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Which ‘Big Events’ were most important in KS3 History?


Students have a better chance of seeing KS3 History as a coherent course rather than a series of isolated events if they undertake overviews at the end of each of years 7, 8 and 9. This reinforces students’ memories of topics studied in Y7 in each of the following years and thus gives them a better chance of building enduring knowledge. Activities which focus on significance are ideal for this purpose. This activity asks students to think about the relative significance of key events.

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Or, a WORD version of this activity can be downloaded, click here.

This activity is based on the ’Timeline’ style of model; for more examples of this model, click here.

Exemplar Activity

Sequencing and Assessing the Significance of Key Events

This is a physical version of an activity in What is History Year 9: A concluding unit for KS3, which offers a range of overview activities.

a) Give pairs or group a key event each and ask them to write a speech bubble to go with it, explaining the significance of the event (examples are given below but obviously add in which ever topics from European and world history you have covered.).

OR give each group the speech bubble and ask them to identify the event (with or without a list to help them)

b) Give each group a large card with the topic clearly written on it and ask them to take their place on a timeline in chronological order. (This can also be done with sorting cards)

c) Then look at significance, firstly asking students how they would decide which events were most significant e.g. numbers affected, duration of impact.

d) Having established the criteria for significance, ask students to award each topic a score out of five for each criterion and add up the totals.

e) Compare totals, looking at why groups differ and which events get the highest totals.

This activity is enhanced by being done at the end of each of years 7 and 8 with the material covered during those years as well as at the end of Year 9.

Example Topic Cards and Bubbles

Votes for all

Bubble: In 1928 all men and women over 21 had the vote for the first time. This led to new laws and reforms that still affect everyone's lives.

Discovering the cause of disease

In 1860 Louis Pasteur first suggested that germs cause disease. This led to inoculations and antiseptics and to improved health for millions.

The first professional sports leagues

By the 1880s we could watch the Football League and the county cricket championship. Professional sport gave us a completely new kind of entertainment.

The Industrial Revolution

Instead of working on farms, people like us moved to towns. Our lives were very different in the crowded towns with lots of new inventions such as railways.

The battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo

In 1805 Nelson beat the French navy and stopped France invading Britain. In 1815 Wellington’s army beat Napoleon’s army and ended over twenty years of war.

The Civil War

We executed the King. Parliament ruled the country for 10 years before there was a new king. This began to change ideas about who should govern the country.

The American War of Independence

Britain ’s American colonies won their independence and created the USA.

The Reformation

New religions developed. All the monasteries were closed which hurt the poor. Some people were executed because they opposed the changes.

The defeat of the Spanish Armada

The English navy stopped the Spanish invasion fleet, the Armada.

The Black Death and Peasants' Revolt

Over 40% of people died but it led to everyone becoming free and improvements to everyday life that lasted for hundreds of years.

The battle of Agincourt

Henry V and his archers won a great victory over the French. This led to England ruling parts of France for the next 40 years.

The Norman Conquest

We conquered England. We became the new rulers and built castles to protect us from the English.

Magna Carta

The barons forced King John to agree to rules about he governed the country. This didn’t include letting ordinary people having a say in government.

The Roman Conquest

We built roads and baths and changed the way Britons lived for 400 years.

The Anglo-Saxon invasions

We brought the language you still use today. We were the first English people.



  1. How else do you or could you help students to see their KS3 course as a whole course, not a sequence of separate bits of the past?
  2. What impact does this activity have on your planning back across KS3? Does it, for example, identify gaps in the range of individuals studied?
  3. What has this told you about how much students have retained and what they have retained and are there any lessons to be learned from this?
  4. Have students enjoyed this activity and what was its value for them?

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Constructive feedback is always welcome, particularly anything that will help other teachers.

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