Structuring my units of work

Given Ofsted's new focus on the balancing of substantive and disciplinary knowledge, I have decided to redo ALL of my KS2 units of work according to a new structure. This will now see EVERY lesson based around some sort of disciplinary knowledge rather than just 'a lesson about ...' This will obviously take some time, but you can see it in action with my new updated Ancient Egyptians planning.


In principle, I have taken the disciplinary knowledge from the Rising Stars Progression Framework as I know that it:

A) Was created by members of the Historical Association's Primary Committee and so it has expertise behind it

B) Was clear and easy to follow

C) Broke down the disciplinary knowledge into manageable chunks rather than mashing them together into something unhelpful like 'Working as a historian' - (that SOUNDS lovely, but what do historians actually do?)


Essentially, the structure will follow this pattern (for the most part):

  • L1 - Constructing the past - What are the main concepts needed for this unit? Is it about trade? Empire? Significance? Achievements? This first lesson will focus on the main context(s) so that the rest of the learning can become clear. Recaps on prior learning and potentially useful information that links can also be explored here too.

  • L2 - Chronology - This may be broken into two lessons depending on the depth and detail needed, but it will essentially focus on the contextual aspect of each unit - Where does it sit in world history? Which concurrent civilisations/periods are there? What relationships might they have had? What is the scale? A further lesson on the individual dates and events of that civilisation/period may be included if necessary.

  • L3 - Continuity and change - There may be a few lessons under this banner depending on the unit, alternatively, it might fall under the banner of 'similarity and difference' if comparing civilisations or periods from different parts of the world where continuity and change may not be possible or practical. Ultimately though, elements such as society, housing, trade, beliefs or entertainment may fall under this category, noting what changed or stayed the same and whether these were significant or minor.

  • L4 - Cause and effect - Building on from the previous lessons around continuity and change or similarity and difference, exploring what cause and effect mean and how they link to the above lessons provides a basis for tying in that substantive knowledge from above. Identifying the various causes and effects allows the children to see the reasons for and impacts of the continuities and changes. It also allows us to question whether the cause was more significant than the effect or vice-versa.

  • L5 - Significance and interpretation - Lessons around significance and interpretations build on from the previous learning by looking at what the most significant aspects were that they've learnt so far and what kinds of interpretations we have and what historians have. If significance plays a vital role in an overarching enquiry question/statement, then a lesson early-on around the word 'significant' may be built in. This focus on interpretations, what we think and what historians think, leads nicely onto the next lesson.

  • L6 - Sources of evidence - Building on from the last lesson, identifying key sources of evidence (although many of these will have been referenced throughout) allows us to explore the different types of sources available, including those that may be contradictory or create fringe-theories, and also allows us to revisit the nature of primary and secondary sources, consider the amount of material available for that topic and investigate what these sources tell us about the people as individuals or as a collective.

  • L7 - Assessment - Each unit finishes with some sort of assessment task, whether this is a written piece or something more open-ended and creative like the mini-museums. This is a response to the overarching enquiry question/statement which should give children the opportunity to show both the substantive and disciplinary knowledge that they have acquired throughout.

Ultimately, this structure is not rigid - some units may switch a few elements around and add more lessons based on one or more of the disciplinary aspects outlined above. However, by structuring it this way, I know that I have done my absolute best to mix the substantive and disciplinary aspects together where the curriculum is rooted in disciplinary knowledge which helps children to work as historians and not as 'pub-quiz champions'.