Teacher Resources

17th Century pillory: the drunkard’s cloak. Great image as a starter!

17th Century pillory - the drunkard's cloak. Used as starter, great discussion! via @MechCuratorBot

via @MechCuratorBot

The notes are as important as the presentation. From @SarahCAndersen

Why notes and plans are just as important as the presentation itself. From @SarahCAndersen

Dispel the myths of trench warfare at http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z3kgjxs

Useful resource to dispel the myths of trench warfare http-www.bbc.co.uk[f-slash]guides[f-slash]z3kgjxs

Visit the BBC iWonder website for the full resource.


Weimar-era cartoon predicts ‘wireless home phone & TV’

Weimar cartoon predicts 'wireless home phone & TV'. Great starter from bit.ly[f-slash]1rzL8U3

Weimar cartoon predicts ‘wireless home phone & TV’. Great starter from http://bit.ly/1rzL8U3

The Supermarket and the Christmas Truce – lesson plan and resources

Sainsbury’s decision to use the story of the Christmas Truce to drive their 2014 seasonal advertising campaign provoked debate about the ethical and moral issues regarding advertising and war, but also served to bring the story of the Truce to the front of many peoples’ minds. Shortly after the advert was first shown in the UK, a cancelled Geography fieldtrip led to Year 9 students returning to their ‘normal’ lessons without their usual classroom equipment or books. I therefore chose to seize upon their interest in the Sainsbury’s advert and the story it tells to teach an impromptu lesson in which the students were asked to evaluate the advert as an historical source.  This post attempts to give an overview of the lesson I taught, and the responses from my students.

The context

A hundred years on, the Christmas Truce has become mythologised to such an extent that the stories peddled by some are dangerously misleading.  Although I’m a big fan of Horrible Histories, for example, their sketch based on the Christmas Truce focuses almost exclusively on the legend of the football match.  They do make some good references to the wider context of the war but, for a TV show that (usually) presents well-researched and accurate history, the clip below is a concern due to its emphasis on football at the expense of everything else.

Such popular histories can mean that when people think of ‘the Christmas Truce’ they imagine the entire Western Front downing arms and having a huge kick about in the middle of No Man’s Land.  This isn’t true of everyone, but UEFA’s recent series of Remembrance events has further reinforced the stereotype.  My students’ subconscious ‘knowledge’ of this was awakened by the new Sainsbury’s advert, and I was keen to think of a way to address the reality of this interpretation with my classes.

Setting It Up

I began by simply showing the advert in its entirety, and asked the students to share their initial thoughts.

Some students immediately commented on the ethical/moral debate surrounding the advert.  Whether this is because they were repeating lines that have been featured heavily in the media in recent days is unclear.  I duly noted down their responses on a huge sheet of paper, but then physically ‘put them to one side’.  I explained that we were not going to debate the pros and cons of the advert itself.  Instead we were going to analyse the advert as an historical source in order to arrive at a response to the question, ‘How much can we learn from the Sainsbury’s advert about the First World War?’

First impressions

Students were divided into groups and asked to discuss and note down their answers to four key questions to help them answer the lesson enquiry question.  I’m fortunate in having a classroom equipped with desks that are designed to be written on, and so by giving each group a couple of board markers they were able to record their responses to these questions:

  • Who made the advert?
  • Why was it made?
  • What does it tell us about the First World War?
  • What does it not tell us about the First World War?

The first two questions were designed to get students thinking about the provenance of the source, which I hoped would feed in to their answers to the next two questions about the content.  The most obvious thing they picked up on was the football match shown in the advert.  However, they also commented that the advert can be used to tell us what the soldiers wore and how they passed their time in the trenches,  One student also pointed out that the portrayal of the trenches matched with what they’d already learned about trench construction in a previous lesson.  In terms of the counter argument a student highlighted that, although the advert focuses on a truce, it doesn’t really tell us how common it was for troops to lay down their arms.  This point was developed by another who commented that the explosion that sends the two sides back to their trenches shows that the fighting continued elsewhere, even though the section of the line in the advert held a truce.  They were beginning to grasp that idea that one specific event does not prove the presence of a wider trend.


Filling in the background

I then showed the students the ‘making of’ video, and the ‘story behind the advert’ video, both of which provided them with more contextual information.  Many noted that the ‘story behind the advert’ video clearly states that the events are fictional, but that the makers say they tried to be as accurate as possible.

After viewing these videos, students were given a few minutes to return to their group discussions, in which they began adding details about the origin and purpose of the film related to the ‘who’ and ‘why’ questions they had originally been set.  In particular, they found it important to note the involvement of the British Legion, and the presence of an historical consultant to ensure accuracy.

Who Made It?

Analysing the interpretation

It was at this point in the lesson that students began to realise that the advert was therefore an interpretation of the Truce, based on the different aims of those involved in its production.  To help them further explore this idea, I distributed two more sources of information.  Half the groups received a series of extracts from the Twitter feed of Taff Gillingham (https://twitter.com/Taff_Gillingham), the historical consultant on the advert.  The other groups were given the joint press release by the British Legion and Sainsbury’s.

With Mr Gillingham’s permission I have copied his tweets and formatted them into prose paragraphs to make them easier to read – you can download the PDF file from http://www.mrallsophistory.com/revision/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Taff-Gillingham-Twitter-combined.pdf

You can download the press release from the British Legion’s website at http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/about-us/news/remembrance/sainsburys-and-the-legion-partner-to-bring-ww1-christmas-truce-story-to-life

The students were asked to read and annotate these additional sources.  Those with the Twitter feed were able to learn about Gillingham’s own background, and noted that he is a respected commentator on the Christmas Truce.  One group highlighted the section where he tells of how he and the director didn’t want football to dominate the advert, but that “the client” (i.e. Sainsbury’s) wanted to ‘push the football hard’.  They also found it helpful to read the section where he outlines his own process of historical research to find corroborating evidence of a football match taking place.  Meanwhile the groups with the press release highlighted that the advert is referred to as ‘a creative interpretation’ although they ‘sought to make the portrayal of the truce as accurate as possible’.  Many also highlighted the charitable element of the advert.

Depending on time you may also wish to include additional sources.  The Football Remembers source pack includes some good materials.  I’ve had most success with Source 9 (which is actually one of the sources used by Taff Gillingham used when advising Sainsbury’s), Source 32, and Source 48.

Since first teaching this lesson, a previously unpublished letter has come to light which could be a great additional source.  Most sources are from lower ranking soldiers, but this is from General Walter Congreve who was awarded the Victoria Cross.  It’s particularly interesting because the majority of accounts of the Truce say that senior officers were opposed to the Truce, whereas Gen Congreve’s letter seems quite supportive of it – if only for tactical reasons.  The Daily Telegraph published a full transcript of the letter on their website, though the headline ‘The real story behind the 1914 Christmas Truce’ is to be taken wit ha pinch of salt!

It can also be interesting to contrast the portrayal of the war in the Sainsbury’s advert with that in Private Peaceful, which is taught in many Y7 English classrooms.  Although Private Peaceful  does not address the Truce, it offers an almost-entirely opposing interpretation of the war in general and can provide a good stimulus for a discussion of audience.

Reaching a conclusion

Students with different sources then paired off to share their new-found insights with each other.  This led to some interesting debate, with one pair commenting that the purpose of the historical account – i.e. Sainsbury’s desire to advertise their product – meant that some of the nuanced history from Gillingham’s research was lost.  This final piece of paired work also enabled students to discuss the overall lesson question to reach a conclusion about how much the advert can teach us about the First World War.  Using a technique shared by Patrick O’Shaughnessy on Twitter (https://twitter.com/historychappy), students then recorded their opinions on Post-It notes which they stuck to the board to form a continuum. These views were discussed as a plenary activity.

Sainsbury's Continuum

Since first teaching this lesson five days ago, it is clear that many of the students have watched the advert again.  They have found yet more historical references in the advert, some of which I’m sure they will have been looking for after reading Gillingham’s tweets.  Although I recognise that there is an important debate to be had about Sainsbury’s decision to produce this advert, I believe that we have the opportunity to use it as a springboard to address the real history of the Christmas Truce and correct the myths and legends that overshadow the reality of life on the Western Front at the end of 1914.

Example CIE AS History Paper 1: Liberalism & Nationalism in Italy and Germany

Due to CIE changing their AS and A Level courses from the old specification (9697) to the shiny new 9389, there is a lack of past papers for students to use as part of their revision.  While it is relatively easy to transfer essay questions to the new mark scheme, the source paper focus (AS Level Component 1) has changed from the Causes of World War One to Liberalism and Nationalism in Italy and Germany, 1848–1871.

I have created an example CIE AS Paper 1 for this topic, which you can download using the link below.

Example CIE AS Paper 1 (European topic)

The paper can be marked using the generic CIE markscheme available for the Specimen Paper 1 from the CIE website here.

French Revolution Political Spectrum

The political spectrum during the French Revolution

A great diagram to illustrate the political spectrum during the French Revolution. Original source unknown.

Click to download as a PDF

The Flight to Varennes and the National Assembly lesson plan


This lesson is aimed at A Level students studying the French Revolution. Inspiration comes from the classic (yet still excellent) SHP KS3 textbook ‘Societies in Change’.

I teach CIE AS Level 9389, although this lesson would work just as well for other specifications. My most recent examination breakdown highlighted the need to increase student engagement with sources, so I devised this lesson in which students take the role of the National Assembly after the Flight to Varennes and use a range of primary documents to form and justify their own judgements about how the Assembly should deal with Louis XVI.

Having studied the causes of the French Revolution and the collapse of the ancien regime in 1789, students are required to consider the changing relationship between Louis and the National Assembly that led to his execution. By using documents to consider the public and private attitude of Louis towards the Revolution, and how his attitude changed over time, students are equipped to understand why the Revolution became more radical.

While some of the sources used in this lesson have been edited for length, the text is presented as it is in the original translations in order to immerse students in the structures and language of the 18th century. You can download a single PDF containing all the sources by clicking here. Alternatively each one is linked to separately in the lesson overview below.

The lesson

Set the scene by reading Source A, which is a letter by Marie Antoinette to her mother shortly after her marriage to Louis in 1770. Draw out the apparently positive relationship between the people and the royal family – it is especially interesting to discuss how Marie recognises the crushing taxes on the poor yet once queen did nothing to ease them.

retour_de_la_famille_royale_ea100530Show Source B – a contemporary illustration of the royal family being returned to Paris after being captured at Varennes. Don’t share the story yet, but point out the date as being much later than the letter: it is after the Fall of the Bastille, the October Days, and the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly. Ask students to compare it to the previous source. If it isn’t mentioned by the students, it’s worth steering discussion towards the role of the guards – previously the guards were there to protect the royal family; now they are prison guards.

Discuss the change in the relationship between the two sources. What has changed? Why might that change have come about? Draw on previous knowledge of the August Decrees, the Declaration of the Rights of Man, and the drafts of the Constituent Assembly to show that now the people were exercising authority rather than the monarchy. How would the king react? They will probably identify that he could submit to them, continue to be an obstruction, or try to regain his authority. If the latter, how would he do that?

Show short video clip about the Flight to Varennes. Discuss how different interest groups in France would respond on his return – what options were open to the Assembly? Students may jump on the idea of the king being a ‘traitor’ it’s important at this point to remind them that there is no proof of treason – only a suspicion.

Study Source C, Source D and Source E. What do they reveal about the king’s reasons for escaping? Ensure that students make detailed reference to provenance to demonstrate the difference in explanations between the public and in private.

Introduce Source F. Explain that it was written before the Flight, but found afterwards during a search of the royal apartments. How does this affect previous judgements? Draw out comparisons with Source D – had the king’s opinion changed between April and June? In what way? Why?

Explain that it was against this background of evidence that the National Assembly had to decide what to do with Louis. The students now take the role of the Assembly and must prioritise five possible responses (printing a copy of these as A5 cards can help them visualise the debate).

  • Welcome Louis back and carry on as before, with government and king trying to work together
  • Keep Louis in prison until the constitution is ready for his agreement
  • Replace Louis with his son, Louis Charles, aged six
  • Proclaim Louis overthrown and declare a Republic
  • Arrange a referendum to decide his future

As the discussion progresses, introduce new pieces of evidence. Begin with Source G, which is an editorial from the radical Le Père Duchêsne. Highlight that this is the sentiment of some people outside the walls of the Assembly. How might that affect the decision? Allow the discussion to progress, and continue to introduce new evidence at F99E066Cintervals:

  • Source H – Louis accepting the Constitution
  • Source I – Louis’ memorandum to his brother
  • Source J – Louis’ letter to Frederick William II of Prussia

Source J is the only one that can be used to categorically prove treason. You should continue to monitor the discussion and remind students that confrontational action against the King could bring about reprisals from Austria. Similarly, leniancy could bring violence from the mob.

After all the evidence has been presented, students should reach a final judgement and present their rationale.

Napoleon's domestic policy hexagons

Napoleon’s domestic policies – virtual hexagon activity using @classtools

This activity uses the excellent ‘virtual hexagons generator’ tool from www.classtools.net to give students a range of information about Napeoleon’s domestic policies. They can rearrange the hexagons to create a framework for an essay answer, colour-code them, and delete/add as required.

Access the full-screen interactive version at http://www.classtools.net/hexagon/201604-AFB5ZC

Teacher Resources for the IB Internal Assessment

In 2013 the IBO finally released Internal Assessment forms that we can fill in electronically.  However, it can still be a lengthy process doing them individually so, to help speed up the completion of the required paperwork for the IB History Internal Assessment, I’ve created a mail-merge version that fills in all the duplicate data automatically.

Begin by saving the required files to a folder on your computer: Excel spreadsheet  |  IB Form 3/CS

The Excel file has been created for teachers to input the information needed by the IB.  It’s very straightforward:

  • In cell A2 of the first column type the session you are entering students for (May or November and the year). This will be duplicated down the column.
  • In cell B2 type the name of your school as registered with the IBO, and this will be duplicated down the column.
  • In cell C2 type the teacher’s name.  This will again duplicate down the column.  If there were different teachers, type their names in the appropriate cells.
  • Each school has a unique IB school number. It begins with 00 and is followed by four more numbers. Type the first of the next four numbers in cell D2, the second number in E2, the third in F2 and the fourth in G2.
  • Cell H2 is for the subject – presumably History, unless you’ve tweaked these files for another IB subject in Group 3.
  • Cell I2 is for the Level (SL or HL) for the first student you are entering. Cell data from hereon is not duplicated down the column.
  • The candidate session number is the school number followed by three digits. Cell J2, K2 and L2 are for the first, second and third digits in the candidate’s session number. Make sure you enter students on the spreadsheet in candidate number order!
  • M2 is for the candidate name, as entered for the exam.
  • N2 is the title of the Internal Assessment piece.
  • Cells O2-T2 are for you to type the marks awarded for each criteria in the Internal Assessment. Cell T2 will automatically total these marks out of 25.
  • If you have more than the default 20 students, simply copy one of the completed rows into a blank row.

When you have finished entering data into the spreadsheet, load the Word documentDepending on yoru version of Word, you may see a window similar to that on the right, warning you that “Opening this document will run the following SQL command…” Click “Yes“. You will now need to point Word to the location of the Excel spreadsheet you downloaded and saved to your computer. Once you’ve located it and clicked “Open” the form will load.

The formatting of the page may appear incorrect, and you may notice some codes such as «School_number_1» (example below).  These codes load the data from your spreadsheet, and the page layout will be fixed when the process is complete.  Go to the menu bar and click Tools > Letters and Mailings > Mail Merge…  This will open a window at the right-hand side of your screen.  Click “Edit recipient list” and ensure that the boxes at the side of all the candidates required by the IBO are ticked.  Click “OK“.

 In the mail-merge window at the right of the screen click “Next: write your letter“.  You don’t need to change anything here, so just click “Next: preview your letters“.  If you now scroll down the main document window you will see that the «School_number_1» codes have been replaced with your school and student information.

As long as the formatting appears correct on the preview (e.g. all names are clear, and the pages don’t run onto the next), click “Next: complete the merge“.

If you want to double-check all the merged sheets before printing, you can select to “Edit individual letters…” Alternatively, if you trust the mail merge to have done it properly you can just click “Print…” and the individualised information sheets on each of your students will print out, ready to be sent to the IBO, and hopefully saving you an ENORMOUS amount of time writing them out by hand!