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Fresh thinking and old favourites




By Aaron Wilkes. Folens, pound;7.99 each

INVASION, PLAGUE AND MURDER Extension Pack. By Lee Jerome. Folens, pound;29.95each


THE IMPACT OF THE EMPIRE. By Jamie Byrom, Michael Riley and Christopher Culpin. Hodder Murray, pound;8.99

Mariella Wilson looks at some resources for key stage 3

From Folens comes an exciting new series with extensive support materials including topic box CD-Roms. Invasion, Plague and Murder Britain 1066-1485 (cover detail shown) would be an excellent addition to any history department because of the focus on the objectives of the key stage 3 strategy and the innovative way students are encouraged to learn. The book takes a "thinking skills" approach. Features such as "Wise Up Words", to reinforce key vocabulary, "Pause for Thought", which encourages students to think and reflect for themselves, and the "Hungry For More" sound bites - good for more able students - all demonstrate commitment to making KS3 history more stimulating.

The tasks in the "Work" section of nearly every double page are stepped activities, which include old favourites such as designing warning leaflets about the Black Death or producing a Chivalry Code for your school. Three further work sections enable students to summarise their learning with more developed tasks.

While these activities, which include the classic thinking skills task Odd One Out, develop historical ability and knowledge, the author's determination to get younger students to appreciate the value of note-making could have been developed by encouraging students to use association or concept maps.

Lee Jerome's extension material is the ideal companion to the student book tasks and learning activities. Guidance is given on how worksheets can be used - excellent for new teachers - with the learning objectives clearly stated and a range of starters and plenaries. My favourite activity was Connect Four, where students have to place motte and bailey cards or stone keep cards on top of statements about Norman castles. However, the extension materials are probably better suited to homework tasks or for cover teachers to use as the textbook has sufficient activities and ideas.

Renaissance, Revolution and Reformation, aimed at Year 8 students, is also highly recommended, and while it retains the above features it is intended to ensure progress. For example, there is a challenging written task on Cromwell's actions in Drogheda in 1649, which would develop cognitive skills, historical understanding and literacy, and the "History Mystery" feature on why the Mary Rose sank in 1545 introduces and reinforces important methodological skills. The "Pause for Thought" slots also provide some great starter activities. My only criticism is that at times there is too much on each page. However, these books would be excellent for mixed-ability teaching.

In contrast to the Folens series Hodder Murray's Schools History Project textbook The Impact of the Empire produced by luminaries such as Jamie Byrom, has a very different layout and style and is a definite improvement from earlier SHP texts, which had a tendency to be text heavy with tasks often unsuitable for mixed-ability classes.

The illustrations are superb . In Section 8 students are invited to take part in a series of "Picture Challenges", one of which is to select photographs for a lantern slide show, reflecting an early 20th-century way of teaching British children about the Empire.

There are also activities including creating a Post-It wall, living graphs and an excellent task on planning a film on Britain's convict colony in Australia, which will engage pupils in this aspect of British history.

Teaching about the Empire is back in fashion. and rightly so. The Impact of the Empire is the perfect accessory.

Mariella Wilson is assistant headteacher at Feltham Community College, Middlesex

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