Peace - Primary

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The following teachers' notes provide ways for pupils to reflect on the 2014 centenary of World War One.

Pupils will have the opportunity to use primary source material and to conduct their own research.

Video clip

Neville Chamberlain announcing that Britain is at war with Germany


Britain today is generally considered to be at peace. Yet we face the dangers of terrorism and soldiers still risk their lives in wars or peacekeeping missions.

Can war be avoided?


You could introduce the topic of World War One using BBC Schools resources. You might put the war in historical context by making a timeline with the class, showing the two world wars and events that happened before and after them. You can take the line right up to the present day. Explain that World War One happened 100 years ago. When we reach such an important anniversary, it is a time to look back and try to make sense of what happened.

Learning from the past

What do pupils think history tells us? Some people talk about 'learning the lessons of the past', but what does that mean in practice?

History often concentrates on past events (revolutions, battles, victories, defeats). But how often does it show us how people felt or how their individual lives were affected? How can we find out about these things? You might invite pupils to give some suggestions: letters perhaps, or diaries, autobiographies and interviews given by those who lived through troubled times.

Studying history may mean visiting battlefields or old castles and war museums. What do the children like about such visits? Do they think castles were peaceful places? What is the most peaceful place they can think of?

War and peace

Useful links

Imperial War Museum

Bradford's Peace Museum UK

Have any children been to the Imperial War Museum or other military museums? Why do they think we have such museums? What do they think might be in a peace museum? Pupils could find out about Bradford's Peace Museum UK.

The children could go on to look for images of peace protests from World War One and from more recent times, such as the CND campaign against nuclear weapons from the 1950s, the anti-Vietnam war protests in the 1960s and the anti-Iraq war protests of the 2000s.

What do the children feel about these anti-war protests? How easy is it to be wise after the event?

Living together

You could ask children: When we feel happy, do we feel peaceful? What is the most peaceful thing you can imagine doing? Do our family or school rules make life easier for us to keep the peace? How can we best settle arguments? Living together may need a few rules: if you hit me, should I be allowed to hit you back?

If we say someone is good at 'keeping the peace' what do we mean? Ask the children to think of other phrases with the word 'peace' in them, such as 'peace and quiet'.

london double-decker hit by a bomb

In the 'Peace' video clip it says that the UK is lucky to be a mostly peaceful country, where people live together and get along. Images such as the London terrorist bombings and the 9/11 attack in the USA appear briefly in the video clip. Teachers should be ready to answer questions and reassure if necessary.

Is war more exciting than peace?

You might use the following questions to prompt and direct a class discussion:

Why are there so many war games? Is war glorified or made to seem 'fun' through computer games, films, TV and books? Who likes battle games? Who does not? Who likes war stories?

Useful BBC links

Wilfred Owen

Wilfrid Gibson

You could introduce 'war books' such as Michael Morpurgo's War Horse, or read verses by war poets such as Wilfred Owen. Where the language presents difficulties for today's children, you could select short extracts of a poem, or provide a line-by-line version of the poem in contemporary terms to accompany the original. Some World War One poets have a simpler, more accessible style. Look for work by Robert Graves or Wilfrid Gibson.


Have children heard of the United Nations? What does it do?

Useful link

United Nations

After World War Two ended in 1945, the nations of the world set up the United Nations organisation. Its aim is to prevent wars, bring about peace and help people, but it is not a world government. It does not have its own army. Ask the class to find out more about the United Nations, its various branches and their activities.

You might look for news reports and images of the UN in action: the UN General Assembly addressed by world leaders, or UN peacekeeping forces, such as UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) and others in Mali, Cyprus, Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Useful link

The Nobel Peace Prize

The children could find out about the life and work of a peacemaker such as Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King. They could find out, too, about the history of the Nobel Peace Prize.

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