New, Novice or Nervous? Teaching substantive concepts

Last updated: 5th August 2016

Substantive concepts

It’s worrying when pupils reach Year 9 or 10 unable to properly interpret or find fluency in major abstract nouns that crop up again and again in history. They should have bumped into ‘empire’, ‘republic’, ‘federation’, ‘peasantry’, ‘commons’ and ‘communism’, many times by Year 10, so why are many students neither confident nor accurate in their use? Useful generalizing terms such as ‘institution’, ‘custom’ or ‘ideology’ are often insecure as well. As for specific ones, peculiar to a period, such as ‘appeasement’ or ‘feudalism’, these have often floated away, perhaps never secure in the first place...

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