November 2018 marks the centenary of the end of the First World War. 100 years on from the loss of 20 million lives and the suffering of many more, our fully-resourced, cross-curricular UKS2 project, Fallen Fields, helps to mark this important anniversary in the classroom. Teacher and Curriculum Lead, Adam Newman, offers his simple tips for teaching the project this autumn.
As a Year 6 teacher, I’m excited about the prospect of teaching Fallen Fields, a shorter Imaginative Learning Project (ILP) from Cornerstones that introduces children to the First World War. All of us have different time constraints, but the beauty of this shorter project is that you can adapt it to fit your schedule. To help, I’ve come up with three easy ways you can teach the project.
But first, how long would you like to spend on the project?
Choose from the links below to access the step-by-step guide that’s right for you.
Full project (2-3 weeks)
The project has a clear structure and is easy to follow, outlining each subject lesson step-by-step. Click on this link to download the project, then read the entire document, print off the resources and watch the presentations to get a feel for the structure and content. Send the ‘Fallen Fields knowledge organiser’ home with the children over October half term, along with a topic newsletter and suggestions for home learning. This gives everybody a shared starting point for your new topic.
During the project, there are lots of inspiring texts you can use for whole-class reading, such as Tom Palmer’s Armistice Runner, and Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse, Private Peaceful or A Medal for Leroy.
Teaching Fallen Fields over two days is a good option if you’re short on time but want to help children learn the key facts and consider important themes such as bravery, sacrifice, loss and remembrance. It’s a good idea to timetable this for the Thursday and Friday before Remembrance Sunday so that the children go into the remembrance weekend with a deeper understanding. Alternatively, teach it on the Monday and Tuesday afterwards to reflect on the commemorations and explore questions the children may have.
Before the project
Send home a copy of the ‘Fallen Fields knowledge organiser’ and ask the children to read and discuss it with their parents. Encourage them to bring in any questions that it may have sparked. You could also set up a First World War focus board to temporarily display the knowledge organiser, other information, images, home learning, objects, children’s comments and records of their learning through the topic. Just remember to take a photograph of this as a record of your project (and tweet it to Cornerstones @Cornerstonesedu and The Royal British Legion @Poppylegion). If you’re feeling creative, plan to play wartime songs, sound effects, drape wartime-themed banners and show an evocative slideshow in the classroom as the children enter on day one. They are sure to respond enthusiastically!
Before and during the project, the children might like to take a leading role in any fundraising and remembrance activities already planned by the school.
In the morning, play the children the ‘Leaving for war audio’ as outlined in the Memorable Experience. Then, briefly discuss the ‘Causes of the First World War presentation’ and help the children understand where the war fits into British history. Use maps to locate the warring countries (the knowledge organiser includes one, too) and introduce the significant historical figures. Then, immerse the children in the life of everyday soldiers. Examine the ‘Soldiers leaving for war illustrations’, ‘Wartime art picture card and read ‘A soldier’s life information text’ to build up a picture of a soldier’s journey to the front line and the horrendous trenches. You could invite the children to write a short diary entry to synthesise this learning, playing wartime music as the children work.
In the afternoon, help the children learn about life on the home front. Use the ‘Food of the First World War non-chronological report’, to inspire the children to write and record a podcast that explains how wartime food differed from what we eat today. Pause at the end of the day to listen to poems or read those provided in the ‘First World War poetry anthology’ and ask the children to reflect on what they’ve learnt so far.
In the morning, return the children’s focus to the front line by learning about Christmas Eve 1914 reading the ‘Christmas truce information’ provided. After studying the sadness and hardship in the trenches the previous day, this unofficial, spontaneous truce provides a poignant contrast – helping to inspire a conversation about hope. From here, explore the reality of the end of the war by discussing the ‘End of the First World War presentation’. Ask the children ‘Did it end how we thought it would? What was its impact?’
With an understanding of how the war ended, study the evocative poem For the Fallen. Then, use the ‘Armistice non-chronological report’ and The Royal British Legion information’ to help the children understand the war’s legacy and the concept of remembrance. Finally, they can create their own poppies, using the ‘Poppies picture cards’ as inspiration, to wear at a remembrance service which can be held in your school to end the day. If possible, encourage the children to do readings and showcase their learning.
A commemorative day
Don’t worry if you have only one day to devote to Fallen Fields; the project can easily be adapted for a powerful one-day commemoration of the Armistice of 11th November 1918. I would suggest holding this on the Friday before or Monday after Remembrance Sunday.
Before the day
Share the ‘Fallen Fields knowledge organiser’ with the children and encourage them to take it home to discuss with their families. Some children may want to research the topic further, but do encourage all children to write down any questions they may have.
Begin the day by listening to the ‘Leaving for war audio’. The children can then discuss the ‘Causes of the First World War presentation’, incorporating nations and significant people into their discussion, to understand how the war began. This brief overview then leads to introducing the conditions at the front line, using ‘A soldier’s life information text’. Invite the children to consider 10 questions they would want to ask a soldier, which could be done as a role play. During this ‘finding out’ stage, use the free resources on offer with the project, which includes maps, illustrations, presentations and audio, to help bring the topic to life.
After the break, switch the children’s focus to the home front, using the National Archives website and the ‘Food of the First World War non-chronological report’. I think it’s useful that children appreciate the contrast between their lives at home now, and those of children during the war. Ask them to produce a non-chronological report on the topic, either in writing or using an app such as PicCollage or ComicLife.
Pause before lunch to listen to an example or two from the ‘First World War poetry anthology’ or letters between soldiers and their families, in order to gather the children’s thoughts and reflect ahead of the afternoon.
Returning in the afternoon, begin by looking at the ‘Christmas truce information’. You could also share the 2014 Sainsbury’s Christmas advert and the story behind it, along with images from the Imperial War Museum website to provide extra impetus for discussing the event and themes such as peace. Ask the children ‘Why do you think the soldiers called a truce?’ and ‘Why do you think they returned to fighting afterwards?’
Leading on from the themes of peace and hope, introduce the significance of the poppy to the children. Invite them to create their own poppy, either in fabric or using a simple template, and get inspired by recent poppy installations and community artworks to help create something meaningful in school. The artwork could be shared in a whole-school remembrance assembly or open-classroom event, inviting people from the local community such as members of The Royal British Legion. During this event, you may wish to listen to the evocative poem For the Fallen (an audio recording is provided), hear the children read their work, share a slideshow of the day’s learning and, of course, pray or allow silent reflection – depending on your school’s ethos.
However you organise the day, you will have given your children a valuable opportunity to learn about the ‘Great War’ and reflect on important themes such as conflict, sacrifice, peace, bravery, loss and remembrance.