Helping with history

Using terms

GCSE history will introduce many new political concepts and terminology to students. These terms tend to be even more difficult to grasp for students new to English. It is therefore important to ensure that basic ideas and vocabulary are understood before moving onto questions about events, causation and effect which they will be studying on their course.

a. To do this you can create or re-use matching exercises to build a glossary of key terms (hyperinflation, dictatorship, general strike, propaganda, etc), which mentees will be required to understand and discuss in exam questions.

b. You can also use visual aids, such as a spectrum line to discuss political ideologies, or a timeline.

Using sources

a. Explore the range of questions your mentee may be asked about sources, ensuring that they understand the meaning. Eg:

‘How far does B tell us about the success of the five year plans in the USSR?’

‘How useful is Source A for understanding attitudes in Germany towards the occupation of the Ruhr? ‘

‘Use the source and your own knowledge to describe the effects of the Great Depression on the people of the USA.’

b. Set practice questions using relevant historical sources (do an image search for ‘GCSE history sources’), or by applying similar questions to contemporary sources (eg. political cartoons, adverts, articles, etc. – provided the issue is familiar to the mentee)

c. Use acronyms, a flowchart (see below) or a list to help mentees navigate sources. For example:

Source : where it comes from (date/author, etc)?
Objective: why was it written?
Usefulness: how useful is it?
Reliability: how reliable is it?
Context: how does it fit with what you know already?
Example: always use examples to back up what you say.

Useful resources on using sources are available at St.Peters, BBC Bitesize, and

Using facts

a. Explore key questions about cause or effect (of hyperinflation, Hitler’s rise to power, the Treaty of Versailles, etc). Look to help mentees develop their knowledge so that they are able to discuss the role of multiple causes and effects and their relative significance.

b. This can be done effectively by helping the mentee develop brainstorms, lists, chronologies and flowcharts which break up the information into concise, memorable chunks.

These skills can be practised using past papers. Speak to your project worker about which exam board and specification your mentee is using for this.

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