Early this year I wrote about the Collins History Books that my daughter choose while at a local book store. She selected them, so we decided to start using them for her Year 7 History but I kept feeling like I needed to add extra resources to go along with the History Book. So about a month ago when I was chatting to a PR person from Oxford University Press and I enquired about their History Book (Invasion, Plague and Murder by Aaron Wilkes). After our chat, Oxford University Press kindly included a copy of their student book in a box of secondary resources that they sent me and we have been using it and I must admit really enjoying it. Which means we now have both the Collins and Oxford History Books and have used both of them. So I thought it would be helpful to try and compare the two to give other potential users a better understanding of how they differ. I am going to give OUR opinion and then you the reader can decide.
Size, Cost and Time Period Covered
Collins – Their first Student Book (so Year 7) is called KS3 History Medieval Britain (410-1509) (Knowing History) It costs £7.99 and is 80 pages long. It is broken down into the following chapters
- Anglo-Saxon England
- Norman England
- Medieval Life
- Medieval Kingship
- The Crusades
- Late Medieval England
Oxford – Their First Student Book is called KS3 History 4th Edition: Invasion, Plague and Murder: Britain 1066-1558 Student Book. It costs 19.99 and is 223 pages long. It is broken down into 9 chapters
- 1066 and all that (this includes 8 pages on England before 1066)
- The Norman Conquest
- How religious were people in the Middle Ages?
- Depth Study – Life in the Middle Ages
- Power in the Middle Ages
- Health and medicine
- England at War (with Wales, Scotland, France and the War of the Roses)
- Here comes the Tudors
- Medieval Britain: what changed?
So straight away the Oxford one is pricier but it is quite a bit longer in terms of number of pages and has more detailed information.
Collins – Straight forward layout with short paragraphs. Normally a topic over a double page and then 5 or so questions about the topic at the end of the page. My daughter finds this layout very easy to read and this is why she first selected the Collins books at the book store. She has already read through the first and second student books by herself and has asked me to buy her the third one. So yes, easy to read, logical order, pages not crowded. I do feel like a fairly quick read as both the student books we have, so Collins student book 1 and Collins student book 2 are only 80 pages long.
(I did write a post about the Collins book here – Medieval Britain)
Oxford – The pages have the appearance of being a bit more crowded, which initially was not something my daughter liked. But after she and I read through a few pages together, she got more comfortable with the layout and started to enjoy the extra detail.
She feels like they include more references to sources, which she likes because “History is about your different sources and understanding the context of the sources and then interpreting what they mean” – her thoughts. She also really liked the labelled diagrams and the comic-strip type sections – where they depict events as they might have unfolded (My eight-year old who is not as keen on History as his older sister has commented about how these comic-strips help to bring it to life for him). She does like the extra detail they have included but she does tend to work though this book with me as she likes to discuss it whereas the Collins book she tends to just read.
My personal point of view is the Oxford one has a lot more detail and the layout seems to prompt more discussions, which I like. So possibly if you wanted a more hands-off approach then Collins but if you want more detail and are happy to do more discussions with the kids then Oxford.
Questions / Activities
Collins – at the end of each double page they have 5 questions. There are no answers in the book but the questions are based on the text that the kids have read so I have never struggled with figuring out answers.
Oxford – They have different types of questions through the book (I like this mix of questions). At the end of each of their double pages they have an “Over to You” Section – which tends to be about 3/4 questions on the text that the kids have just read (again no answers in the student book but their Assessment, planning Guide does have answers in – I don’t have this but I have seen an example of what is included in it). Some pages also have a Cause and Consequence section where the kids are asked to think about something a bit more. And sometimes they have Source Analysis Questions or Change and Continuity Questions. I like this, really like this. I like that they have the standard questions after the text and then sometimes add in other questions directly related to concepts like analysing the sources or thinking about what was the cause of the event.
At the end of each chapter they also have an extra four or six pages of questions – this is broken down into one page of multiple choice questions, one page that is called Literacy Focus (I LIKE THIS) and then History Skills. We are still working through the different Literacy Focus pages but they tend to be things like note taking, writing in detail, using linking words. Really useful activities for the kids to practice and yes it is “English language type activities” but you need these skills in History.
Then History Skills – This is exactly what I felt like we needed in the beginning of this year and I kept trying to find these type of activities to add to the Collins Book. The History Skills pages are a step-by-step guide explaining how the kids do certain things and then an exercise getting them to practice. So after the Battle of Hastings chapter they spoke about how to write a narrative account – breaking it down into planning stages and then finally writing it. We read the pages, did the examples and since then my daughter has tried her hand at writing narrative accounts of other events using their step-by-step guide. Other History Skill pages include things like Interpretation Analysis, Similarities and differences and Causes.
These pages are what makes the Oxford book stand out for me. Yes it covers the facts and it does that well but it builds on that. It takes the facts and encourages the kids to think about it like a Historian, to analysis the sources, to write informative pieces about what they have learnt. It helps the kids practice those skills, practice analysing sources, practice writing down the facts in a well-constructed manner. As a home educator this is that extra bit that I was searching for.
We are using both books. My daughter likes reading the Collins books independently and we like working through the Oxford one together and I feel like it is helping her to build skills. I know most people will only use 1 book so I suppose it depends what you want – do you want a nice quick easy to read summary of events – then Collins. Do you want a more detailed book that is going to actively help the kids work on history skills while learning about the facts – then Oxford.
This is just my personal view of the two books. I have written this post hoping that it will help others who need to decide which History Book will suit them.