How To Help You Son Or Daughter With Their Gcse History Homework
parents often feel at a loss as to how to help at home with GCSE and AS History - here is a practical guide with some tips
Date : 11/01/2016
Help Your Child at SchoolWe all know as parents that as student’s progress it becomes increasingly difficult to support them in their studies. Often we resort to saying to our children ‘you will have to go back and speak to the teacher in the morning about your homework’And yet there are things we can all do to help students be successful and happy in their studies. The skills outlined here use history examples but they work for all the Humanities and English. We do a lot of sources work in history, these sources can be written, a picture, letter. Set of statistics all kinds of things. When dealing with evidence there are only so many questions you can ask of any source.Who What Why Where When and How You can do this on your hand - anywhere at any time and while you are doing the housework or cooking the tea (yes that means you too Dad - dads can cook and clean!)So Ask you sons and daughters the following questions - thy will have studied the subject in class and therefore they should be able to tell you quite a lot of information Who wrote or produced the sourceWhat does the source tell usWhy was the source created – what was its original purpose and use?Where are we in time place and date – was something happening at that time that helps us to understand the source better? (contextual knowledge)How useful, how reliable and how typical is the source? There are three issues here, useful for what, reliable for what? A source may be both useful and reliable but is it typical of what was thought, believed and done at that time?Many courses regularly use picture sources including paintings and cartoons as evidence so ask the student what they can see in the picture and what it tells them about. It could be a painting of an Plains Indian tribe on the move or a cartoon showing Victorian surgery. Get the student to describe as much as possible then explain what the message and meaning of the source is. This bit is crucial as most marks are here. Finally for the high grades look at typicality utility (usefulness) and reliability. These re not the same things and if a source is useful you must explain in what ways it is useful, because a source will be useful for some things but not others. The same applies for reliability - reliable for what exactly. I will give an example to show how this work. Most sources written by White Americans about the Plains Indians in the period 1850-1880 label the Indians as `godless heathen savages who burn farms murder and kidnap and scalp and they steal out horses and cattle`. Such evidence tells us about the attitudes of White Americans to the Indians and its useful and reliable for white Americans. It will also be typical as such views were widely held. A few writers like George Catlin lived among the Indians and knew them well, had Indian wives and spoke the languages. There evidence is vital, they know and understand the Indians and their lives, they are far more reliable and useful but they are in no ways typical as they don`t even represent 1% of the White Americans.Let us take a very different source from ancient Greek medicine that at first glance seems very confusing. This is an inscri ption from the temple“A man with an abscess in his abdomen went to sleep in the Temple of Asclepius. In his dreams, Asclepius ordered the servants that accompanied him to grip him and hold him tightly so that he could cut open his abdomen. The man tried to escape but they gripped him and bound him. Asclepius cut open his belly, removed the abscess, stitched him up and released him. The man woke up sound and left the temple, but the floor was covered in blood.”Who is Asclepius? – this is contextual knowledge, the where are we and what is happening. Your son or daughter should be able to tell you that this is the Greek god of healing because at the point that they see this source they will have done this topic. What is medicine in the inscri ption and what is belief, faith or religion? This is the crucial step because religion and medicine are all mixed up and you cannot separate the two. So when your son your son or daughter says ‘I don’t understand this’ look at the source and identify the problem. Then ask why is this source like this? and you get back to ‘it’s all mixed up’ the final step is to then say ‘what does that tell us?’ the answer being that in ancient Greece medicine and religion are all mixed up and although there is medicine happening in the source it is seen as the role of the god to cure peopleHow useful? The source is useful for telling us that medicine happened in the temple and that religion and medicine were seen as one thing and that the god Asclepius cured the patientHow reliable? Clearly the events cannot be accurate but they obviously know what an abscess is and they can do surgery. It’s also reliable for the extent of the importance of religion in Greek medicine.How typical? The inscri ption was found in the temple of the god of healing. It was one of many stone inscri ptions praising the god for healing and giving thanks. It is therefore typical of what the Greek’s believed and thought about medicine and religion at that time. The hand skills can equally be used to focus revision, a simple technique is to read a page or section from the exercise book, revision guide or even online then turn away or turn the book over and ask the students the key skills questions about what they have just studiedMaking notes – less is moreEven at ‘A’ level I see students making copious notes, excellent for effort but as time becomes an issue and the student is still working after 10pm (not effective) they need to change the pattern of their home studyPrécis skills – never ever let students start notes without reading a passage or page first. Once they have read it ask them what the main point is, is there a secondary point. They can use whatever diagram form helps them as long as it’s not unstructured notesE.G ‘The Hundred Years War – year one, part one’Highlighters – if the student highlights everything on the page in day-glow orange it’s only use is to be stuck on their bike at night so that they can be seen. Highlighters work best having first read the page or chapter and then only sparingly. Lastly – all parents are told by their beloved offspring that there is nothing that they can do to help and your ‘interference’ will be treated with disdain and spurned. Mark Twain famously said ‘ When I left home aged sixteen I knew my father was the stupidest man I had ever met, when I came home two years later I was amazed at how much he had learnt’ Mark Twain’s comments apply to mums as well so please persevere as the success of the student comes from your help as well as ours as teachers and tutors. ICT especially the school’s moodle website is a great help and students at all levels can increasingly access a great deal of help from school websites and all students should be able to log in to their school website. many school websites now have the textbook embedded so that you can get to the book that your son or daughter has used in class. Its their job to do this not yours but get them to show you how, if they cannot do it there will be a reason why and they will probably need to see their tutor and then the school technician. Again their job not yours!One final tip - email. Many teachers are happy to stay in touch with parents through email, all teachers will have an email account at school, if you feel that somethings not right or not working well then contact the teacher but please be supportive, emails have no body language or tone of voice - the relationship between home and school is crucial and teachers will worry just as much as you. lastly if you have been in contact and you have moved thing forward try to agree a follow up email say three weeks later, it does not matter who emails who a simple `How is it going now` is great.My ethos has always been that you teach people first and subjects second and it the interaction that makes or breaks it. Not every students loves the subject and likes their teacher but 99.9% want a positive outcome. Good luck Mum and Dad!
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