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Revising Whilst Not Revising

This week’s blog has been written by Mr Davies, Head of History and Politics at Bethany. He writes about visual learning by watching TV and films and how this can help with revising whilst not revising.

I have now sat at my desk for thirty seven minutes, chewing my way through two pencils, whilst thinking about what to write in this, my latest blog. I may have to start on a third pencil shortly, because I’m still no nearer an answer. Thankfully, I have now alighted on a topic; whilst searching for a further pencil, I found myself in the living room and spied the TV in the corner, and then I thought that yes, I have it. I can write about TV. So here it is. At some stage in the blog I will work out why it is I am writing about TV and endeavour to make it clear, both to you and to me.

That paragraph was 121 words, so I’m progressing well. Haven’t said anything yet, but I’m progressing well.

Many pupils are visual learners. Inevitably, therefore, TV and movies can play a key part in their education, if we point them in appropriate directions. Our Year 11 and Year 13 pupils are currently revising hard for their GCSE and A Level exams, but they will need a break, and what better than to spend half an hour losing themselves in an historical world on TV?

Obviously, some series and movies play rather fast and loose with the facts, but there is a wealth of material out there which can reinforce and enhance the learning pupils have done in the classroom.

As I write this, I am extremely excited about the release this week on Disney+ of the dramatization of CJ Sansom’s Shardlake novels (and very sad about the author’s untimely death just two days before his hero hit the screen). I have been told by my daughter that I’m not allowed to watch it until she’s available to watch it too, so my excitement will just have to build for a while longer as she’s currently out. Alternatively I can finish this blog and then go and watch Episode 1 but pretend I didn’t and watch it again when she gets back in a couple of hours’ time.

For those GCSE and A Level History and Politics students in need of a break, here are a few top suggestions for revising whilst not revising (if you get my drift)

GCSE History

  • Downfall (2004 movie about Hitler’s last days)
  • Schindler’s List (all time classic 1993 Spielberg movie about saving Jews from the Holocaust)
  • 1917 (2019 movie about WWI)
  • All Quiet on the Western Front (2022 remake of the classic movie based on the 1929 book of the same name)
  • Hitler: The Rise of Evil (2003 mini-series covering the rise of the Nazis to 1934)
  • Nazis: A Warning from History (1997 BBC documentary series)
  • Swing Kids (1993 movie about youth opposition to the Nazis)
  • Pain, Pus and Poison (BBC series about the development of medical treatments)
  • Blood and Guts (a brilliant five part BBC series on the development of surgery – episode 5 is especially useful to our historians)

A Level History

  • Chernobyl (2019 series)
  • 1066: The Battle for Middle Earth (1999 Channel 4 mini-series)
  • Castle (2003 Channel 4 series by Marc Morris, one of my favourite historians – although I have just discovered that he went to Oakwood Park Grammar School, which is very disappointing for a proud Old Maidstonian)
  • Empire of the Tsars (2016 BBC series with Lucy Worsley, another of my favourite historians – and she didn’t go to Oakwood Park)

A Level Politics

  • The West Wing (1999-2006 US series following a fictional Democrat President and his White House staff)
  • The Thick of It (2005-12 BBC comedy about the workings of government – beware the swearing if you’re of a nervous disposition)
  • Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister (1980-88 BBC series – rather more gentle than its later relative, but no less satirical for that)
  • And a brilliant set of BBC documentary series that all came out around five or so years ago and cover US and UK politics:
  1. Inside the House Of Commons
  2. The Trump Show
  3. Blair & Brown: the New Labour Revolution
  4. Thatcher: A Very British Revolution
  5. The Cameron Years

In case you were wondering, my favourite has to be The West Wing, which is one of the greatest series ever made, in my humble opinion (along with M*A*S*HBand of Brothers and, although perhaps slightly less historically accurate, Blackadder).

Please feel free to let me know if you have any suggestions of your own. My list just skims the surface. However, you’re going to have to excuse me as I need to go: I’ve run out of pencils and my daughter is just coming home.


Mr Davies

Head of History and Politics