Discussing Causation with Year 7
Why was Simon Sudbury’s head on a spike?
This activity comes from Paul Wright who teaches in Lincolnshire. Paul devised this two-stage activity to develop Y7 pupils’ ability to think about, discuss and develop the vocabulary of causation. The activity is in two parts (described by Paul below) – firstly a modern event (the breaking of a vase) to get pupils thinking about why events happen and secondly the historical example of the execution of Simon Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, during the Great Revolt of 1381.
As Paul explains, his starting point for Sudbury was the reconstruction of Sudbury’s skull in 2011. You’ll need to brief yourself on this using one or more of the web-links below. Otherwise Paul’s description below tells you how he used the activity – after that it’s over to you to adapt it to your classes.
The activity is described by Paul Wright:
I devised an activity to use with Y7 that allows them to think about causation - though the task can be used across all Key Stages. I find that pupils' answers to causation questions can often descend into 'another cause, and another cause...' and this year have tried hard to at least get pupils comfortable with the idea of different types of cause: contextual, medium-term, and immediate.
What worked well was the initial powerpoint about the broken purple vase - it generated some excellent thinking aloud and huge disagreement as to what the most important cause was, as well as giving pupils the chance to debate what these three causes actually mean.
The main task in the next lesson was to provide a very boring-looking worksheet titled, 'Why was Simon Sudbury's head on a spike?' This is like a good old-fashioned mystery-thinking skill activity. I simply told the class about the reconstruction of Sudbury's head from his skull last year and we looked at the reconstruction picture on the sheet (although it would be equally possible to look on a whiteboard or suchlike first) and then we just plunged straight in: I asked the question, 'why was SS's head on a spike?' and left them to it!
A few individuals took the lead and started to corral the rest of their group into thinking about who, why, where, etc...and a few others recognised the need to put the sentences into some kind of order. After 5 minutes (some floundering, others coping) we stopped and discussed plausible ways forward. Thereafter, and with the purple vase phrases in mind, students tried to link the immediate causes to the contextual.