Following up on my post about replanning KS3, somebody asked on Twitter about how we do our research project at KS3, so I thought I would put it all here.
I’ve been doing this in some form for years, but only with year 9. Last year, my colleague Luke did something similar with his year 7s during their medieval unit, and thanks to his trail-blazing, we’ve introduced it to all year groups for this year.
Year 7 – term 2 (before Christmas) – aspects of the impact of the Normans. This year, we gave them a choice of the Domesday Book, the Harrying of the North, the Feudal system or Castles.
Year 8 – term 6 – a 20th century British protest movement. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I don’t know what we’ve offered them because I don’t teach year 8, but I know we initially suggested 4 but decided to broaden it out.
Year 9 – term 3-4 – an aspect of history remembered by a family member. Their Christmas break homework is to interview the oldest member of their family/oldest person they know about events from history that they remember. From this list, we identify one event and that becomes their project. I’ve had some absolutely fantastic stories come out of this and it reveals the tremendous diversity of background – even more so now that I am in a more diverse setting – and helps students to learn about bits of history that we don’t have in the curriculum.
Each year group has the same basic set up –
- Presentation must be no more than five slides long.
- Everybody needs to present, though we can be flexible in how we support this – sometimes I’ve stood with students while they’ve read their notes, or I’ve presented their work while they add comments and answer questions.
- Students must reference at least two books and as many websites as they like.
- Each week they complete a different stage – finding books/websites, making notes, condensing notes, making presentation, practising presentation.
- All the presentations have to be submitted on Google Classroom, which is a tool we use widely further up the school and one that is therefore worth them getting familiar with. It is also SUPER helpful having everything in the same place.
- We agree success criteria for the presentations before they make them, as a class, regarding what they look like. I usually steer them heavily towards having less content on the slides and speaking from their notes, but other than that, they decide what a good one looks like.
- The success criteria are used to make a grid, against which students self-assess and receive peer and teacher comments too.
- This assessment is done using a shared Google doc and a couple of chrome books, which means that both teacher and peer assessor can make their comments in real time while the presenter uses my laptop to give their presentation. It would be just as easy to do it on paper if each student had a separate slip for teacher and peer assessment – I just like to have it all in one place. Less to lose.
This is the planning sheet we’ve used with year 7 and year 8 this year.
Changes for next year –
In year 7, we gave over the whole of term 2 to facilitating this project and it was too much. We included a visit to the school library and a session on researching from books, which I want to keep, but they’re keen as mustard at that stage of the school year and it doesn’t feel ambitious enough for them to give over a whole term of lessons and homework to this one thing. Solution: next year, they’ll complete the project alongside their unit on the Middle Ages.
In year 7, it was very dull having the same topics over and over again (SO. MUCH. DOMESDAY BOOK.) and it made it difficult for them to find books in the library. Solution: a broader variety of topics – we’re going to give them a long list of Middle Ages events and get them to pick one. We might even do events-out-of-a-hat so everyone in the class does something different.
It takes a lot of class time. The year 9 projects with one of my classes dragged on into May, as we ended up doing them two per lesson. Solution: just better time management, I think. A stricter time limit, a clear rota for presentations instead of ‘Who wants to go next?’
I’m not sure what the audience are really getting out of it. They ask questions and some students include a quiz, and they’re attentive and supportive – but is this enough? Solution tbc.
An easy one – they need to include a bibliography on the final slide next year, as it was difficult to keep track of what sort of books they’d used. Year 7 brought theirs in, which was nice. I might do this again next year and teach them how to make notes out of books, which I think it a worthwhile thing for them to learn early. We’ll see how the time goes. My curriculum time is one hour a week at KS3 and therefore jealously guarded. Including space on the feedback sheet for them to note their book titles or even requiring a completed written bibliography would also work.
Finally – we need to think more carefully about progression. My aim is that, by the time they reach the end of y12, they understand the process of carrying out historical research well enough to be more independent with their NEA. So, I’d like to introduce an element of formulating their own questions – there’s a workshop on this topic that I’m hoping to attend at this year’s SHP. I also wonder whether we should make the Y9 version include a written element as well as/instead of a presentation. Y9 is surely the most awkward of all the years so it might be more appealing if the presentation aspect was made optional.