What's on the Agenda?
The start of a new topic at A level is crucial for stimulating interest, motivation and challenge. This activity provides a way of linking back to the previous topic while asking students to predict what lies ahead. By working as a group to predict the agenda and priorities in the period about to be studied, students are first of all revising the last topic, then (without realising they’re doing anything so sophisticated!) creating a hypothesis about the nature of the new monarch, government or regime. They can then check how good their predictions have been when they start reading – and thus may be better motivated to undertake that reading.
Starting work on any new government, monarch or regime:
1. Recap the key points about the previous regime – what were its concerns, what it prioritised, how effective it was and what legacies it has left.
2. Split the class into discussion groups. Each group is playing the same role - the new regime. This provides the basis for comparing agendas and identifying reasons for differences at a later stage of discussion.
3. In role as the new regime – make a list of the issues that are on your agenda for action and thought.
4. Which of these issues will you prioritise for action immediately and which can be left for later action?
5. Choose the two most important items – identify the options you have in each case and what course of action you will take.
6. Now the groups have created their agenda, compare their findings and explore the reasons for their choices. Does this reveal any misunderstandings about the issues and their significance or about the thinking of people at the time?
7. Time for some reading – what really happened and which groups got it right? If the choices made e.g. by the 16th century government were different from those made by the students why were they different and, crucially, what have you learned from this about the thinking of the time? This reading is likely to be more effective i.e. better focussed with better retention (and speedier and more confident) as a result of the prediction activity.
As a variation, turn the whole class into the cabinet or council, debating the issues with the teacher chairing as monarch, prime minister or all-powerful dictator!
Things to think about to evaluate and develop the activity:
- What was the impact of this activity on motivation to read and effectiveness of reading? [discuss with students]
- Did this have an impact on the quality of discussion among students? If so, how and why and what can be learned from this?
- How often should a technique like this be used within an AS/A2 course?
- Did this technique make a long-term impact on knowledge and understanding?