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15 October 2014
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About This Site > Learning Zone > Schools: Young People and War

Activities for Schools: Young People and 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: Evacuation (Key Stages 2, 3 and 4)
  • Lesson 2: Bombing (Key Stages 2, 3 and 4)
  • Lesson 3: Rationing(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.

The list of resources at the beginning of each lesson includes a reference to stories and images from the BBC's WW2 People's War site, extracts from which are in the Story extracts file. 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: Evacuation

Key Stages - 2, 3 and 4

Objectives - To understand what children felt when they were evacuated and the impact it had upon their lives.

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

  • The Atlantic Divide: Evacuated to America
  • Evacuation: From Bootle to Herefordshire

Other resources needed for the class

  • Photocopies of the relevant extracts from the Story extracts page
  • Printed up Pupil Task Sheet
  • Parcel containing teddy bear, set of children's clothing, toothbrush, nightdress/pyjamas, sandwiches and chocolate wrapped in greaseproof paper or newspaper. The whole parcel should be wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string.
  • Labels and string
  • Highlighters
  • Mini whiteboards or plain A4 paper
  • ICT room
  • Blank postcards

Teaching and Learning Activities

Starter Activity

Put the parcel on the table and hold up the items in it one by one. Ask the pupils to individually write down a reason why a person might want that item. Once completed, ask the pupils in pairs to think about their words and about what the parcel was needed for.

Activity 1

Explain that children needed to take their clothes with them when they were evacuated in World War Two and give a definition of 'evacuation'.

Activity 2

Give each child in the class a label. Ask them to write their name and address on it and put the label on a string around their neck. Ask pupils to say how they feel about having a label around their neck. Do they feel happy or sad? Would they be afraid?

Divide the class into groups of 3-4 pupils. Ask them to read the two extracts and to write down or highlight the words that indicate how the children felt about leaving for evacuation.

Ask the groups to imagine they were a child who was being evacuated, and then to write a very short diary entry about how they would feel the night before they left home. Each group presents their diary entry to the rest of the class.

Activity 3

Ask the class to stand and line up in pairs. Tell them to imagine that they are children being evacuated. Tell them that the other person in the pair is a brother/sister. Go around the classroom and select certain pupils to stand in the four corners of the room. Tell pupils that each corner represents a different household in the area where they have been evacuated. The pupils are sent to the four corners of the room to illustrate how it felt to be divided from family and friends.

When they sit down again, ask them to write one word about how they felt on a mini whiteboard or paper and to hold it up. Ask the class to look at the others' answers and discuss why they gave different answers.

Read out the extract from Evacuation: From Bootle to Herefordshire and ask the following questions:

  • Why does the girl describe it as a cattle market?
  • Why might her view be different from that of another child in the schoolyard with her?
  • Why is her view different from the one in the other extract?

Divide the class into pairs and ask them to make a list of other reasons why people's evidence may vary. Feed back and discuss why oral history contains different interpretations of the same events.

Activity 4

Take the class to an ICT Room. An IWB would be a good idea because pupils could use it to put up images. Split pupils into groups of 4-6 to do the following task.

Plenary

Hand out the postcards. Ask each pupil to imagine they are an evacuee and to write a brief message home about their experiences.

Extension

If you or your class are interested in Evacuation, you can find other stories from WW2 People's War in the Childhood and Evacuation category.

Lesson 2: Bombing

Key Stages - 3 and 4

Objectives - To understand the impact bombing had upon the lives of children and young people.

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

  • Plane Crash in an Essex Cornfield
  • Collecting Shrapnel - and Bombs - in Wartime London
  • A Night to Remember: The Coventry Blitz

Other resources needed for the class

  • Photocopies of the relevant extracts from the Story extracts page
  • Printed up scenario and Pupil Task Sheet

Teaching and Learning Activities

Starter Activity

Split the class into groups of 3-4 pupils. Hand out or tell the class this scenario:

If the government stopped the trains running, closed all the airports and ports and shut down all the electricity plants, what would the impact on the country be?

Ask the groups to spend a few minutes discussing this question.Then feed back their answers to the rest of the class. Discuss how their answers would be reasons why Britain was bombed during World War Two.

Activity 1

Pupils individually make a list of the locations and industries they think would be bombed. Each pupil explains to their neighbour why these places would be bombed, then they share their responses with another pair. Each group of four feeds back their ideas to the rest of the class.

Ask the pupils to use the examples of types of industries to think about the different kinds of experiences people throughout Britain had of bombing.

Activity 2

Split the class into pairs. Ask them to read each of the extracts and then consider the following:

  • What is the tone of each source?
  • How did the child feel about each event?

Write down as many key words as possible to describe the emotions the child experienced during the event. Feed back ideas to the rest of the class and discuss.

Activity 3

Make two copies of each of the three stories (in full). Split the class into six groups, and give each a story - one story per two groups. Ask three groups to prepare a role-play from the point of view of the adults in the stories, and three groups to prepare a role-play from the point of view of the children. Tell them to pick out quotations from the stories to use.

The groups present their role-plays to the rest of the class. While the class watches they should make a list of reasons why oral history can be interpreted in different ways.

Activity 4

Ask the class to answer individually the questions below.

  • What can you learn from these stories?
  • How useful are these stories to the historian?
  • What are the limitations of these stories for a historian?

Activity 5

Go to the site and find other stories about bombing. (This could be done using an IWB.)

Split the class into pairs. Each pair must find a separate story about bombing and childhood. They must produce a critical historical analysis of the evidence by considering the following questions in the Pupil Task Sheet.

Plenary

Ask each pupil in the class to tell you one thing they have learned about the importance of oral history. This can be done as they leave the classroom.

Lesson 3: Rationing

Key Stages - 2 and 3

Objectives - To understand how children felt about rationing.

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

  • Emergency Cream and Soya Marzipan: Christmas Cakes in 1943
  • The Black Banana
  • A 3 Year Old's Recollection
  • Strange Things on the Dinner Table
  • The Birthday Party
  • Caught: Memories of a Mars Bar
  • A Child's View of War: Disney Gas Masks and Saving Sugar

Other resources needed for the class

  • Photocopies of the relevant extracts from the Story extracts page
  • Printed up Pupil Task Sheet
  • Mars bars or chocolate bars
  • Mini whiteboards or plain A4 paper
  • ICT room
  • Print-out of the full story of Emergency Cream and Soya Marzipan: Christmas Cakes in 1943

Teaching and Learning Activities

Starter Activity

Take a Mars bar or chocolate bar and cut it into very small pieces. As it is handed around the class, ask the pupils to explain why it has been cut up so small. Ask them if they can link it to a historical period and why. Then introduce the topic of rationing.

OR

Ask the class to write down on mini whiteboards or paper the ingredients of a traditional Christmas cake and then to hold them up.Ask those pupils who wrote 'eggs, marzipan, icing, dried fruit' to put their boards or paper face down on the desk. You may be left with none being held up, which will illustrate that it was almost impossible to make a proper cake in war time. However, if you have some pupils still holding up their boards or paper, ask the class if it would be possible to make a cake without these ingredients.The aim of the activity is to illustrate how difficult it was to make the things we take for granted such as Christmas cake.

Activity 1

Use the full story Emergency Cream and Soya Marzipan: Christmas Cakes in 1943 for this activity. Ask the class to draw two columns in their exercise books, one with the heading 'Ingredients' and the other 'Replacements'.Tell the class that, while listening to the teacher read the story aloud, they should write down all the ingredients the author says they cannot get because of the war.

Read the story aloud. When they have listened to the story and completed the first column, split them into pairs and read the story again. In the second column of their table, they should write next to each missing ingredient what it was replaced with according to the author of the story.

Activity 2

Each pair joins with another pair. The groups of four use the story to write a recipe that explains how to make a rationed Christmas cake. You may want to explain how a recipe is written or show them some examples. Each group reads out their recipe and the class decides which one they think is the most practical.

Activity 3

Split the class into new groups of three. Ask the pupils to read the story for themselves and to complete the following tasks:

  • Pick out the words that show how the people described felt about this experience.
  • Why would the dad have a different view to the child?
  • Do you think the author thought rationing was a bad thing?

Activity 4

Split the class into six groups. Give each group one of the extracts to look at (excluding the one used in the previous activities). You could get the pupils to access the stories online or print up the extracts. You will need to decide which extract is most suitable for each group's ability.

Each group reads their extract or story. They should consider the following points:

  • Select a quotation from the extract or story which gives an example of how people felt.
  • What do you learn about children and rationing?
  • How did the child feel about rationing?
  • Your feedback to the rest of the class needs to be clear and lively.

Tell the class that while listening to the feedback they should take notes on the food that children ate during World War Two.

Activity 5

Split the class into groups. Each group plans a menu for a children's party during World War Two and then explains why they have chosen each item. Tell them that when the menus are presented to the class, they will vote on which is the most historically authentic.

Plenary

Each pupil thinks of one thing they have eaten over the last week that, if they had been alive during World War Two, they would have had to do without.

Extension

If you or your class are interested in Rationing, you can find other stories from WW2 People's War in the Rationing category.

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