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Primary Education News
News How to throw the ultimate revision party for students
History teacher Debbie Bogard has found an entertaining way to conquer revision fatigue and teach the Russian revolution
All the recent talk of a return to traditional A-levels reminds me of my own experiences as a sixth-former, back at the arse end of John Major's government. I have particularly fond memories of my history studies; in the weeks approaching the exams, a group of us gathered around someone's house to study together, attempting to cram two years of 19th and 20th century British and European history into four frenetic weeks of revision.
Taking a break from Disraeli, Gladstone, Mazzini, Garibaldi and the rest, we turned our attention to the more pressing job of planning the end of term history party, an annual event for all upper sixth history students and teachers. The anticipation and excitement of a party with our teachers combined with the unacknowledged guilt that we weren't doing any proper work meant the party planning became increasingly elaborate. We plotted various events that would 'spontaneously' happen throughout the evening to correspond with the relevant date in history; so at 19:16, a group dressed as Irish republicans would lift a hard boiled egg in the air (to denote the Easter Rising) and at 19:38 someone dressed as Chamberlain would wave a white piece of paper around. You get the idea, daft stuff that seems completely hilarious when you're 18 and stuck inside semi-revising on a hot day.
Fast forward to the present and I've discovered a history party whereby students adopt the persona of historical figures has real potential, not just as a procrastinating technique but as a genuine learning tool. The lesson plan on the Guardian Teacher Network resource bank is for an A-level history revision activity on revolutionary Russia. Each student is allocated their key figure in advance, giving them time to prepare their arguments and consider who their allies and enemies will be. The classroom becomes the scene of the party and once the guests arrive, the teacher, as host, is there to encourage discussion and wrangling over political positions.
As with my own A-level shenanigans, the party spans a number of years in order to cover the length of the course; in this case, tsarism, the revolutions of 1917, Lenin's death and the consequent leadership struggle. This enables different characters to take centre stage at different points, as well as allowing students to recreate the various alliances and political fallouts over time. The role play aspect is designed to help students articulate often quite challenging political ideas. It also allows for greater interaction and fluidity, putting the emphasis for learning onto the students and the quality of their interactions. Finally, the teacher's role is kept to a minimum, ensuring the learning remains student-centred and possibly even fun.
Resource: A-level history Russian tea party
Debbie Bogard teaches history and politics at City and Islington Sixth Form College in London.