Approaches to planning interpretations-focused enquiries.


Published: 25th July 2007

Michael Riley, member of the HA Secondary Committee and History PGCE Tutor at Bath Spa University.

 In recent years, teaching about different interpretations of history has been one of the most exciting and challenging aspects of Key Stage 3 history. Interpretations-focused enquiries allow pupils to see that argument and debate are central to history. By examining how people in later times have presented the past in pictures, plays, films, reconstructions, museum displays, and fictional and non-fictional accounts pupils deepen their understanding of the contested nature of history. I have found the following approaches and question stems helpful when planning interpretations-focused enquiries at Key Stage 3.

Enthusing pupils about interpretations
How does (film-maker/novelist/historian) get us on the side of...?
How can we plan/write/make a.... in the style of...?
What makes....such a powerful....?

Enraging pupils about interpretations
Why are people so angry about...?
How should we complain about...?
Why do we need a better interpretation of...?

Engaging pupils with academic debate
Why can't historians agree about...?
Why has...been interpreted so differently?
How can historians disagree so much about...?

Helping pupils to understand what an interpretation tells us about the society that produced it
What does...tell us about American society in the late twentieth century?
Why does...matter today?
Why do Hollywood films about...leave out...?

Helping pupils to understand why interpretations change through time
Why have such different stories been told about...?
What did the Victorians think about...?
Why have people changed their mind about...?