Rebooting in practice #1 – Yr 8: Problems of monarchy

I’m conscious that I’ve been talking in the abstract in many of my ‘rebooting’ posts, so I wanted to try and be a little clearer about what I mean and how some of the things I teach have changed this year. This is the first of several posts that will hopefully outline how I’ve changed what and how I teach this year. 

Unit: Yr 8 – The problems of monarchy – Elizabeth I

Nb -This is a slightly idealised version of the lessons as they unfolded between my two classes and the version I will try and deliver next year. 

How I used to do it:

A series of lessons (some of which I really liked and were really good!) on marriage, Mary Queen of Scots and the Armada. Also a lesson looking at sources and answering the question ‘What did Elizabeth I look like’?

How I switched it:
Driving Question:
How successfully did Elizabeth I solve her problems

Lesson 1 – Review previous terms work and update log books. Divide class into 7 groups. Each group gets one topic from the following list: Marriage / Money / Beggars and the Poor / Foreign Trade / Religion / Mary Queen of Scots / Spanish Armada.
Homework: Initial research into topic.

Lesson 2 – Using netbooks – 1 per group .
All groups access a shared Google Presentation via the classblog. Each group has a slide waiting for them.
Run through the ground rules (only write on your own slide. Remember I can see everything)
Start throwing out questions and let students try and find the answers. Add to their slide.
Regular debriefs about what people have found.
Focus on how they’re using the internet to search, common misconceptions and different approaches.
At the end of the lesson show each group the link to their own shared presentation.

Lesson 3 – Students bring in their initial research from lesson 1, plus have access to a netbook and a stack of textbooks.
Explain outline of presentations (need to focus on three things – what the problem was, what Elizabeth did that was successful and what wasn’t)
Lesson is planning outlining and working out what else they need to find out.
Homework – Begin building their presentations

Lesson 4 – Review presentations so far. Give WWWs and EBIs. Focus on content and on presentation (no long text on slides)
Sourcework lesson on what Elizabeth looked like.

Lesson 5 – Group presentations. Homework: Improve the slides based on feedback from the class (Nb – In one class this ran into two lessons)

Lesson 6 – Show off improved slides.
Each group score Elizabeth out of 10 for the problem they studied. Create a success continuum – each group represented by one pupil. I try and persuade them that their score is wrong. They have to argue back. At the end groups can change their score based either on what I’ve said or on their relative position (although they don’t have to).

Lesson 7 – Conclusion
Piece of writing that answers the driving question. Students select three case studies from the seven and summarised the extent to which she succeeded.

Generally really happy with this as an improvement. While it’s true that some topics weren’t covered in as much depth as before, I think the students got a better sense of the historical debate here (which they didn’t before) as well as more focus on effective research and presentation.

Other things to consider next year.

  • There are some ways to improve the netbook lesson outlined in yesterday’s post.
  • Some kind of framework (KWL grid maybe) might help during the construction of the presentation.
  • Can I try and fit this into a bigger picture of development over time? (this is true for most of my yr 8 units)
  • Make the presentations publicly available at the end of the project.

Dave Stacey

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