History Resource Cupboard – lessons and resources for schools

History Resource Cupboard - lessons and resources for schools

Teaching Issues

Planning and teaching 9-1 GCSE to make learning stick


The 9-1 GCSE are content heavy. Fact.

To ensure that teachers cover all of this content well, there is less time at the end of the two years to be able to re-visit and revise.

So what do we do? How should we go about planning and teaching 2016 GCSE to make learning stick?

There is a compelling case that teachers should build revision in rather than bolt it on. This could strengthen students’ ability to remember and recall the knowledge they need.

Ebbinghaus and the Forgetting curve

EbbinghausGerman Psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus came up with the forgetting curve in the late 19th century. Ebbinghaus showed how memory is lost over time when there is no attempt to retain previously learned information.

Some believe that up to 90% of what is learned could be lost without further follow-up work.

Ebbinghaus argued the need to re-visit information regularly if one wants to remember it and make ‘sticky’ strong memories.

Apparently, the more ‘over-learning’ takes place, the longer the gaps are needed between the re-visiting of this information.

Others have argued that the strength of memory could vary depending on how memorable the first learning of the information actually is. So many remember shocking events such as 9/11 or the assassination of Kennedy.

What does this mean for 9-1 GCSE: Teaching

Firstly teachers need to make lessons/enquiries memorable. The use of the personal story, the particular place or the quirky event should be used to build lessons or enquiries around. Clear principles for planning should be established.

Marking recent year 10 exams on USA in the 1920s and 1930s it was noticeable that many students used examples of the disappearance of the village of Rosewood when they were asked about the treatment of Black Americans in the 1920s.

Many more students talked about fictional Daisy Buchanan when discussing to the role of women in the 1920s. This clearly suggests that these places and stories are sticky.

History Resource Cupboard 2016 GCSE enquiries have been planned with this in mind. This is why we use personal and the particular to hang learning on.

For example: to make 20th century policing memorable we use The Code of a Killer case as a hook.

To make Nazi control memorable we take drinking in the town of Augsburg as a focus. Why were fewer and fewer people heard criticising  the Nazis in bars and pubs?

What does this mean for 2016 GCSE: Planning and Teaching 9-1 to make learning stick

The forgetting curve could have an important impact on how we structure and teach the 2016 GCSE.

Forgetting curveThere is not enough time to leave revision until the last term. This means we need to build revision in and not bolt it on.

Teach the first unit: the thematic study. As you progress through this unit build in opportunities at the beginning or end of lessons to re-visit previously learned information. You could do this for homework.

You could set multiple choice tests, quizzes, odd ones out, sequencing activities…

Signing up for www.historyhomework.com does all of this for you. With a few clicks of a mouse, you can set homework and revision tests that will engage your students and give you vital gap analysis data.

If you keep setting these tests and quizzes as you progress through the course, re-visiting information; interleaving is the popular term, then you will not only solve your h/w setting issue (if you have one) but you can plan your course with more bang for its buck!


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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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