(What is it in my brain that makes me always spell tough with a t at the end when I’m typing it?)
I have finished the potato lessons. I am a bit sick of potatoes now, if I’m honest. However, the cycle worked really nicely and helped me to get a good snapshot of progress to this point in year 8.
Having finished with the reading and the accompanying questions, we spent a quick five minutes discussing, variously, what famine is, what its consequences might be, what fallow means, how the agricultural cycle in Europe worked in the 17th century, why the potato is more productive, the benefits of the potato being calorie dense and how increased calorie consumption is linked to living standards. Phew. Across three different classes the discussion varied quite a bit.
These represent the full spectrum of the ability range I teach; I’ve just realised they’re all boys, too, which is probably not relevant, but interesting that they are the ones I picked to share. I feel quite happy that they were all able to get something meaningful from the exercise.
Our History NQT, whose main subject is Dance, taught these lessons to her Y8 classes too. She came up with this “Hot potatoes of facts” to pass around for a plenary and/or recap for a starter. One has “true or false?” facts on the potato that students discuss; the other has quick-answer questions; both helped to to check understanding of the reading. I liked this a lot.
When we are studying the rise of the British Empire later in the year I’m sure that the potato will be making a return. We moved on to look at tea, which also features quite heavily in the Empire unit. Interestingly, in the reading I’ve done for these lessons, Fernand Braudel has popped up in both cases. Perhaps he will be featuring too: I expect he has quite strong ideas about the reasons for the growth of European empires. Either that or he was obsessed with food.
For our study of tea, we looked at three different web sources and practised cross-referencing; now we’re looking at sugar, using a slightly less difficult reading I found (no Braudel in this one) and so I have asked them to create their own paragraph summaries, instead of providing them. It is going well. The secondary purpose of the sugar lesson is to get them to recap prior learning of the slave trade; there is a great quote from a Trinidadian historian in it, positing that slavery created racism, rather than it being the other way around. Cue a good discussion on whether that means sugar created racism, since the Transatlantic slave trade grew in the main due to the damn on the sugar plantation. I got some good “big picture” stuff going on with this, though we all agreed at the end of the lesson that it was a bit mind-blowing.