Look back in depth and detail

21st March 2003 at 00:00
Russel Tarr looks at KS3 history courses, focusing on 1750-1900 to compare content and presentation

Choosing a history course for key stage 3 is a stimulating but complicated process, especially given the amount of high-quality textbooks on the market. The best new editions reflect the review of the national curriculum, the new understanding of the role of literacy and thinking skills in the teaching of history, the appearance of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority schemes of work for KS3, and an increasing emphasis on supporting students' extended writing and their conceptual development.

The trend towards a balance of overview and in-depth studies is evident in all the series considered here, as is the move towards a narrative "story-telling" approach to engage students' interest. However, the effectiveness with which this is combined with more traditional source-work exercises to ensure progression to KS4 and beyond is patchier.

As well as an increasingly large range of textbooks to choose from, the quality of the support materials has to be taken into consideration - not only in terms of variety of tasks set but also the extent to which they acknowledge the needs of different ability levels. Impressively, most publishers provide differentiated support materials to accompany their books.

Progression over the entire KS3 period is difficult for writers to ensure, especially as more innovative departments may wish to mix and match different textbooks for different year groups. Whatever your preferences, you can rest assured that all of the series considered effectively cover the national curriculum. I focus here on the books that cover 1750 to 1900.

Those for other year groups share the same main features.

* Key things to consider when choosing a series:

Content

Is it intriguing, engaging and innovative? How does it balance breadth with depth of coverage? Does it respond to new ideas in the QCA schemes of work by supplementing or even replacing "traditional" topics? Does it make use of narrative voices to stimulate pupils' interest? Is the textbook available in one format or are there differentiated versions with the same pagination available for higher and lower-ability levels?

Design

Are chapters and sections framed as key questions so that pupils will have a clear appreciation of the purpose of the lessons? Is the text sensibly balanced with picture sources and illustrations and do these enhance or detract from the study? Are key words defined in the book itself? Are short overview timelines provided at appropriate points?

Learning strategies

Are the tasks provided structured, varied and purposeful? Do they employ suitable differentiation strategies? Do sufficient opportunities exist for debate, discussion and role-play, as well as extended writing? Are there suitable opportunities for paired and group work, as well as individual study?

Teacher support

Are the worksheets provided for use in the classroom differentiated for different ability levels? Are detailed teacher notes or lesson ideas provided for each section of the book?

TITLE

COLLINS EDUCATIONAL

Presenting the Past series (four books)

Britain 1750-1900

Price: pound;8.99 each pupil's book, pound;29.99 teacher's book

Tel: 0870 787 1612

www.collinseducation.com

CONTENT

This book has four sections and 111 pages on the Industrial Revolution, the Empire, middle-class life, and the struggle for the vote.

The writers includes Tony McAleavy, a major contributor to the QCA scheme of work. The whole series represents a creative response to that scheme for teachers choosing to follow all or part of it.

DESIGN

The highly illustrated design and carefully controlled language level will engage less-able pupils. Key themes and important questions are raised at the start of each chapter. High quality if somewhat serious illustrations supplement the primary sources well.

LEARNING STRATEGY

Counter-factual exercises are a novel feature for KS3 textbooks and this series makes much use of them. Source investigations include an interesting use of feature films such as Zulu and television series such as The 1900 House, which will appeal to pupils. Writing frames and grids are also used liberally.

SUPPORT

The teacher's pack provides a range of ready-to-use resources which tie in well with the QCA scheme of work and the citizenship programme of study.

Most of these are aimed at the lower-ability level, but the teacher's notes give stimulating suggestions for extension activities for more able students.

VERDICT

Not a much quantity in this series as in some of the others listed here, but the quality is impressive. Its selling point is the way it deals with "traditional" topics in an innovative way.

TITLE

HEINEMANN

History Scheme series (three books)

The Early Modern World

Price: from pound;12.50 each pupil's book, pound;42.99 teacher's book

Tel: 01865 888 080

www.heinemann.co.uk.

CONTENT

This 205-page book has eight chapters, each corresponding to a QCA scheme of work unit ranging from "7: Images of an Age - what can we learn from portraits 1500-1750?" to "14: The British Empire - how was it that, by 1900, Britain controlled nearly a quarter of the world?" As well as the core textbook, a foundation version is available for lower-ability groups.

DESIGN

This book is comprehensive, but text-heavy at times. Each section is framed around a key question to stimulate interest. It is traditional in approach, with less use made of the first-person narrative popular with the other books. Many tasks will also involve considerable teacher input.

LEARNING STRATEGY

The textbook tasks are divided into "question time" and "activity time" categories. The "question time" tasks are challenging but often bundle several problems together. For example: "Which source gives you a better idea of industry in Bradford: the picture or the evidence given to the commission? Which source gives you the most reliable evidence? Why?"

SUPPORT

The 160-page teacher's pack is full of differentiated and varied worksheets providing scope for classroom debates and extended writing. The teacher's notes helpfully suggest ideas for pre-class preparation, lesson plans and plenary discussion.

VERDICT

This series covers every unit in the QCA scheme of work. The teacher's pack is imaginative and practical, but will have to be used liberally to supplement the difficult textbook tasks.

TITLE

HODDER MURRAY SHP

Re-Discovering series (four books) Re-Discovering Britain 1750-1900

Price: pound;9.50 each pupil's book, pound;17.99 teacher's book

Tel: 020 7873 6000www.johnmurray.co.uk

www.hodderheadline.co.uk.

CONTENT

This 114-page series is made up of an overview and in-depth studies of the Industrial Revolution, empire and trade, towns, the vote, and Victorian values.

Despite a third of the original material having been removed, the new book is 20 per cent longer than the original. There are new sections on the Empire in India, for example, and existing topics have been spread out.

DESIGN

There is less text in this edition and what text there is makes more use of the story. The simple visual design adopted throughout avoids clutter. The original cartoon-style illustrations have been replaced by more serious-looking watercolours. On the whole there are fewer written and more visual sources.

LEARNING STRATEGY

At the end of each enquiry a major piece of work ties the information together. This is often, but not always, a piece of analytical and discursive extended writing. Writing frames, tables and grids are provided in the pupils' and teacher's books. "Source warning" tabs are original and useful additions which highlight questions of reliability and usefulness.

SUPPORT

The teacher's book provides mainstream ability-level worksheets. Additional special needs support material is also available from the publishers.

Detailed teacher's notes are provided, suggesting ways of introducing a topic, what questions are best for discussion and which are best for written work. Ideas are also offered for extension work and cross-curricular links.

VERDICT

This is a welcome streamlining of an excellent series, taking the core material from the original to provide a "truly accessible textbook for mixed-ability teaching". If you already use the original, look at it carefully to ensure that your central topics are included.

TITLE

HODDER MURRAY

Hodder History series (10 books)

New Worlds for Old: Britain 1750-1900

Price: pound;7.99 each pupil's book, pound;27.99 teacher's book

Tel: 020 7873 6000

www.hodderheadline.co.uk

www.johnmurray.co.uk.

CONTENT

The 15 chapters and 78 pages include topics such as developments in medicine, the British Empire in India, exploration, the Titanic, and changes in warfare. As well as the mainstream textbook, there is an excellent foundation version available for lower-ability groups. This has been carefully written using about 1,000 core words.

DESIGN

A good balance of well-sized text, picture sources and structured tasks.

New words are defined in text boxes at appropriate points. Each section outlines three or four key questions that will be investigated, providing direction and motivation. The over-all effect is pleasantly uncluttered.

LEARNING STRATEGY

Each chapter is broken into a series of stages. "The big picture" provides an overview while "investigation" provides open-ended, in-depth activities based on a key theme or topic. Structured questions for written work and discussion points for classroom debate - especially on issues of citizenship - "encourage joined-up thinking and extended writing".

SUPPORT

A homework and extension pack is available for both the foundation and mainstream textbooks. The mainstream pack aims to extend study, whereas the foundation pack aims to consolidate topics covered in lessons. The variety of worksheet activities is commendable. These include matching exercises, news reports, statistical analysis and decision-making exercises.

VERDICT

The differentiated textbooks are a huge selling point for those teaching a broad-ability range. The support materials are creative and varied and will easily maintain interest. Teacher support CD-Roms will be on sale this autumn.

TITLE

HODDER MURRAY

This is History! series (10 books)

Dying for the Vote

Price: pound;7.99 each pupils' book, pound;16.99 teacher's book

Tel: 020 7873 6000www.johnmurray.co.uk

www.hodderheadline.co.uk.

CONTENT

This series can be used to supplement an existing scheme of work or provide a "mix-and-match" scheme by itself. The 10 books are each about 70 pages in length and are designed to take up about a term's worth of teaching. Each deals with a different KS3 topic outlined in the QCAscheme of work, including the Norman Conquest and Dying for the Vote.

DESIGN

Each chapter is introduced as a question designed to engage pupils'

interest from the outset. Along with some detailed written sources, there is a liberal use of picture sources and colourful illustrations that make the series highly accessible.

LEARNING STRATEGY

Most sections start with a character from a particular period who introduces a key theme and reappears to consolidate key points and bring in new ideas. This introduces an element of narrative structure that will help lower-ability ranges. Most tasks are designed for the middle to lower-ability range, although opportunities exist for paired work which is more challenging.

SUPPORT

Teacher's books are available for all 10 books in this series. "Time saver" and "extension" activities are suggested to make the books as flexible as possible. Worksheets are varied and creative but not differentiated. Some of the ideas - for example, the "history roller-coaster" - could confuse students more than enlightening them.

VERDICT

These books are ideal for departments that prefer depth over breadth of information. They are colourful and accessible, but teachers may want to design extension activities for more able pupils.

TITLE

LONGMAN

Think Through History series (four books)

Minds and Machines - Britain 1750-1900

Price: pound;9.25 each pupil's book, pound;24 teacher's book. Four books in the series Tel: 0800 579 579

www.thinkthroughhistory.co.uk

CONTENT

Each book contains 15 chapters and 128 pages, split into three sections: the making of money (economic and social), the making of masters (political) and the making of minds (cultural).

The series stimulates pupils' interest with clear, lively pages, historical characters and illuminating stories.

DESIGN

These attractive books have large, accessible fonts with cartoons, illustrations and photographs used liberally throughout. The books are also lightened by quirky cartoon illustrations along the lines of those in the Horrible Histories series, which will appeal to the students.

LEARNING STRATEGY

Each enquiry is broken into a series of "steps" which encourage pupils to interact with the material and build towards a final enquiry task. A combination of outline and in-depth studies ensures content coverage and the development of historical understanding. Despite the avowed stress on narrative, the book includes challenging exercises to promote critical reflection.

SUPPORT

The teacher's book has a stimulating opening section explaining the philosophy behind the series and how it is best applied to the classroom environment. More than 60 copy masters are included, providing "extra access" for lower-attaining pupils and "extra challenge" for the more able.

Writing frames and structured extended writing exercises promote literacy through history.

VERDICT

This series is well designed and visually appealing, and supplies a solid framework for developing knowledge and understanding. Differentiated copy masters ensure pupils of all abilities get the most out of the material.

TITLE

NELSON THORNES

Quest series (six books)

The World of Industry, Empire and Trade

Price: pound;8.25 each pupil's book, pound;48.95 teacher's bookTel: 01242 267100

www.nelsonthornes.com.

CONTENT

The 26 chapters and 127 pages deal with topics such as the American War of Independence, Charles Darwin, the British Empire, the revolution in iron, and Ireland. It is impressively comprehensive in breadth and depth.

The series is narrative-based, with the amount of source-based work kept to a minimum.

DESIGN

Along the top of each page a timeline highlights relevant events andor key themes. "Talking heads" appear on each page, one of which asks a key question that the other briefly answers. These key themes are then elaborated on, both with text and pictures.

LEARNING STRATEGY

No tasks or activities are provided in the textbook, instead there are photocopiable worksheets in the activity support guide. Generally, these activities are designed for a double period, but a few could be used in single periods. The first of these tasks invites students to use the index and the contents pages to identify key themes and individuals.

SUPPORT

A scheme of work booklet shows how the series fits in with the QCA scheme, with suggestions for cross-curricular links, skills progression and references to appropriate worksheets and pages in the book.

The activity support guide has three worksheets for each topic - one for lower-ability students, one for the middle range and one for those who are particularly able.

VERDICT

The three levels of differentiated worksheets are a huge selling point for this series. The textbook is comprehensive and detailed, but curiously contains no questions or activities, so photocopying costs are unavoidable.

The lack of sourcework evaluation is also a concern, given its importance at GCSE and beyond.

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