Witchcraft - Using fiction with Year 8s

Teaching History article

By Paula Worth, published 11th October 2011

Low-attaining Year 8 use fiction to tackle three demons: extended reading, diversity and causation

Which women were executed for witchcraft? And which pupils cared? 

Paula Worth was concerned that her low-attaining set were only going through the motions when tackling causal explanation. Identifying, prioritising and weighing causes seemed an empty routine rather than a fascinating puzzle engaging intellect and imagination. She was also concerned that her usual efforts to solve this problem had been misplaced. Simplifying and shortening text was not, in fact, giving these pupils access at all. It was denying them access to all that was fascinating and challenging about trying to understand the past. Worth therefore developed a strategy involving an extended fictional story which was designed to introduce period detail, complexity and mystery. This became the basis for addressing a missing stage in these pupils' learning. Her pupils had to puzzle out the meaning of the complex and diverse contemporary beliefs and actions that Worth had conveyed, in fictional form, in her story. Worth then chose to focus on getting pupils to generalise about similarity and difference in these beliefs and actions (‘diversity' in National Curriculum terms). When her pupils finally tackled a causal explanation she judged that they were able to do this more successfully than before as a direct result of this journey via empathetic explanation and diversity...

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