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Why I had to move 1920s America to Year 9

America 1920s

America 1920sWhy I had to move 1920s America to Year 9:

So, we all had to adjust to the changes brought by the new GCSEs and in some ways this was a good thing.  I for one, have found that my teaching has been reinvigorated by getting to teach new units. Over the summer, I learned (with the help of Alec Fisher and Ed Podesta’s excellent book and through Richard’s lessons featured elsewhere on this site) a whole lot about Crime and Punishment.

I went out and researched Whitechapel in the 1880s to the point where I could probably run my own Jack the Ripper tour. All of this has been very positive and enjoyable. However, the move to Edexcel has left me bereft in other ways- namely, the loss of my beloved depth study of America in the 1920s. Year 9 needed to change!

At History Resource Cupboard we have always been advocates to thinking very carefully about curriculum design. Over the years we had succeeded in making Year 9 more than simply WWI and WWII. We had carefully planned for a balance of overviews and depth studies, of social, political and economic history. We had punctuated the course with engaging personal stories- from families in 1930s Essex to the Spanish Civil War. I was happy with it, but I couldn’t ignore the hole left in my heart by the absence of 1920s America.

Thankfully, the National Curriculum requires us to study “a significant society or issue in world history and its interconnections with other world developments [for example…USA in the 20th Century].” This joyous little statement opened the doors to creating a short America depth study for Year 9.

Here is a  brief outline:

  1. Coming to America: Was it a land of opportunity for all new arrivals?
  2. Was the character of Daisy Buchanan representative of all American women?
  3. Why did Prohibition fail?
  4. Can you predict the contents of the Hays Code?
  5. Why did the town of Rosewood vanish in 1923?
  6. Why did the US economy collapse in 1929?
  7. Was the Cinderella Man a good metaphor for America in Boom and Bust?
  8. Winners and Losers- a 1920s cocktail party.

It isn’t perfect and I could probably spend hours adding to it but as a short course for Year 9 I think it works.

There are personal stories, it addresses the notion of immigration and America as a melting pot. It allows students to solve historical mysteries, develop overviews and undertake some solid work on causation. Finally, perhaps just as importantly, it is good fun to teach and if the teacher loves the subject then that enthusiasm should transmit to the students.

Neil Bates

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About the author
Neil Bates
Neil Bates has spent 20 years as a history teacher, author and Advanced Skills Teacher in Hampshire and has been a long-standing member of the county's History Steering Group.

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