Chronology

Knowledge of chronology is about much more than remembering dates and understanding the terms and conventions used to label different periods of time – important as these are.  A secure knowledge of the order of events necessarily underpins any attempt to explain cause and consequence or to chart the process of change and continuity. Unfortunately, simply teaching history in order is not enough in itself to equip young people with a basic chronological framework, enabling them to relate different items of knowledge to one another or to construct an overarching ‘big picture’. Establishing such a framework requires deliberate, sustained attention. The resources in this section show how various strategies – including teaching an outline framework at the start of a new period or thematic study and different approaches to reviewing broad sweeps of time at the end of a school year or key stage, as well careful coordination of overview and depth studies – all play a part in building such knowledge.  

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  • Cunning Plan 179: using TV producers’ techniques to make the most effective use of retrieval practice

    Article

    Last year I was working with colleagues on a project examining Rosenshine’s principle of beginning lessons with a short review of previous learning.1 At the same time I was working with a history trainee who had been using recall quizzes as a starter with GCSE students. Following a lesson observation,...

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  • Widening the early modern world to create a more connected KS3 curriculum

    Article

    Readers of this journal will be familiar with a number of ways of approaching the Tudors. Kerry Apps provides here an article detailing her concerns about the differences between what she had been delivering at Key Stage 3 and the broader, connected experience she had as an undergraduate historian. How...

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  • Using narratives and big pictures to address the challenges of a 2-year KS3 curriculum

    Article

    Faced with cutting her Key Stage 3 curriculum to two years, Natalie Kesterton and her department were determined to do more with less. Not only did they want to ensure that their pupils developed a secure, wide-ranging knowledge of British and world history, they also wanted to address deficits in pupils’...

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  • Structuring a history curriculum for powerful revelations

    Article

    When planning a Key Stage 3 curriculum with his department, Will Bailey-Watson began to question some of the commonsense orthodoxies regarding chronological sequencing and curriculum design. Drawing on pre-existing debates about curricular structuring in the history education community both in England and internationally, Bailey-Watson identified cognitive, motivational, and disciplinary justifications...

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  • ‘Man, people in the past were indeed stupid’

    Article

    In this article, which is based on Huijgen’s PhD dissertation Balancing between the past and the present, Tim Huijgen and Paul Holthuis present the results of an experimental method of teaching 14–16-year-old students to contextualise their historical studies in a different way. In the four lessons described, students’ initial reactions...

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  • New, Novice or Nervous? 167: Confidence with substantive knowledge

    Article

    This page is for those new to the published writings of history teachers. Each problem you wrestle with, other teachers have wrestled with too...   History is a complex enterprise. In order to produce sophisticated arguments, pupils need firm foundations. One foundation is knowledge of the argumentative structures that historians...

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  • Cunning Plan 163.1: GCSE Thematic study

    Article

    I started teaching ‘crime and punishment through time’ thematically a few years ago. I was teaching it as a Schools History Project ‘study in development’. We had moved from ‘medicine through time’ in order to keep things fresh. After six times through the content, much as I loved it, crime,...

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  • Transforming Year 11's conceptual understanding of change

    Article

    For all that history teachers appreciate the need to build substantive knowledge and conceptual understanding systematically over time, they are also likely to have experienced that sickening moment when they realise that a Year 11 pupil has somehow missed something fundamental. In Anna Fielding's case, her pupil's misconception was related to...

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  • Using timelines in assessment

    Article

    Bridging a twenty-year gap in their practice, Elizabeth Carr and Christine Counsell bring out the similarities in their use of timelines in their planning, teaching and assessment. What they also have in common is the fact that their experimentation with timelines as a way of strengthening cumulative knowledge emerged in...

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  • Securing contextual knowledge in year 10

    Article

    Using regular, low-stakes tests to secure pupils' contextual knowledge in Year 10 Lee Donaghy was concerned that his GCSE students' weak contextual knowledge was letting them down. Inspired by a mixture of cognitive science and the arguments of other teachers expressed in various blogs, he decided to tackle the problem...

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  • Move Me On 157: Getting knowledge across

    Article

    This issue's problem: Rose Valognes feels she hasn't got enough ways of getting knowledge across to the students before they can do something with it. After a positive start to her training year, Rose Valognes seems to have got stuck in a rut in her thinking, with her lessons falling...

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  • 'But why then?' Chronological context and historical interpretations

    Article

    When Michael Fordham was introduced to Dr Seuss's Butter Battle Book he immediately recognised its potential value in the classroom as a popular interpretation of the Cold War. Wanting his Year 9 pupils to explain how and why the past has been interpreted in different ways he shows the potential pitfalls...

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  • Continuity in the treatment of mental health through time

    Article

    Where's the other ‘c'? Year 9 examine continuity in the treatment of mental health through time Helen Murray, Rachel Burney and Andrew Stacey-Chapman show how they strengthened three goals of their practice - secure knowledge, narrative shapes and conceptual analysis - by securing strong connection between them. The curricular focus...

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  • Time and chronology: conjoined twins or distant cousins?

    Article

    Weaknesses in pupils' grasp of historical chronology are a commonplace in popular discussion of the state of history education. However, as Blow, Lee and Shemilt argue, although undoubtedly necessary and fundamental, mastery of chronological conventions is not sufficient: the difficulties that pupils experience when learning history are conceptual, as much...

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  • 'Isn't the trigger the thing that sets the rest of it on fire?'

    Article

    Causation maps: emphasising chronology in causation exercises

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  • Polychronicon 141: Adolf Eichmann

    Article

    Almost 60 years ago Adolf Eichmann went on trial for crimes committed against the Jews while he was in the service of the Nazi regime. His capture by the Israeli secret service and his abduction from Argentina triggered a number of journalistic books that portrayed him as a pathological monster...

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  • The how of history: using old and new textbooks in the classroom to develop disciplinary knowledge

    Article

    What are textbooks for and how do we think of them? As inevitably partial views of the past that reflect their purpose and moment of construction and their authors' location in physical and ideological time and space? As ‘the text' - canonical statements to be read and digested? In this...

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  • Time for chronology? Ideas for developing chronological understanding

    Article

    The successful study of history requires many things, but few would contest that an understanding of time is one of them. Quite what we mean by ‘an understanding of time’ needs clarification, however. Chronological understanding is one feature. But it is not simply an ability to place events in order...

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  • Picturing place: what you get may be more than what you see

    Article

    Pictures abound in history classrooms and teachers use them in many different ways. They add - often literally - some colour to the past, helping us to imagine what different worlds were like. Pictures can be used quite legitimately in this way to fire imagination and stimulate interest. But we...

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  • Sense, relationship and power: uncommon views of place

    Article

    Liz Taylor invites history teachers to consider how diverse and uncommon the ‘common’ person’s experience of place might be. She draws upon cultural geography to show how words like ‘place’, ‘space’ and ‘landscape’ can be unpacked and questioned and so become better tools for pupils’ critical thinking in both geography...

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