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About This Site > Learning Zone > Schools: Remembrance

Activities for Schools: Remembrance

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.

  • 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: Lest we forget (Key Stages 3 and 4)
  • Lesson 2: Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Civilians (Key Stages 2, 3 and 4)
  • Lesson 3: Lessons for the future (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 or the Era of the 20th Century.
  • 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.

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

Lesson 1: Lest we forget

Note: check SEN lists for pupils who may be upset by the topic of death.

Key Stages - 3 and 4

Objectives - To begin to understand how people reacted to the horrors of the war and how they coped.

Extracts from the following WW2 People's War stories and photographs. These, and links to the stories, can be found on the Story extracts page.

  • Lucky to Have Legs: Saved by a Brave Pilot, RAF Attlebridge, Norfolk
  • Death In Oosterbeek
  • The Telegram
  • D-Day and Belsen Concentration Camp
  • A Night to Remember:The Coventry Blitz
  • James Hill's D-Day: 3rd Parachute Brigade

Other resources needed for the class

  • Photocopies of the relevant extracts from the Story extracts page
  • Printed up Pupil Task Sheet
  • A Royal British Legion poppy
  • ICT room or A4 coloured paper

Teaching and Learning Activities

Starter Activity

Hold up the Royal British Legion poppy. Ask the class what it means and why it is important.They should be thinking about the importance of remembrance of soldiers and civilians in war. Remind pupils about the date and importance of Remembrance Day.

Activity 1

Write on the board this quotation from 'Meditation XVII' by John Donne: 'No man is an island, entire of itself; ... any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind'

Split the class into mixed ability groups and discuss what they think the quotation means and how it could be related to Remembrance Day. The class needs to be told to think about what individual words mean and analyse it like a source. This is a hard task and the groups will need support; alternatively you could explain it on the board.

The answers could include the ideas that human beings do not live in isolation without contact with other people. You have a relationship with friends and family so you are upset when they are hurt or die. Donne argues that as humans we all have a relationship with each other so he would be upset when anyone died. Therefore, the implication is that we should care about any human if they are suffering.

Get each group to feed back to the class. By the end of this task they should understand the idea that everyone is affected by war because as humans we are upset by the death of any casualties of war.

Activity 2

In pairs, pupils write a list of all the people who should be remembered on Remembrance Day, for example soldiers, medical personnel, civilians.

Feed back and briefly discuss how all the people mentioned would be involved in a war.

Activity 3

Read the extracts Death In Oosterbeek, The Telegram and D-Day and Belsen Concentration Camp. The activity could be done without the third extract as some pupils may not fully understand about concentration camps. However, you could just generally explain that this is an extract from a nurse on the front line.

Ask the class to discuss the questions below.

Ask the class to make notes about the usefulness of these sources to the historian as they listen to the responses of each group to the questions above.

Discuss the extracts as a class. Pupils could give ideas such as how a terrible shock can distort memory, or an event can be so terrible that a person cannot talk about it, or they are so traumatised that they talk about it in brief factual terms which means details are excluded.

Activity 4

Refer to the quotation in Activity 1. Ask the class to think about why it is important that everyone is remembered. Introduce the phrase'lest we forget'. Ask pupils to write an epitaph that is similar to this that will reassure and remember those who suffered directly and indirectly in World War Two. They should write this on A4 paper or do the activity in the ICT room. The finished epitaphs could be put in a frieze around the classroom as part of a display for Remembrance Day.

Plenary

Each pupil reads out their epitaph and explains why they selected the words.

Alternatively, you could explain about the Poppy Appeal and the Royal British Legion. For further information, see the Royal British Legion website.

Lesson 2: Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Civilians

Key Stages - 2, 3 and 4

Objectives - To consider how useful photographs are to a historian and the importance of remembering every person involved in the war.

WW2 People's War photographs and the Death in Oosterbeek extract. These can be found on the accompanying Story extracts page.

Other resources needed for the class

  • Photocopies of the relevant extracts from the accompanying Story extracts page. Separate out the photographs and images
  • Printed up Pupil Task Sheet
  • A shoe box
  • Printed-up copies of the whole poem from Death in Oosterbeek
  • Printed-up Pupil Task Sheets
  • If you do the second part of Activity 3 you will need to read the stories that accompany the photographs

Teaching and Learning Activities

Starter Activity

Tell the class that you have just moved house and that you have found an old shoe box in the attic with some photographs and other items in it. You would like to try to build up a picture of who the people in the photographs were because you think it is sad that they appear to be forgotten. Split the class into groups of three or four pupils and give each group two or three photographs (including the other items).

Give the class the task sheet below to help them analyse the photographs.

Ask each group to present their ideas to the rest of the class. This may take some time if you have a very imaginative group. You will need to question pupils constantly to ensure that they can support all their decisions with evidence from the photographs.

Activity 1

Split the class into groups of three or four pupils. Ask them to consider the questions below.

Activity 2.

With the pupils in pairs, read the whole poem Death in Oosterbeek. You may want to give just the extract to younger pupils.

Split the class into groups of three or four pupils. Ask the groups to read the poem again and to put it in their own words as a conversation with another World War Two veteran - for example: 'At dawn I remembered a boy with a kind face and smile who died in pretty woods near Oosterbeek. 'The conversations will vary and it is good to really encourage the pupils to use their own words so that they fully understand the poem.

Ask each group to read out their version.

Discuss the ideas of the importance of remembering conflict, creating hope and forgiveness.

Activity 3

Ask each pupil to pick a photograph and to write a poem of remembrance and forgiveness to go with it. Explain about the different types of poem, especially that they do not have to write a poem that rhymes. Ask the class to use the ideas already discussed. The finished poems could be typed up and added to the display of the epitaphs written in Lesson 1, Activity 4, or read in a remembrance assembly.

Alternatively, you could take pupils to an ICT room to read the whole story that relates to their photograph. They can then write the poem. You need to look at the stories beforehand to assess whether they are suitable for the age and ability of your pupils.

Plenary

Each pupil states one thing they have learned about the importance of remembrance.

Alternatively, you could explain about the Poppy Appeal and the Royal British Legion. For further information, see the Royal British Legion web site.

Lesson 3: Lessons for the future

Key Stages - 2, 3 and 4

Objectives - To begin to understand how we can learn from history.

WW2 People's War photographs and story extracts. These, and links to the photographs, can be found on the accompanying Story extracts page.

  • Death In Oosterbeek
  • The Telegram
  • D-Day and Belsen Concentration Camp
  • A Night to Remember:The Coventry Blitz
  • James Hill's D-Day: 3rd Parachute Brigade

Other resources needed for the class

  • Photocopies of the relevant extracts from the accompanying Story extracts page.
  • Printed up Pupil Task Sheet
  • ICT room

Teaching and Learning Activities

Starter Activity

Ask the pupils to tell their neighbour about an event from which they learned something positive.

Ask pupils to discuss why it is important for humans to learn from past mistakes.

Activity 1

Write on the board the phrase: 'Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.'

Split the class into pairs and ask them to discuss this quotation and what they think it means.

Ask the class to feed back their ideas and discuss. You could link this to why it is important that pupils and adults continue to learn about history.

Activity 2

Split the class into pairs. Ask the pupils to read the extracts A Night to Remember: The Coventry Blitz and James Hill's D-Day: 3rd Parachute Brigade. Then ask each pair to complete the tasks below.

Discuss the questions as a class. Ask a different pair to read out their response to each of the questions. For the final two questions the class could mention the following points:

  • Pleasant language is used to provide a contrast with the horror of war in order to highlight how terrible it felt.
  • These were new experiences and as they did not know any technical language they had to compare their experiences to everyday events/actions.
  • The reaction varied depending on location and role of the author in World War Two.

Once each group has completed their feedback ask each pupil to summarise in a sentence what they have learned about using these extracts to learn from the past.

Activity 3

This activity could be done in an ICT room as a presentation.

Split into groups of three or four pupils. Ask them to read all the extracts again and to look at the photographs. Ask the class to act out, do a story board or produce a presentation in order to complete the scenario on page 8.

Plenary

Give pupils the opening 'We remember because...' and ask them individually to complete the sentence.

Alternatively, you could explain about the Poppy Appeal and the Royal British Legion. For further information, see the Royal British Legion website.

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