Befuddlement and confusion

Launching straight into Year 10 GCSE with the ‘Creation of the Weimar Government’ can be problematic. It is like thanking students for choosing History and then tipping a bucket of  concepts and vocabulary on their heads.

“Before hitler was elected the weimar government had been in power, this was a communist run party with right wing beliefs.”

So began a student with an A* target the other day. Apart from the fact that the Weimar government wasn’t a singular political party, the Communists never formed a government and Communists are left wing, I think I have conveyed the issues clearly. Although I acknowledge a slight problem with capital letters.

I might be doing it wrong. After several attempts to unravel the Weimar constitution by explaining Proportional Representation vis a vis the First Past the Post system (with pictures and diagrams) , constituencies, the Reichstag, coalition governments, presidents and chancellors, a third of the students will have dead eyes. They think it has no connection with their world. I probably need to think up an X Factor analogy. In the meantime students extract their own meaning;

“in 1932 hindenburg was still the president he was a weak leader because he had to ask all of the people what to do because he couldn’t decide for himself”

Ergo ‘Democracy is the terrible consequence of weak presidents who can’t decide for themselves?’ (And punctuation is something which needs to be ditched at the first opportunity.)

Anyway, when someone asks, ‘What’s proportional representation again?’ I have been known to say, ‘Just remember it means lots of different parties who can never agree, so nothing gets done.’ An adequate response to vacuum up some GCSE marks on this topic perhaps but not very fair if the Lib Dems want to attract young voters in the future.

Unfortunately there are several opportunities to oversimplify in this course as students canter over the boggy sands of content to be ready for an exam. Appeasement was clearly a mistake (crazy pacifists) the League of Nations were weak because they didn’t use an army (nothing can be achieved without an army) the Treaty of Versailles was too vengeful (typical French over reaction) I can’t bear to let these one dimensional notions go unchallenged but students often cling onto them like buoys in the rough sea of complex ideas.

So I am resolved to scour popular culture for anything which might help me open the door into their minds. And I will endeavour not to release them into the world holding skewed notions of politics, democracy and international relations. After all, they will be in charge of the world when I am too old to go on a protest march.

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Rewarding idea for Year 10 History

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I love my Year 10 group, they are so keen to please. They just blinked a little in disappointment when I set them revision over the Christmas period so I told them to revise Hitler’s rise to power by making a board game. I’ve done this with younger groups but it felt like a bit too much fun for GCSE. They came up trumps (not literally- but certainly snakes) Not only did they do really well in their assessment but when I let them play the board games afterwards there was a huge variety and they were really engaged. I’ve included pictures of some of them. Games included:

A version of Lotto with a Hindenburg piece who can land on any of the pieces and ask difficult questions as they travel round the board

Who Am I? with images to tuck into  headband. Victims have to ask others who they are with ‘Yes/No’ questions

Various board games with Chance Cards

Snakes and Ladders.

When they played them competitiveness drew out an enthusiasm for facts, exact dates and vocabulary which had eluded some more laid-back  students until now. I wonder if there is a market for these games…

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