Getting Year 7 to set their own questions about the Islamic Empire, 600-1600

Teaching History article

By Sally Burnham, published 31st August 2007

Sometimes particular problems can lead to unexpected solutions. In this case, Sally Burnham decided to solve a problem that she had identified among her Year 12 students by changing the way in which she teaches Year 7. Her Year 12s were finding it difficult to set appropriate questions for their individual assignments; Burnham realised that the ability to set historical questions is actually a key element of being a historian and considered how to get all her pupils thinking about how to do it. She describes how (remarkably easily) she persuaded her Year 7s to think about writing their own rigorous and accurate enquiry questions; she then, though, gave her classes ownership of the curriculum she set out to teach by using their enquiry questions to drive her own planning. This engendered a motivating sense of ownership among her students. Her initial idea of teaching a useful skill in Year 7 so that it would be in place when it was needed in Year 12 (real long-term planning, that) became something far greater when it became clear that she was helping her pupils to get to the heart of historical method.

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