Return to the classroom

Getting back to the classroom

Finding focus in the new academic year

When we published the blogs related to remote learning, the one question we asked ourselves is what we could do as publishers to help teachers preparing for a return to school in September. Here Aaron Wilkes and Lindsay Bruce explain some of the ways that OUP might help you review, plan and prepare for your students when they return to the classroom.

Aaron: It’s fair to say that the government haven’t made it particularly straightforward for us to prepare students for their return. But one thing is sure – schools and teachers have absolutely risen to the challenge and are thinking about all the ways they can prepare for it. I have loved being part of conversations within my school – and seeing them online – in relation to the return to school. I know that you have been particularly excited about how we might best try to find the ‘knowledge gaps’ and fill them.

Lindsay: Yes definitely. I really think that it’s possible to create ways to effectively focus on both substantive knowledge – the ‘stuff’ of history – but also leave room for focusing on some second order concepts too. I know it was this thinking that really informed the new features of Kerboodle we’ve worked on.

Aaron: Quite rightly, some schools/teachers have come in for criticism because they have said they are assessing the students straight away. I can understand that criticism too. In my opinion, I wouldn’t want to see “How was the lockdown for you? … very interesting… now here’s a test.” And let’s be honest, for most, the reality isn’t going to be like that – but when classes begin to fill and some sense of normality returns, I think some kind of teacher assessment is required to quickly analyse the gaps and allow revisiting to happen.

Lindsay: Yes, there definitely needs to be some retrieval practice early on in ‘the return’. I think as long as this remains ‘low stakes’ and is merely used as a way to guide teachers, we don’t want to lose focus on the curriculum itself and get bogged down with assessments and data.

Aaron: There are so many excellent ways to retrieve knowledge but I think dividing up the course/content into manageable ‘chunks’ – and assigning both ‘quizzes’ and ‘tasks’ – is an effective way forward. The idea of a ‘knowledge dump’ (or ‘free recall’) of all previously visited concepts, ideas and information is one way to provide students with an opportunity to recall as much information as they can and see what they can remember. However, I think it might be more effective to be a little more explicit with what we want. In my experience, some students struggle to do ‘knowledge dump’ exercises properly so we need to make it more manageable and, useful. Most students will be craving a return to routine so they will see straight through revision type exercises that don’t fulfil a purpose.

Lindsay: Yes, for my students, assessing what they can recall needs to be broken down more. Whether that be through units, themes, time periods. As you know the Kerboodle resources are chunked into sections from the KS3 4th edition History series but they could be easily chunked further and aspects cherry picked for a more precise focus.

Aaron: OK – so let’s quickly explain how we’ve designed the new Kerboodle topic checks to try and best support that.

Lindsay: Well for each common theme of the curriculum, for example, ‘Tudor Kings and Queens’, ‘Power and Parliament in the Middle Ages’ or ‘The First World War’, we have designed an auto-marked ‘topic check quiz’. This is purely a knowledge check which will test what has ‘sunk in. And to assess what students have retained over a longer period, we have created a ‘topic check task’ which allows a teacher to not only check on a student’s recall of people, events and ideas but also look at second order concepts. This will see if they understand how the ‘stuff of history’ is shaped, understood, organised, debated and generated. This gives teachers a hint as to whether the content is moving into the longer-term memory, but also whether it needs to be revisited to build confidence.

Aaron: The quizzes feel like they will be more useful than, say, 20 question quizzes for everything. It’s true that simple multiple choice questions will form part of these checks, but students will also be required to match things, complete diagrams, define key terms correctly and label images and sources. Although going through a big, old list of questions is ‘low stakes’, I feel that this might end up boring the students and possibly disengaging those who struggling to get back in the swing of things.

Lindsay: And for the tasks, these are designed to take things a stage further in getting students to apply some of the knowledge that has been retained. And there’s lots of variety here too. For example, in the ‘Tudor Kings and Queens’ topic task alone, we get the students to use their inference skills, analyse interpretations and start to explain significance.

Aaron: However, your school decides to approach a full return in September, these topic checks will help build student confidence, identify the gaps and prepare teachers for getting the sequence of learning back on track.

Our KS3 History Kerboodle topic checks will be available from September 2020, they are designed to support you with your students when they return in September. To get a sneak preview, here are links to the topic check quiz and topic check task for Tudor Kings and Queens.

A total of 15 topic checks will be available from September: The events of 1066, The Norman Conquest, Life in the Middle Ages, Power and parliament in the Middle Ages, Medicine in the Middle Ages, Tudor Kings and Queens, Stuarts and the civil war, The Georgians, Living and working in Victorian times, British Empire, The First World War, The Second World War, End of Empire, Nazi Germany and The Cold War.

Free trials to Kerboodle are currently available – contact your educational consultant for details. There will be further support from Aaron and Lindsay to compliment these topic checks so please look out for this in September.

More on the History blog

Lindsay Bruce is a History teacher and assistant head teacher in a secondary school in the Midlands. She most recently wrote the History Word Gap resource pack and is part of Oxford’s KS3 History 4th Edition and the Oxford AQA GCSE History author team. Follow her on Twitter @HistoryTeach0.

Aaron Wilkes is one of the leading history authors in school publishing. He is a History teacher at St James Academy, Dudley. Aaron is the author of the new KS3 History 4th Edition series as well as part of our Oxford AQA GCSE History team.