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Teaching Issues

Curriculum Planning

This page is a guide to curriculum planning to help you with this key process.  We are constantly updating our history curriculum at Key Stage 3. If you want more information on our latest curriculum map, here it is.

When it comes to curriculum planning history teachers always need to stick to their principles. Careful long term planning will give your curriculum a sharp focus and will help you develop the big stories you want to tell. It will also help you develop the mini historians that you are after. This is how you build long term success at Key Stage 4 and beyond. We know because we have done it!

The latest version of the National Curriculum has been published (2013). We think it is pretty damn good (apart from the assessment part). The purpose and aims statements are great and the subject content areas give history departments the flexibility they need to decide on the content they include and how they deliver it.

Decisions decisions decisions…

Whether you are going to tweak your old Key Stage 3 curriculum or you are going to totally re-plan and write a new one, you are faced with some choices. If you want all of the curriculum planning documents below you can download them at the end of this page, for free. Or you can download them one by one as you carry on reading (the assessment, some of the lessons and conceptual focus docs are not included).

1. Rationale: HMI’s view is that the best curriculum have a rationale. You need to think through what you are doing, when you doing it and why you are doing it. We have created some curriculum choice cards which you can use. Neil Thompson inspired this idea. Sort them either as a department, or on your own, into:

Definately           Maybe                  Not bovvered

Keep your definately and Maybe cards to help you come up with your rationale. Keep referring to these as you do your big plan. Constantly ask yourself if you are actually sticking to your rationale.

2. Big Picture. We believe that you should really be getting your students to see the big picture of the past. And you should do this early on and then return to the big picture of the past. Here is a germ of an idea to that you could use in the first or second lesson with Year 7. This has been worked up into this lesson.

You should also be developing this in different time periods you cover. Here is a lesson that we have taught to show the big picture of change in the Early Modern Period. Our St Winifred’s Church enquiry gets an overview of religious change across really well. To get more ideas on how to create overviews click here.

3. Historical Thinking. You also need to develop your pupils’ historical thinking. This means you need to develop thinking in the main second order concepts.  Some people’s curriculum is far too causation heavy. Why not audit your curriculum to see where you are at. Use the audit tool. Think about your curriculum and what contexts you teach topics in. So if you do Why did William win at Hastings, you would put this in the causation row.

4. Getting the question right. To help you develop the correct kind or conceptual thinking you need to get the enquiry question right. We believe that a good curriculum is planned around many different enquiry questions. Here are different types of enquiry questions. Which one majors in which historical concept? You can check your answers here.

5.Raising questions. It is vital that you get your kids to ask as well as answer questions. The Purpose of Study statement says, ‘Teaching should equip pupils to ask perceptive questions…’ Read our work here. Some free examples are available on: Gunpowder Plot mystery, created by the brilliant Alec Fisher, and the causes of the opium war.

6. Progression. You also need to think hard about what progression will look like within each concept. We have always thought this kind of work vital. You can find out more about this by reading about interpretations and significance.

7. End products and assessment. This is an area which we have always had strong views on. Levels and sub levels are a nonsense. Read our blog, or download our assessment package for more details. For imaginative end products, here could be your starting point.

8. Enquiry. Modelling enquiry from the beginning. The fab Ian Dawson has been big on this for years. This activity on the Riccal skeletons from www.thinkinghistory.co.uk is a winner. We have created our own enquiry that we are going to use, on the mystery of the Loughshinny Skeletons at the beginning of our KS3 curriculum to get our pupils to see what history is all about: enquiry!

9. A map of the curriculum on one page. So what might a curriculum look like? Should you go in chronological order? Take a thematic approach? Both?  There is no right answer. Here are two examples – they are not perfect but it is good to see what different people have done. The first one was created by myself and Alec Fisher, the second I worked on with Jude Gray, Head of History Sacred Heart School, Redcar. The third, Neil Bates and I couldn’t get on one page, so we have a page for Yr7, a page for Yr8 and a page for Year9. Here they all are.

For more examples it is worth looking at this brilliant article about Lampton’s history curriculum. Or this one from Cape Cornwall school which exploits the local superbly. Both are examples of good practice from Ofsted.  Here is my latest curriculum for my new school.

Download the curriculum planning package. The package includes:

  • Curriculum choice cards – PDF
  • Idea for painting the big picture – PowerPoint
  • Overviews article – PDF
  • Historical concepts check – Word
  • Skills audit – Word
  • Enquiry questions match -PDF
  • Enquiry questions completed – PDF
  • Raising questions about the Gunpowder Plot – PowerPoint
  • Raising questions about the Opium Wars – PowerPoint
  • Example of curriculum 1 – PDF
  • Example of curriculum 2 – Excel
  • Year 7 curriculum – PDF
  • Year 8 curriculum – PDF
  • Year 9 curriculum – PDF

Free download

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