Change and continuity Resource 1 How can we help pupils to get better at discussing and analysing change and continuity? Christine Counsell created for University



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Change and continuity


Resource 1 How can we help pupils to get better at discussing and analysing change and continuity?
Christine Counsell
created for University of Cambridge PGCE history trainees

May 2008

Give them different ways of analysing or characterising change (‘I want you to focus on type of change, not speed of change’; ‘I want you to focus on extent of change’. ‘Make me a chart or diagram [or invent metaphor?] which distinguishes type, speed and extent of change during the Soviet period/during the early expansion of Islam/during the Neolithic Revolution/ during July 1789’).
Teach them to qualify and modify statements about change for thinking, talking and writing about change: was the change steady, gradual, gentle? Was it swift, sudden, seismic? Was it uneven, bumpy, jumpy?
Get them to classify that language ('Find me three adverbs you could use for…' 'What adverbs does Eamon Duffy use for talking about continuity in religious practices? What heading would you put them under?')
Make them design time-lines to show particular kinds of change or continuity (‘My time-line is going to show continuity in religious practices in the sixteenth century’; ‘My time-line is going to show speed of change in religious policy’ etc)
Show them how to personify change (Was the change reluctant? eager? energetic? weary? aimless? breathless?)

You can have huge fun with this – consider all the activities that could emerge from it, from year 7 pupils with literacy/conceptual difficulties through to year 12 who you are actively pushing to read more widely and critically.

Teach them to play with and justify the language that shows subtlety in interplay of change-continuity (Did the Puritans restore, refine, revive, re-shape, re-kindle, renew, transform or develop Christian practices? Which word will you choose? Why ‘renew’ and not ‘recycle’? Why did you choose that word? Did it really ‘evolve’ or was it ‘transformed’?)
Get them to think about whether the language of change or continuity can ever be neutral or value-free. ('Why do you think
Eamon Duffy doesn’t describe the persistence of religious practices as “stubbornly persistent”?')

Make them read or listen to a story with a change or continuity question in mind. (‘What were the turning points in this story? Find three turning points, mark them in the text and compare them with your neighbour. Where do you agree/disagree? Whose turning points are they? Do the turning points suggest a change? What kind of change and for whom?’)
Teach them how to convert a narrative into a ‘shape’.
Teach them to spot change, development, progress and regress in a text.

Get them to question beginnings and endings and to challenge the labels that beginnings and endings enshrine (Is this the end of the story of Muslim Spain? Or was the end in 1235? Or did it end earlier? Or did it really end in 1495? Or did it really end then at all? What is the ‘end’? For whom was it an 'end'? Was it an ‘end’ for some and not for others? When did the French Revolution end? What shall we call 'Middle Ages'? [It deserves a name other than ‘middle’!] What shall we call the Victorian period? [What else defined this period apart from Victoria?])

Teach them to choose events and developments for their own time-lines

('I’m going to choose these events to illustrate continuity'/'I think these events indicate major change.')


Teach them to challenge others’ event choices in their time-lines (‘Why did you begin your timeiline there?' 'What story does your time-line show?' 'Why did you choose that event?' 'Why haven’t you included...?' 'Don’t you think this time-line really shows...?' 'When I see your time-line I see… 'But that bunching-up at that bit suggests speed!' 'But the clustering-up suggests things happened more quickly!!' 'Should you really end the time-line there?')
Get them to compare parallel time lines ('Did the change take longer in agriculture or in industry?' 'Was religious change in England slower or faster than in Scotland/Germany?' 'How does/how well does your time-line show this?')
Get them to work out for themselves when change is not the same as progress; to see where there is scope for argument about the concept of ‘progress’; to consider ‘progress for whom?’
Fascinate them with continuity as well as change (How man in society stays the same is as fascinating as how man in society changes; share your amazement, share your intellectual curiosity; cultivate sensibility and surprise – a time-line is never boring – it is a revelation.)

Help them to explore the experience of change and continuity of people in the past (What did medieval peasants see as ‘a long time’? Did medieval peasants have a sense of things ‘changing’ or did they have no concept of historical change? What did time mean to people without clocks? What kind of change was the change of seasons – were the seasons continuity or change for peasants?)

Use enquiry questions that keep the enquiry focus firmly upon change and don’t let the question slip into causation! (The two are very closely linked and sometimes you might want an enquiry question that DOES link them; but if you want pupils to become more practised at characterising change and you want them to become interested in this, then it’s a good idea, sometimes, to isolate it as focus). Here are some enquiry questions that range from a short enquiry for two/three lessons to a guiding question (‘a giant enquiry’) linking up a whole term’s work. Remember that pupils must always be enabled to answer the question, at the end of the enquiry.
When was the Reformation?

How long was the Reformation?

When were the 1960s?

When did the 1960s really end?

Who noticed the 1960s end?

What changed and what stayed the same in fifteenth-century England?

What kind of turning point was 1832?

Did elementary schools change the lives of the poor?

Did Sir Christopher Trickay change?

Did the people of Morebath change?

What changed in Morebath?

How far was Morebath the same place in 1574 as in 1520?

When did the French Revolution end?

What changed and what stayed the same in Russia between c.1850 and c.1950?

What sort of change was the enclosure movement?

*What kind of change was evacuation?

(*This last question worked successfully in a trainee’s lesson observed in 2003. It was getting at what kind of change was experienced by the evacuees. It was quite deliberately a different sort of question from the more clinical and more usual cause/consequence question: ‘What were the consequences of evacuation?’. Used with mixed-ability year 8, it was the closest I’ve come to seeing genuine efforts at empathy work well. The focus was on: what did it feel like to experience this particular rupture? But it was grounded carefully in some focused evidential work and a strong sense of context in life in 1930s for city children before they were evacuated. It therefore avoided the flights of fancy and the lack of historical context that so often happens in the name of ‘empathy’. Pupils were asked to think about the strangeness of the past and the distance of the past from themselves, rather than just plonking their twenty-first century selves in the past. The explicit focus on characterising the change disciplined the children’s thinking and discussion, and the enquiry question was constantly brought into view, in every lesson.)


We can do this by:


  • devising and repeating departmental techniques across the key stage (for example, types of time-line, types of speaking-frame, types of writing frame, types of card-sort, ways of tackling a text with change and continuity in mind, giving them a ‘listening agenda’ to help them concentrate on change/continuity while listening to a story)




  • choosing enquiry questions where the analytic demand clearly lies in judging the extent, nature or type of change/continuity; keeping that question to the fore during the whole sequence – in discussion, in mini-activities, in formative feedback;




  • limiting the information/ideas that pupils are dealing with so that they can see the wood for the trees (so that they can see what the disagreement is about: crisply, clearly, succinctly; so that they see the shape or pattern of a claim about change or continuity, and not just a lot of detail; so that they can SEE the shape of the story, so that they can visualise an ‘end’ or a ‘beginning’ and so challenge it.)




  • making change and continuity puzzling, intriguing: a time-line should NEVER be boring; it must never be banal…. It should be a revelation!




  • Getting them to put themselves in the position of people at the time and to consider if change/continuity had meaning for them, in that situation



  • modelling the thinking involved in reflecting on change and continuity; think out loud to them as you do your own reflecting on whether change did or didn’t occur, how much changed and for whom, finding the right language to characterise the change as precisely as possible.





  • giving pupils time to own a new idea by talking about it in pairs or processing it on their own

  • listening to their ideas, using their suggestions, responding to their interest, cultivating their energy as soon as they start to talk, discuss, argue about supposed extent, speed or type of change




  • introducing them to real debates about change or continuity as often as possible – year 8 can look at Eamon Duffy’s views on continuity in religious practice. How does he characterise that continuity? What language does he use?








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