About Learning For Memory

The Middle Ages, a set of 11 booklets for KS3, is now available for purchase here.

The ‘Learning For Memory’ project was born out of my experience working in state secondary schools and the need I perceived for well written, text rich and practical history resources. Taking as my starting point the famous quote by Kirschner, Sweller and Clark that learning is a ‘change in long-term memory’, my focus has been to create content devised specifically to help pupils to remember what they learn. In the process, I eschew ‘fun’, gimmicky activities in favour of material that helps embed important historical concepts and events in pupils’ memories.

How, though, can we make the learning of history memorable? My answer to this question is to make use of narrative and not be afraid of telling a story. Narrative is important because the human element of history is in the telling of the story. Take the story away, and you are left with fragmented bits of information that do not have meaning to us as humans. We need to make history meaningful for our pupils to engage with it, and also to remember it. A story has pathos, actions and events, winners and losers. It tells us something about our shared humanity.

In telling these stories, every effort has been made to put forward reasoned arguments backed up by evidence and to avoid extremes of bias. Wherever an issue is contentious, the different viewpoints are presented. Above all, pupils are never left in any doubt that this narrative is an interpretation.

In addition to the use of narrative, I have taken into consideration approaches informed by cognitive psychology, such as retrieval practice, spaced study, interleaving and dual coding, to help make the material as memorable as possible. For example, I have interleaved the three overlapping stories of Harold Hardrada, Harold Godwinson and William of Normandy when writing about the Norman Conquest. The battle of Stamford Bridge gets covered twice: once during Hardrada’s story and then during Harold Godwinson’s narrative. The same applies for the battle of Hastings, which gets covered twice, from each protagonist’s perspective; each time a new level of detail is added. I also have included recap questions throughout the booklets to help with retrieval practice.

The tasks set at the end of each section include exercises, inspired by Hochman and Wexler’s “The Writing Revolution”, to help pupils develop their historical writing. One such exercise involves a sentence stem that pupils need to complete using the conjunctions because, but and so. This allows them to develop their sentence writing skills. It also encourages pupils to extend their thinking about a topic or issue. For example, pupils given the sentence stem “King Harold was unlucky,” might write the following:

King Harold was unlucky, because his kingdom was attacked both in the north and the south.

King Harold was unlucky, but he also made some poor decisions.

King Harold was unlucky, so he lost his crown after less than a year as king.

These might seem like simple exercises to do, but they are actually quite challenging because they force pupils to think about contrasting factors.

The resources are available as a set of booklets for individual purchase, as well as add-ons that can be downloaded from this site, such as teacher notes, knowledge organisers and multiple-choice quizzes. The first set of booklets, entitled ‘The Middle Ages’, broadly covers the KS3 curriculum and is aimed at Year 7 pupils (but could be of use to older pupils as well as teachers wishing to brush up on their subject knowledge). You can purchase the booklets directly from this site by clicking here. The add-ons are currently in production and will be uploaded to this site in due course and be available by end of this Summer.

The Middle Ages‘ consists of 11 booklets, as follows:

Booklet 1 – Introduction to the Middle Ages

Booklet 2 – The making of England

Booklet 3 – 1066: three kings in one year

Booklet 4 – Religion in the Middle Ages: everyday faith, religious orders and heresies

Booklet 5 – Norman England

Booklet 6 – Religion in the Middle Ages: church reforms and crusades

Booklet 7 – The Anarchy

Booklet 8 – Religion in the Middle Ages: conflict between church and crown

Booklet 9 – Medieval kingship

Booklet 10 – King John and the Magna Carta

Booklet 11 – Social change in the 14th century

More details on the contents of each booklets can be found here. To get a taste of what these booklets are like, I have released Booklet 5 (click on the link to download a PDF). Please do take a peak.

All the best,

Mayan Wakeford