Spirit of enquiry

Phil Smith looks at a history series that will get pupils doing their own investigations

Investigating History: Britain 1500-1750 By David Martin, Beth Brooke and John D Clare Hodder Murray Mainstream edition, pound;7.99Foundation edition, Pounds 7.99

Britain 1500-1750 takes an enquiry-based approach through a potentially content-heavy unit, so helping pupils focus on engaging and motivating historical issues, such as "What did the Reformation mean to ordinary people?" and "Did doctors kill the king?"

The book's central focus is on getting pupils to decide for themselves what sort of period this was and the extent to which there was change and continuity.

One of the strengths of the series is that enquiries conclude with something meaningful and worthwhile in a section entitled "Pulling it together". Many of these are essays or extended pieces of writing in which pupils' efforts are supported through the use of connectives and sentence starters. Creating living graphs, living photographs and decision-making activities are included.

There are various tasks, many focusing on improving literacy skills. So pupils will be engaged in different writing styles (including persuasive and autobiographical writing) as well as being encouraged to use a variety of reading strategies (eg skimming, scanning and close reading).

Spreads are rarely overcrowded and pictorial sources are large enough for pupils to interrogate. Written source material is usually lengthy enough to allow pupils to gain a "feel" for what is being discussed.

The Foundation book is not just a case of making the Mainstream text larger. Pupils follow the same enquiries but with extra support, including prompts and headings. Paragraphs are numbered to enable pupils to refer back more easily to details, and questions are simplified or differ slightly but are worthwhile and engaging.

If you are re-evaluating your Britain 1500-1750 course and looking for a new set of resources this is certainly worth a look.

Phil Smith is a school improvement officer, Salford

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