I thought King John might be an interesting leader to do a study on because, in general, he is considered a poor leader. We have only ever looked at renowned strong leaders before, so I knew this would be a little different.
I wasn’t in the mood to study King John, to be honest, so I was very grateful for this book, which I had bought after successfully using some of the ideas the author has on his website, Thinking History:
This was such a God send to me, and offered such great ideas I thought I’d give it a quick review. The premise of the book is to lead the reader through the evidence available on King John and to learn to question them all as well as any preconceived notions they might have of this King. It was incredibly well done, aimed at Key Stage Three students (age 11-14). My guys thoroughly enjoyed it.
‘King John’ narrates the book, adding some much-needed humour to an otherwise dry subject. Here is one of the pages exhibiting examples of evidence against him, including a painting by a medieval monk (showing that evidence can turn up in many forms):
On the next page it teaches how to question the sources- who wrote them and their bias towards King John; when they were written and why they were written. We learnt that things are rarely as they seem when it comes to ‘evidence’.
The main argument for King John being a bad leader rests on the devolution of an English king’s power during his reign due to him signing away the rights of the king by agreeing to the Magna Charta. The following page demonstrates why the Barons were so fed up with him as king and why this led them to insisting on him signing the Charta:
The way the book is written and illustrated draws its reader in with each new page. It so appealed to the children that I had all three older ones vying for lap and arm rest space to be able to see the pictures and diagrams.
The book also covered the different opinions well-known people had about King John:
All the time the author encourages his reader to look further than just the simple print. The Magna Charta is covered, with examples of those rules still applicable in today’s Court of Law:
The second half of the book concentrates on whether it was King John’s fault that the Crown gradually lost its power to be replaced by parliament. The author explains clearly who was in charge in King John’s time and then asks the student to research how this differs from today:
It was a wonderful opportunity to teach the children about the House of Parliament and the House of Commons and the difference and so interesting for me to learn how the names of both came about. It also confirmed to me that by studying history thoroughly, nothing is missed out. At some point all the subjects traditionally taught by school eventually turn up, without so much as a need for a politics lesson or economics lesson. The children learnt such a lot in just one week, covering maybe an hour each day. And it was made all the more interesting because it was applicable to what and who they were studying at the time. I tell you, home school rocks!!
Another great addition to this book was the inclusion of a writing assignment and leading the child through the writing process. One of the tools they used was called the hamburger approach, and this appealed greatly to C11. C11 is a strong writer but is so creative she is rarely on the same page as everyone else. If asked to write something it is unlikely she will stick to the parameters put in place by the question. It rarely bothers me as I thoroughly enjoy all the work she produces, but I was interested to see how well the hamburger approach kept her on task. As staying on task is a skill I do want her to develop eventually, this is a useful tool to add to our arsenal:
I hate writing reviews, but for me this is a treasure not to be missed. I read it to the children for about ten minutes each day and we chatted on and off about it throughout the week. It was such a great addition to our two weeks of learning about King John, and was a fabulous leader study without me having to do so much as a minute prep work. Now if he could just bring books out on the plague, the 100 year war, the War of the Roses, Joan of Arc………