making sure students hone this skill from day 1 of the GCSE course, so considering how they will build up the necessary knowledge before year 10 is really important.

It has also been useful as a shorter-term planning tool when putting together schemes of work, particularly because it has forced me to consider opportunities for wider reading and learning, and to seek out cross-overs elsewhere in the curriculum. It has helped to smooth the inclusion of RE in our History lessons next year, for example, as I consider the relational links between the SACR-suggested content and our own.

Aspects of it have also been really helpful when producing revision resources. I use hexagons for revision without talking too much about the rubric, because the students love fitting them together way more than rectangular cards, which means I don’t have to fight to get them to interact. I’ve heard some very meaningful conversations going on around those little tessellations.

The other way that SOLO has been invaluable to me is as a tool for planning questioning in the classroom. What started as a method of displaying good differentiation has become something I work on like some kind of demented artist seeking the masterpiece, because I’ve seen well-planned questioning, with different questions aimed at different students, have a measurable impact on their understanding. This type of verbal rehearsal reminds them of facts they might have forgotten or not written down and helps them to make links between them; I often have a couple of students minuting the questioning who make generalisations about the comments at the end, leading them towards the extended abstract.

So, I continue to favour SOLO. It isn’t all hexagons and fancy rubric. When you get down to brass tacks it is a structure to help us track and measure learning; so suggesting it is at odds with a love of knowledge is slightly bizarre: a scale is only useful when you’ve got something to put on it. Like a markscheme, I don’t think it was ever intended to be used by students in its raw form. But for teachers, who should be in the business of working out how students acquire knowledge and seek understanding of it, I think it can be an incredibly powerful tool. It is no more a fad than any other taxonomy of learning; I don’t believe that students acquire historical knowledge in a different way to, say, mathematical or scientific knowledge, so attempting to have a separate taxonomy for each subject seems to be to be over-complicating things.

As with everything, though, this works for me, in my context: it might work in yours, too. It might not, in which case you’ll have your Bloom’s or your newly-invented wheel to track acquisition of knowledge among your students. I don’t think it would work for me to share the rubric and scaffolding with my students, because I don’t think that is what it is for; but if it works for you and your students then keep doing it. Pam Hook’s website is a great place to look for advice on doing this.

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SHP15: Thompson and Kitson

This session is about using one woman’s story to illuminate the recent past. We’re looking at Mavis Hyman, a lady born towards the end of the Raj.

We start with a card sort of the events of her life, annotating a map with important places in her life. We then look at the themes that emerge from the events of Mavis’s life: empire, migration, conflict, heritage and identity, discrimination; we match the events with their most relevant theme, having discussions about the interplay as we do.

Sarah then shares the rationale for using an individual story like Mavis’s in the classroom: she’s an ordinary person who can reveal a great deal of extraordinary experiences and events. The history of the 20th century can be so big and vast that students struggle to understand the scope and importance of events within it, events which had an impact on ordinary people like you and me.

Having recently met a local man who came to school for a WW1 reenactment and was able to tell me about building bits of the school, this is inspiring me to see who we can find locally to share their story of the 20th century. We are hoping to add a unit to year 9 considering the significance of Wiltshire across the time periods studied at key stage 3 and this would add an additional local dimension to that unit.

Inspired by Christine Counsell’s work on Josephine Butler and the 5 Rs of significance, Alison explains how they decided to use the interviews they did with Mavis and how they built on their knowledge of her life to create an enquiry unit.

We look specifically at the lesson pertaining to what Mavis’s life can tell us about migration and identity in the 20th century. Her family and the Jewish community in India considered themselves to be European and were very upset by independence. We do some tasting: chutneys and relishes, sweet things; we think about what the ingredients are and track Indian, Middle Eastern, Jewish and English influences.


The Jewish influences are particularly difficult to identify because these manifested more in what they wouldn’t cook, or things they did not combine. We look at a clip in which Mavis talks about her sense of identity and how it has shifted and stayed the same. The lesson is followed by a look at terrorism: Mavis’s daughter Miriam died in the 7/7 bombing. We look at the crossover with the materials produced for the Miriam’s Vision project referenced in Alison’s plenary yesterday.

Outcomes. Looking through a historical window. Give students an outline of a four pane window and ask students to write or draw what they think Mavis’s life has revealed about the recent past on one pane. On the other panes: what their own family story reveals about the recent past, what another students story reveals and any historical questions they have about the past. Consider the question, ‘Ordinary people are of no historical significance’ – how far do you agree? Deliberately provocative and should provoke some interesting responses from students.

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SHP15: fifth plenary

Richard Woff is talking about teaching history with 100 objects (40 of which were picked with KS3 in mind). He explains that it was funded by the DfE whilst at the same time focused on providing an alternative to their Britcentric history slant.

The project is pitched at providing teachers with the resources to use the objects in their classrooms, so although there are 40 specific for ks3, any object could be used in any phase. The website allows for sorting by theme or continent, for example.

Each object is accompanied by 6-800 words of background with lots of links to further information about the context. Bigger picture, Teaching ideas and For the classroom form the subsets that enrich the experience of each object.

Richard moves on the share some of the thinking about how objects can be helpful in the classroom. We look at extracts from writers about objects. Firstly, ASByatt in Possession, about Roland, an academic who finds a clutch of letters by the poet in a library book and, in spite of making copies, longs to keep them. Secondly, Hardy’s poem In the British Museum, which we think suggests objects provide a tangible link to the past as if they can hold echoes of what they have witnessed. Finally, McGuane’s Keep the Change, the extract of which suggests resonance across time and space.


Richard speaks very passionately about how valuable objects can be in helping students learn history.

Objects are silent. We give them the voice when we teach them. Start with basic questions and then move on by drilling down, for example by only asking questions to begin with who. Focus on an aspect, such as materials and making:


This leads to enquiries that are object-driven: finding out about the context in which the object existed.

Richard talks about writing object biographies. The main stages of an object biography: material exploitation, construction, exchange, consumption/use, discovery and re-use. The biographies can be actual or hypothetical/typical. You can then add in people: material extractors, traders, transporters, makers, sellers, buyers, users, losers, finders, collectors, donors, curators, history teachers! What was it like to mine turquoise in the Arizona desert at the time of the Aztecs.

Use gaps as hooks:


How did this drum end up in Virginia? We look at another, a copper-alloy jug from Medieval Britain, found in Africa. Fill out the context by looking for pictures of how these sorts of objects were used at the time: pictures of jugs being used in the Middle Ages.

There were many other ideas for using objects but I got distracted thinking about what I would do with this in my own classroom! Sorry, readers. Go and visit the website, but give yourself a good hour or more to do it even a smidgen of the justice it deserves.


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