Curriculum making is an idea that has been promoted by the Geographical Association amongst others. It is based on the premise that the essential work of a teacher is the creative act of interpreting a curriculum specification or scheme of work and turning it into a coherent, challenging, engaging and enjoyable scheme of work. Curriculum making is a job that really never ends and lies at the heart of good teaching. It is the teacher’s responsibility to make the curriculum. This is a view supported by the Cambridge Primary Review Trust who have argued that ‘children will not learn to think for themselves if their teachers are expected merely to do as they are told.’ For more about curriculum making please follow this link.
The 2014 National Curriculum represents a great opportunity, for teachers to grab hold of the requirements and to make them engaging for their children. This idea is also key to Tim Oates’s thinking. His paper ‘Could do better’ highlights this idea and foregrounds the opportunities associated with a concept led curriculum. He signifies the importance of the aims and purposes of each subject statement for the National Curriculum. He argues (and we agree) that teachers should use the aims and purposes to interpret the specified content of the NC. We have tried to do this and spend some time exploring key concepts for both history and geography.
Key concepts are the ‘big ideas’ that underpin the essential nature of a subject. By emphasising these, you can be more certain that you are ‘doing’ history or geography with your pupils, rather than simply more literacy in the context of history or geography. By making concepts explicit then you help the children to make connections – to understand more.
For us, the key concepts that we have grappled with in geography are place, scale, location and connections; and for history, chronology, sequence, duration, continuity, and change. And across both disciplines the big ideas of cause, consequence similarity and difference. More about each of these can be found on the history and geography pages of this blog.
To aid our thinking about concepts we have drawn on the work of Lyn Erikson. You will notice the connection between the Cambridge Primary Review Trust’s comment about teachers and Lyn’s comment about children below.
‘How can you spot a thinking child? Look at the eyes: they’ll light up, signalling that transformative moment when your student has finally grasped that big idea behind critical academic content’ Erikson (2007)
If you want to delve deeper into a concept led curriculum. This power-point might be useful to you. We also very much like this summary and would highly recommend it to you. Think of the aims and purposes statements of the NC containing the concepts – if you ignore these you end up with, in Lyn’s words a 2-d rather than 3-D curriculum.
We hope that the materials on this website will enable you and your colleagues to make your history and geography curriculum by supporting your confidence to interpret the national requirements appropriately for your schools and settings so that you too can transform a child’s learning.
We would be thrilled to hear from you – please do use the reply box at the end of each page to share your experiences and views. Best Wishes, The Project Team.