Best of plans

18th June 2004 at 01:00
Think History! Heinemann. Pupil's books, core or foundation 1, 2 and 3: from pound;12.99 each. Teacher materials from pound;62 each. For details of the whole series visit: www.heinemann.co.uk

My stock cupboard is overflowing with resources. I have one drawer full of starter activities, one full of plenary ideas, a file of homework sheets and piles of textbooks for different periods. Such a piecemeal approach to lesson planning may now be a thing of the past. Think History! provides teachers with an instant "one-stop shop" for structured easily assessable and accessible lessons.

The key stage 3 strategy has provided a clear framework for effective humanities teaching and learning. An exciting and accessible "starter" captures pupils' attention and gets them interested in the topic to be studied. The main body of the lesson should have a clear aim and embrace literacy, numeracy, thinking skills and assessment for learning. The lesson should end with a plenary activity that consolidates all that has been covered and leaves the pupils with a sense of achievement. Sometimes it feels as if lessons should be three hours long to get it all done. However, these books embrace this structure, providing short, punchy starters, main and plenary activities for each topic in double or triple-page spreads. For example, "Who had the greatest claim to the English throne?" carries three clear objectives at the top of the page. Then there's a quick starter activity asking pupils to discuss who would have the "greatest claim" to any valuables found on the "Titanic", if it were raised. The main activity involves considering the strengths and weaknesses of each contender to the throne and who had the "greatest claim". The plenary asks pupils to make an analytical judgment on the claimants and produce a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. When I used this book with my class the timings were perfect for a 50-minute lesson and the short punchy sections kept pupils on task.

The teacher file sets out assessment opportunities, gives lists of key words and provides a step-by-step guide for each lesson. This would be invaluable for a department head working with a PGCE student or a non-specialist. I particularly liked the way assessment for learning is embedded in the text. Opportunities for self-assessment run throughout; I liked the "traffic lights" idea where students graded tasks red, yellow or green according to how confident they felt with them.

This superb series, written by teachers, comes in regular and foundation editions, aiding differentiation; preparation time and photocopying are minimised. In the future all textbooks will look like this.

Becky Hewlitt

Becky Hewlitt is head of history at Windsor High School, Halesowen, West Midlands

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