Learning Platforms VLEs

Thinking in a deck chair- what to do with Y12 after study leave?

I’m always amused by conversations that start with someone telling me, “It’s alright for you teachers you get such long holidays!” I can’t help smiling as generally  the conversation comes to a rapid halt when I acknowledge they are right and then, after a short pause, point out that it is always possible to change professions (as I did some ten years ago now), embark on a PGCE, SCITT etc. take a cut in salary and then sit back and enjoy the long holidays! Anyway, as another half term evaporates as quickly as rain in the east of England, thoughts turn to the next seven weeks of teaching safe in the knowledge that there is yet another “long holiday” on the horizon.

In very short order Y12 students across the country will be back from their AS exams, champing at the bit, looking forward to more study and thinking about starting their UCAS applications. My Y12 students have had a great year and I have really enjoyed helping them get to grips with the Civil Rights movement in the USA (1945-1968) but I’m not so naive as to believe that, as things stand, they are all looking to continue studying history next year. It’s also inevitable that even the most motivated students will start to run out of steam ahead of their own well earned rest come the end of July. However I expect that along with many other teachers I’m looking to start elements of our A2 course and to steal a march on the pressures on time that will, in the normal course of things, develop during Y13. So what’s on the menu to keep the students engaged and making the most of the remaining weeks?

At this point it might be wise to point out that my class will be taking the Edexcel unit ‘From Kaiser to Führer: Germany, 1900-45’.  To my way of thinking it is essential to go back a little way before that start date; how can you understand later tensions in Imperial Germany if you haven’t thought about the process of unification and Germany’s rapid industrialisation? However the socio-economic and political history of Germany before the outbreak of WW1 can at first glance appear to be just a little bit less exciting than the USA in the 1950s & 60s so at least some of this half term has been spent pondering how best to hook the students and sustain their interest. I’ve got a couple of plans up my sleeve. First, maximise discussion and collaboration. Second, make German socio-economic and political history as visual as possible.

Ok, so first we have the excellent Google Groups facility. I started using this idea last September, inviting both Y12 & 13 students to sign up to a new Google Group, to help improve communication outside of the classroom. So far it has helped us get essential information, reminders, links, documents etc. to all those students who signed up. It has also worked the other way round as well with students sharing information and asking questions in between lessons. This has been particularly useful with those classes where, because of a two week timetable, we might not see each other that much. Year 12 will be using this extensively over the next few weeks and it will help me keep an eye on how their projects are progressing. You can sign up for an account free at:

To make the topic as visual as possible we will be using sources from a great website I have been using for the last couple of years called German History in Documents and Images (GHDI). The huge range and detail of the sources available could be a bit intimidating but it’s so well put together that with careful matching of tasks to students and a little guidance classes can gain a real insight into the period and the people of the time and produce some terrific work that will be of huge benefit come September.

Now the task itself is based on part of the school’s VLE which we call our Digital Exercise Book (DEB) a clever piece of software put together by our Systems Manager. This enables me to set a task that students can then find both inside and outside school, work on, submit and have marked all online. The type of presentation they choose to produce is pretty open and I encourage them to try something different to the normal Powerpoint option! The students would also be expected, at some point, to present their findings to the rest of the class. Lets hope that this keeps them on the right path and gives them something to get their teeth into. Fingers crossed for good exam results for all of them!

P.S. The task could also be put in place using Google Docs shared collections. Now I’m not an expert in this area but Jonannes Ahrenfelt ( has recently posted a clear explanation of how to do this. You can watch his video on YouTube.

By richmiller66

My name is Richard Miller. I am currently an Assistant Headteacher (Personal Development) at a secondary school in Suffolk, UK. I teach history, citizenship, sociology and cultural capital for pupils aged 11-18. I am particularly interested in teaching more able pupils and looking for innovative and creative approaches to learning and teaching. I use the blog as my reflective journal - the views I share are 'work in progress'!

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