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22 March 2015

Using puppetry to understand the actions of people in the past

Here's something I tried with my Year 10 historians this week.  As part of their work on the struggle for peace in Northern Ireland, we've been looking at the impact of the Glorious Revolution on events in Ireland.  Given that the story involves a complex web of characters, each acting according to their own motives, I wanted to find an accessible way for students to understand narrative and consider the underlying causes behind it.

The material leant itself perfectly to a technique I've used before - asking students to turn what they have read into a puppet show.  I put them into groups and assigned a section of the story to each one.  They got to work cutting out characters for their puppet show and mounting them onto straws, then wrote their scripts according to the success criteria provided.

As one of the success criteria for their puppet show, students were asked to include as part of their scene an inner monologue from one of the characters in which the character would share his or her inner feelings or motives with the audience.  Puppetry will definitely be a technique I will add to my repertoire for occasions like this.


Students were engaged in the activity and showed a clear understanding of relationships between the characters in their puppet shows.

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15 March 2015

Structuring students' thinking about significance

Over the last month or so, I've had a lot of interest in the chart I created for helping students to analyse historical significance. Following requests for an example of how the method might be used with students, I'm adding one of my lessons which uses the framework to my resource section. It's a lesson aimed at GCSE students studying the Medicine Through Time course, but could easily be adapted and applied to any context.

Context of the lesson
Students have already completed a lesson looking at Hiippocrates' methods so they already have a secure understanding of the Hippocratic Oath, Hippocratic Collection and Four Humours Theory along with Hippocrates' methods of observation, recording and natural remedies.  They are now ready to begin considering the significance of these developments.

How the lesson works
I began by facilitating a discussion about what the meaning of significance was.  This was structured with a card sort in which students were required to prioritise a range of criteria for measuring significance.  The idea here was simply to promote discussion and encourage students to articulate some of these criteria for themselves, before trying to apply them.

Two blank cards in the card sort were included to encourage independent thinking

This was followed by introducing Partington's criteria for measuring significance and the five-pointed scale which students are going to use to measure Hippocrates' work.

When scoring Hippocrates' significance, I wanted students to base their scores on specific evidence

Before scoring Hippocrates' significance on each criteria, students were provided with a selection of prompt statements and evidence.  They were asked to cut them out and attach them according to which of the criteria on their chart they would help to substantiate.  Following this, students were ready to apply a substantiated score to Hippocrates' work on each of the five criteria.

Prompt statements like these helped make students' decisions about significance robust and based upon evidence

At this point, students were ready for a choice of task according to their degree of understanding.

Offering a choice of task delivered differentiation by outcome

Where we're going next
With a sense of historical significance embedded in students' understanding, this is a concept and activity we will return to periodically throughout the Medicine Through Time course.  Students will retain their charts measuring Hippocrates' significance and, in subsequent lessons, use them to compare his significance with those of later individuals e.g. Galen in the Roman period.  I am hopeful that this will prompt students to return to their earlier charts and adjust their judgements as they meet later individuals covered in the course.

All the resources plus a lesson plan for the lesson are available here in the resources section of the website.

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