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A Traveller’s guide to planning for success in the 9-1 GCSE

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A Traveller’s guide to planning for success in the 9-1 GCSE:

I have recently become fascinated by the history of the American West.

There are so many great personalities and stories when you start to look. Visiting a number of these sites in the summer really made this history resonate to me.

HomesteadsA  holiday in Montana, visiting relatives, saw me drag my family away from the theme parks and onto the historical sites.

We visited spots discovered by the amazing  explorers Lewis and Clark, saw loads of original homesteads and cabins, had a tour of the Battle of Little Big Horn battlefield…

Butch CassidyWe even stood at the same bar that Butch Cassidy frequented (with bullet holes in the door). For a kid bought
up on Westerns in the 1970s this was particularly enthralling.

The Donner Party

One depressing yet fascinating story that got me completely hooked was that of the Donner Party – the group of pioneers looking for a better life in the West.

It is a story of bad planning, disaster, death and endurance.

In a nutshell, they set off  too late in the year, didn’t have a mountain guide to help them across the treacherous Rocky Mountains, decided to take a ‘short cut’ which ended slowing them down and bought them into treacherous terrain.

Not making it far enough and with little food many of the group bedded in for the Winter (the worst in American history). Consequently, some slowly starved to death and those who didn’t, survived by eat the corpses of those who did.

If only they had set off earlier. If only they had had a decent mountain guide. If only they hadn’t lost so many days in the Sierra Nevada. If only they had planned their trip better.

The Story of Donner Party is  a chilling tail. It is also a good analogy for those of us teaching and planning the new GCSEs. In essence:  Be prepared!

You don’t want to enter that data meeting in the early Autumn Term of 2018 with your line manager ready to eat you alive because of poor performance.

The Prairie Traveler: The Classic Handbook for America’s Pioneers.

prairie-guideIn 1859 one of the ablest officers in the American army swapped rifle for pen and wrote The Prairie Traveler: The Classic Handbook for America’s Pioneers.

Captain R. B. Marcy’s  book proved to be a godsend for any would be pioneer travelling west by wagon. The Prairie Traveler was, hands-down, the best “how-to” of its day and remained so for years.

With his handbook, even the most bumbling city-dweller had a chance.  As a history nerd, I have my own copy and am hooked.

Marcy stated that organisation is essential. Without it, he warned, it is impossible for a party of any magnitude to travel together for any great length of time.  Those planning for success at GCSE should be warned!

Other tips included which tree bark and leaves could be smoked if tobacco ran out, whether to use mules or oxen to pull wagons (depends on the length of the trip), why mules sometimes won’t cross rivers (if they have water in their ears) and which gun to pack (colt revolver of course).

Clearly knowledge is power when travelling west. The same applies to the new 9-1 history GCSE.

Planning the new GCSEs is like planning a trip West, so here is our traveller’s guide to planning for success in the 9-1 GCSE:

A Traveller’s Guide to Planning for Success in the 9-1 GCSE 

1. How much curriculum time should I spend each unit?guide GCSE

This is clearly up to each department.

As a rule of thumb, I would use the percentage marks for each of the five units as a guide. So, if the thematic study is worth 20% of the final GCSE, I would devote 20% of the time I have available over the two or three years to teach it.

If you are a real geek like me, look closely at the content prescribed in the spec as some topics seem more content heavy than others.

Medicine for AQA has much more content listed than the AQA Elizabethan British Depth. This insider knowledge would also be my guide.

I could steal from Peter to pay Paul and spend a little more time on Medicine although it is worth the same as the British Depth Study.

2. How will I organise the content to ensure my course has coherence and makes as much sense as possible to my students?

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About the author
Richard McFahn
Founder of History Resource Cupboard, Richard has worked for 20 years as a history teacher, subject and senior leader, Advanced Skills Teacher, local authority adviser and history ITE tutor.

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