Curriculum planning: ks1 history

This is the third in this series of blogs helping you plan your primary curriculum from Victoria Morris @MrsSTeaches. This one is about ks1 history. You can catch up with the previous two on ks1 and ks2 geography here and here.

I think Victoria’s work here really exemplifies what the phrase ‘the curriculum is the progression model’ means. Curriculum planning is a long game; we lay foundations which others build on. For example, Victoria suggests  if you read Room 13 in key stage 2, you might want to do some light touch work on the dissolution of the monasteries because this will lay the foundation for understanding the history of Whitby Abbey, as well as being valuable in its own right. It would certainly help children no end in when studying secondary school history if they already understood what terms like monk and monastery mean, and have some idea that there was this big argument between the church and the king way back when.

I remember studying the Lady of Shallot with a very capable group of year 6’s, but being slowed down by having to explain terms such as knight which we could have made sure was introduced via small world play in the Early Years then built upon in ks1. I also had to explain about barley and why is was bearded, but that’s a point for addressing via the science curriculum. People who have heard me talk about the curriculum will have heard my anecdote about asking  rural eduTwitter for wheat to show year 1 in October (assuming that harvest took place when we have harvest festivals) and being educated that I was a couple of months too late. Then some kind soul somehow finding some and sending a large box of assorted cereals to school, much to the consternation of the school’s admin officer.

I  would never advocate doing something ‘for Ofsted’ but it is the ability to be able to articulate this kind of  coherent curricular thinking that I assume Ofsted are looking for when they do their deep dives.

ks2 history out next week.

Over to you, Victoria.

Key Stage 1 History

The National Curriculum specifies four very broad areas of study for KS1. As these objectives are so open, there are multiple ways that they can be translated into units of work when planning the curriculum. Each objective will be considered in turn, with suggestions about how to select units of work, and how they could be sequenced.

When making these choices, the following factors would be useful to take into account:

  • What will be studied in KS2 and KS3, as the KS1 curriculum needs to provide a good foundation of knowledge for children to build on later. You may want to consider planning the KS2 curriculum before you plan KS1, and if possible contact local secondary schools for details of their KS3 curriculum.
  • Any gaps that may exist in children’s general knowledge when considering the KS2 curriculum you have planned. For example, as the KS2 curriculum mainly consists of periods before 1066, children may not have an understanding of what knights were and features of castles, which they will probably come across in stories.
  • The texts you plan to teach across the school and the background knowledge needed to access these. How crucial is understanding the background knowledge to the plot? For example, when reading Room 13, a brief explanation of the dissolution of the monasteries to help children understand the history of Whitby Abbey would be useful, but it’s not necessary for them to have studied this in depth. However, if you intend to study Street Child, it would be important for children to have background knowledge of the Victorians in order to access the text.
  • The history of the local area – which figures were important in the history of the area? Did any significant events happen locally? Are there any significant buildings, historic sites or local industries? Thorough research here will help you select topics that are meaningful to your pupils and that can enhance children’s understanding of local geography too.
  • Themes that will help children to better understand how daily life has changed over time, and that are relevant to their own lives – houses and homes, school, transport, communication, toys, technology, jobs.
  • Promoting British Values and children’s moral, social, emotional and cultural development, as well as adding to pupils’ understanding of diversity. For example, selecting the nurses Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole as significant individuals to study could provide rich opportunities for children to both develop empathy, and their understanding of how the nurses’ different backgrounds affected the opportunities that were available to them.
  • Note that there is no requirement to select only one unit of study for each of the four bullet points, so if you have time you may choose to select two or three examples to teach some of the objectives.

Changes within living memory

The guidance in the National Curriculum is that these should be used to reveal aspects of change in national life. The broad themes listed above (home, school, transport, communication and technology) provide a useful focus for this area of study. When selecting which one(s) to focus on, consider those that are most relevant in your local area. For example, if your school has moved to a new building, changes in school life over time may be a good choice, or if there have been significant housing developments, changes to the size of the town and type of housing being built would be relevant. Opportunities for trips and visitors may influence your decision, for example if you have a local dockyard museum, canal or steam railway, changes in transport may be a good choice.

A unit of work on this objective could either track a theme, such as communication, through the decades from the 1920s to the present day, teaching about communication before the telephone, when telephones were commonly used in ordinary people’s houses, the introduction of the internet, ending with the wireless devices and smartphones we use today, and identifying how these changes impacted on people’s lives. Alternatively, life in a particular decade could be contrasted with modern life, looking at several themes such as homes, transport and communication.

Events beyond living memory

The National Curriculum specifies that these should be significant either nationally or globally. Suggestions are the Great Fire of London or the first aeroplane flight, although these are not statutory. Again the history of your local area can help to guide your choices – for schools in London, the Great Fire seems like a logical choice. Alternatively, you may wish to choose an event that is linked to one of the areas included in your geography curriculum.

Another suggestion in the National Curriculum is learning about events commemorated through festivals or anniversaries, for example learning about the reasons why we mark Remembrance Day each year. Themes that are not covered within other objectives could help with your decision – if you aren’t covering transport elsewhere, the first aeroplane flight may be a good way of filling that gap. Finally, consider any gaps in the KS2 curriculum. Are there any events that children will not have learnt about, that you consider are essential for children to know before they leave Year 6? This could be an opportunity to include these.

Lives of significant individuals in the past

The individuals you select must have contributed to national or international achievements. The important thing is that the people you select enable you to compare aspects of life in different periods. This indicates that the pairs of individuals you select should be separated by time.

This objective can be used to ensure that children have sufficient understanding of the features of periods that will be studied later, or that will be useful to provide background knowledge for reading or for local study in geography. For example, if there is a significant amount of Victorian history in your local area, you may select an aspect of Victorian life to study in KS2. In this case, comparing Queen Victoria with another monarch would support more in depth learning about the Victorians later. As a considerable number of classic children’s books were written or are set in Victorian times, comparing the life of a Victorian author with an author from a different period would enable children to access these texts more confidently.

Alternatively, you could select individuals whose lives provided opportunities to build on knowledge in other areas of the curriculum. For example, if the lives of explorers were selected here, that would provide opportunities to reinforce world geography knowledge such as continents, oceans and North and South Poles.

Significant historical events, places or people in your locality

You may want to make this choice last, so that you can choose an aspect or aspects of local history that does not already fit within one of the above three objectives. What have you chosen for your KS2 local history study? Think about what children will need to know to be able to access this unit of work. Would it be beneficial to select a unit that would provide children with useful background knowledge in KS1? Or is there another significant aspect of local history that children will not have the opportunity to study in KS2?

Suggested sequencing

As a general principle, learning should be sequenced so as to move from concepts that are ‘closer’ to children’s experiences in Year 1, to learning about more abstract concepts that are further in the past in Year 2. If you choose to do this, a logical way to sequence the objectives would be to cover changes within living memory and local history in Year 1, with the more complex changes beyond living memory and comparison of significant individuals’ lives in Year 2. However, the way you choose to sequence the units you have chosen is completely dependent on the particular places, people and events you will be teaching. For example, if you have chosen to teach both changes to transport within living memory and the first aeroplane flight, you may decide to start with the first aeroplane flight and then track changes chronologically to the present day. Or if your local study focuses on a Tudor house, this would naturally precede learning about the Great Fire of London. Additionally, links to geography and science may influence your decisions about sequencing. For example, learning about the Great Fire of London is enhanced by children having an understanding of the properties of materials, so it would be useful to place this unit after Year 2 science on materials.

Unit checklist

Does the unit include opportunities to:

  • Identify similarities and differences between ways of life in different periods?
  • Develop children’s understanding of chronology?
  • Find out about the past from different sources of information?
  • Ask and answer questions (following lines of enquiry)?
  • Revisit and build on prior learning and key concepts (monarchy, source, community, chronology)? For example, remembering and ordering the names of previous monarchs studied before introducing a new monarch, or remembering the order in which significant events occurred, adding new events studied to the chronology previously learnt.
  • Develop a thorough understanding of what is important about your local area, and how it has changed?




Curriculum planning: ks1 history

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