The value of Knowledge Organizers for GCSE History

Set out below are ‘Knowledge Organizers’ for the IGCSE History course that I teach at my current school. The idea of creating knowledge organizers came from Joe Kirby, who outlines his rationale here. In short, they should contain absolutely essential facts that students need to commit to memory. Although it’s not everything I would want them to remember, without this foundational knowledge they will be unable to engage in anything other than superficial analysis and evaluation.  It is these specific historical facts that will also enable future learning as they are the ‘pegs’ that other information can connect to – they help put things into context, create a chronological schema and familiarizes students with terminology and names. I have in-depth here about the importance and value of committing key dates to memory.

I would give each student one of these ‘knowledge organizers’ at the beginning of a new unit. They can immediately be used to give students the ‘gist’ of what they will be studying in more depth later by getting them to highlight events that are to do with economic, social, political factors etc… Alternatively, you could have them find a significant fact about each of the people listed or come up with an illustration for some of the historical terminology.

Further into the unit I would do retrieval practice activities with them. These would include:

  • Giving them just the event/terminology/key character descriptions and getting them to fill in the date/term/person for each one. Or, cutting up the dates and events, then asking the students to match them.
  • Using the timeline list, I would have the students explain to one another how an event links with the next event, and so on.
  • Students will be challenged to use 2 or more of the terms in the terminology list in an explanation or essay
  • I would have a ‘balloon debate’ at the end with the key characters. Students would have  to make the case for a person’s significance to save them
  • The exam questions can be practiced in class or at home. The students could also use them to design other questions that haven’t come up yet.
  • Students can reflect on the syllabus list at the end of the unit and consider areas of weakness.

Changes in Medicine, c.1845-c1945

A World Divided, 1919-1939

Superpower relations, 1945-1963

USA, 1917-1929

Past Exam Questions

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