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About This Site > Learning Zone > Schools: End of the War

Activities for Schools: End of the War

The resources on this page can be used by teachers and community educators in classrooms and learning centres. Lesson Plans are based on extracts from stories which were submitted to the WW2 People's War site. They are suitable for both primary and secondary students and have curriculum links to History, English, RE, Citizenship and Media Studies.

  • Lessons meet the skill and content requirements for the UK curriculum in history, English and citizenship (England and Wales).
  • It may be possible to use some exercises to support RE classes at Key Stages 2, 3 and 4.
  • The lessons could be adapted to use as part of centre-designed history coursework for Key Stage 4.
  • Some topics will naturally fit into one lesson and others may run over a number of weeks.

This lesson plan includes:

  • Lesson 1: VE Day - Home Front (Key Stages 2, 3 and 4)
  • Lesson 2: VE Day - Abroad (Key Stages 2, 3 and 4)
  • Lesson 3: VJ Day (Key Stages 2, 3 and 4)

How to use these lesson plans

  • Use as a structured scheme of work on the British Home Front, 1939-45.
  • Use as generic lesson plans for the teacher, rather than material to be given direct to the pupils.
  • Alter the plans and cut and paste questions in order to make resource sheets according to the ability and age of the pupils.
  • The plans are for mixed ability groups, although the teacher may want to split groups and tasks according to ability.

In learning about the past it is always best to start in an environment that is familiar. All children have some understanding of the world of today, which they can use as a point of reference to compare against historical events. It is important for children to view the world in which they live as a continuation of society in the 1940s, not as completely detached from it.

The list of resources at the beginning of each lesson includes a reference to stories from the BBC's WW2 People's War site, extracts from which are on the Story extracts page. You may find it useful to print out the full stories. There is also a guideline of preparation materials that are generally found in schools or can be provided by the teacher.

Lesson 1: VE Day - Home Front

Key Stages - 2, 3 and 4

Objectives - To understand how people reacted at the end of the war in Europe and how the British celebrated on the Home Front.

Extracts from the following WW2 People's War stories. These can be found on the Story extracts page.

  • Victory Celebrations and Epilogue
  • VE Day Celebrations and Reunions
  • VE Day - Trowbridge Celebrates
  • Pictures of VE Day - see the Story Extracts page for these
  • Timeline fact file on VE Day, 8 May 1945
  • Audio or video content relating to VE Day - search for this on the internet

Other resources needed for the class

  • Photocopies of the relevant extracts from the Story Extracts file
  • Photocopies of Pupil Task Sheets
  • Photocopies of the full stories of the celebrations from the website
  • Highlighter pens
  • Large sugar-paper triangles
  • String
  • Interactive White Board
  • Audio or video equipment to play VE Day-related content

Teaching and Learning Activities

Starter Activity

Split the class into groups of four. Give each group a pile of large sugar-paper triangles. These will be used later in the lesson to create bunting. Ask each group to write as many words as they can think of to describe happiness, fun and excitement.

Ask each group to read out their words to the rest of the class.

Activity 1

Play the class the audio or video files relating to VE Day. Introduce the subject of VE day. You can use the VE Day factfile for background information.

Activity 2

Split the class into pairs. Hand out copies of the extracts Victory Celebrations and Epilogue, VE Day Celebrations and Reunions and VE Day - Trowbridge Celebrates from the Story Extracts page. Ask each pair to complete the task below.

Nominate six pupils - two for each area - to record the words mentioned as part of the feedback. Record the words that indicate happiness, relief and sadness on different coloured sugar-paper triangles. Each colour should represent the words associated with the key highlighted terms.

Feed back and discuss the results as a class.

When all the words have been recorded, string them up around the room so that they look like bunting.

Activity 3

Split the class into six groups. Give each group a picture to look at. Tell the pupils that they have to imagine they are a person in that picture. Give each group a copy of the task sheet below and copies of the full stories of each extract so that each group can read further examples if they wish.

Activity 4

Ask one group at a time to stand in their positions. The teacher should start questioning the pupils about their reactions to the end of war and then ask pupils from other groups to ask questions.

Lesson 2: VE Day - Abroad

Key Stages - 2, 3 and 4

Objectives - To understand what it was like to experience VE day at the front and how it varied from the Home Front experience.

Extracts from the following WW2 People's War stories. These can be found on the Story extracts page.

  • VE DAY and Belsen
  • VE Day in Germany
  • VE Day, As Seen from a Field near Venice

Other resources needed for the class

  • Photocopies of the relevant extracts from the Story extracts page
  • Photocopies of the Pupil Task Sheet
  • Large sugar-paper triangles
  • Highlighter pens

Teaching and Learning Activities

Starter Activity

Split the class into groups of four. Ask the class to think of an event where there were national celebrations and people celebrated in the streets - for example, England winning the Rugby World Cup, Wales winning the Six Nations Rugby, your football team winning the FA Cup, the Olympics, a Royal Wedding, etc.

Ask each person to tell a story about following such a celebration on television or radio. They should describe to the rest of their group how they felt at not being present at the event.

While the rest of the group listen they should write down key words that indicate how the pupil speaking felt about the event they are describing. Once each pupil has completed their story, the group should compile a list of key words to present to the rest of the class.

Each group feeds back their words to the rest of the class.

Activity 1

Split the class into pairs and hand out the extracts VE DAY and Belsen, VE Day in Germany and VE Day, As Seen from a Field near Venice. Ask each pair to complete the task below.

Nominate six pupils - two for each area - to record new words mentioned as part of the feedback. As before, record the words that indicate happiness, relief and sadness on different coloured sugar-paper triangles.

Feedback and discuss the results as a class.

Add any new words to the bunting from Lesson 1.

Activity 2

Split the class into groups of four. Ask each pupil to draw a table like the one below. If you have more able students, you may want to spend more time on this activity by printing up the full stories the extracts were taken from.

Ask the groups to read all the extracts about VE Day and record what was done to celebrate it at home and in Europe.

Discuss as a class why there were differences in the activities.

Activity 3

Split the class into groups of three. Ask each group to write a list of the reasons why soldiers could not just come home. Feed back and discuss as a class. They could mention ideas like helping to rebuild Europe, guarding prisoners of war, ensuring that food was distributed, ensuring that democracy was restored, ensuring that local people did not take revenge on alleged collaborators.

Activity 4

Split the class into groups of four pupils. Ask them to use the extracts to prepare a short role-play. Ask pupils to imagine they are soldiers being interviewed by the BBC news correspondent on VE Day. They need to portray how the soldiers felt about the end of the war and what they felt their role was in order to help prepare for peace. Pupils will need to be reminded that they will need to consider the impact that fighting during the war would have had on these men.

Plenary

Ask pupils to imagine they are a father in the army in Europe on VE Day. They should write a postcard to their family explaining why they are not coming home immediately and why they have to stay abroad.

Lesson 3: VJ Day

Key Stages - 2, 3 and 4

Objectives - To understand how VJ day was celebrated and why it is important to commemorate the end of World War Two.

Extracts from the following WW2 People's War stories. These can be found on the Story extracts page.

  • VJ DAY 1945
  • VJ Day Remembered
  • VJ Day factfile
  • VJ Day factfile in the Timeline - 15 August 1945

Other resources needed for the class

  • Photocopies of the relevant extracts from the Story extracts page
  • Photocopies of VJ Day factfile (1945) from the Timeline
  • Highlighter pens
  • Family cards

Teaching and Learning Activities

Starter Activity

Spilt the class into pairs. One pupil describes their best ever summer holiday while the other writes down the key points that made it the best. Each pair then joins another pair to make a group of four, and each pupil tells the group about their partner's best ever holiday.

Each pupil feeds back a key word that made the holiday good to the teacher who records it on the board.

Activity 1

Read the extract VJ DAY 1945 aloud to the class. Tell the class they are to shout stop when they hear a word that indicates that the author thought the holiday was wonderful.

Add this word to those on the board.

Activity 2

Spilt the class into pairs and ask them to read the extract and to highlight the words and phrases that indicate why this holiday was so special.

Feed back and discuss with the class. Explain about VJ Day. You can use the VJ Day factfile (1945) from the Timeline for background information.

Activity 3

Hand out copies of the extract VJ Day Remembered. In pairs, pupils should write a list of things that were different on VJ day when compared to VE day.

Activity 4

Split the class into groups of four. Ask each group to use their research from Activity 3 and their own ideas to produce a paragraph explaining why there were differences. Then ask each group to read out their paragraph to the class.

Activity 5

Split the class into groups of four. Ask the class to consider the phrase 'forgotten army'. Feed back and discuss what it meant.

Ask each group to imagine that they are writing a speech for Clement Attlee, the Prime Minister at the time of VJ Day, in order to explain why VJ Day is more important than VE Day and why the men in the east should not be the 'forgotten army'. Give the pupils copies of the VJ Day fact file in order to help them prepare their speech.

Activity 6

Split the class into groups of five. Hand out family cards. There should be a mother, a child, a father who fought in Europe, a brother who fought in the war with Japan and a grandfather who fought in WW1. The groups should discuss the characters that they will create for their family members. Each pupil should compose a short statement to be made to the class about what they expect for the future and why is important to remember VJ and VE Days.

Feed back to the rest of the class.

Activity 7

This could run into a number of lessons.

Split the class into groups of four. Tell them they are a planning committee responsible for organising a celebration to commemorate the end of the war. They need to prepare a brief presentation to give to rest of the class about why their idea would be best. The class should then vote for the activity they would most like to organise.

Plenary

Each pupil says why it is important to commemorate the end of World War Two.

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