Teachers' notes: End of the war and remembrance

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These classroom suggestions provide ways for pupils to actively imagine life at the time of World War One and to investigate how the war is now remembered.

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

Coming of peace

Subjects: art, history

People celebrate the end of war on a London bus People celebrate the end of war on a London bus

Pupils could create a comic strip to show, in chronological order, events surrounding the end of the war. Ask the children to suggest images that encapsulate the ending of the war, based on their reading of the article and research from books and websites.

Suggestions might include: a hand signing a treaty, Tommies throwing their tin hats in the air or church bells ringing. The children could go on to think of ways to depict the aftermath of the conflict, such as the re-building of ruins, a soldier arriving home, disabled ex-servicemen, war memorials and green fields full of poppies or white crosses.

From their reading of the article, you might ask pupils to pick the most important event in the final months of the war. This could lead to a discussion about whether or not the most important factor is always the final factor.

Monuments

Subjects: art, design and technology, English, MFL

Silhouette of soldier in poppy field illustration Silhouette of soldier in poppy field

Pupils could gather and collate images of war memorials for a computer slideshow. These might include photographs of the Cenotaph in Whitehall, the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, the Menin Gate in Ypres or the Animals in War Memorial at the edge of Hyde Park. Children could also photograph local plaques and war memorials.

The children could go on to make models in clay of their own war memorial designs, showing our 21st century response to the war. What wording would the children include on their memorials? Do they think it would be appropriate to write their message in more than one language? They could use online translation sites to help them do so.

Finally, you could ask the class what purpose war memorials serve. Why were they built and why do we continue to build them? In 2013, for example, the Welsh Government announced it would be backing a memorial in Flanders to remember Welsh people who served in World War One.

Memorial survey

Subjects: art, history, ICT, geography, mathematics

Paper poppies are still made and sold today to raise money for those who have been injured and affected by war Paper poppies are still made and sold today to raise money for those who have been injured and affected by war

Pupils could study and sketch a local war memorial. They could collate information from the inscription. Are there examples of members of the same family among the names of the fallen? Which years of the war were the worst for casualties?

The children might compare their findings with the names and dates recorded on other war memorial plaques, perhaps searching for some examples online. They could draw up bar graphs to show the worst years for British losses.

You could ask the class to find out if there are any more memorials to World War One within a five-mile radius of your school. Churches, libraries, schools and other public buildings are good places to look for plaques, statues and monuments. The children could plot all their discoveries on a map of the local area. This helps to bring home the scale of the war and how it affected every family in the land.

The legacy of war

Subjects: citizenship, English, history

After reading the article, pupils could create their own 'treaty' for the combatants to sign. Do they favour a list of demands for Germany to abide by? Do they think the treaty should concentrate on punishments for the losing side? Encourage the children to remember their aim is to keep the peace. Does this mean the winning side should agree to do some things, too?

Poetry

Subjects: English, history

Hand-written poem and watercolour by WW1 soldier Wounded soldier's hand-written poem in 1917

Useful links

The children could learn by heart a poem written by one of the soldiers who served in World War One. Individual pupils could learn different poems or the class could work together to learn and perform a choral version of a single poem.

The poet Wilfred Owen once wrote, 'the poetry is in the pity.' What do the children make of that remark? You might choose work by poets such as Owen, Edward Thomas, Robert Graves or Siegfried Sassoon for the children to learn.

Where the language is very challenging for contemporary children, you could work with the class to provide a line-by-line version in today's language or select just one or two verses from a longer poem. This approach would work well, for example, with Herbert Read's 'Short Poem for Armistice Day', which is about a disabled ex-serviceman making a paper poppy. A more accessible poem to learn is Rudyard Kipling's 'My Boy Jack', written after the death of his son at the Battle of Loos in 1915.

Photofilm: 'For the Fallen' by Laurence Binyon

The class could watch the photofilm of 'For the Fallen', the poem by Laurence Binyon, which is traditionally quoted on Remembrance Day. The slideshow uses several voices. When viewing it for a second time, individual pupils could join in with each different reader.

WW1 soldiers' silhouettes British soldiers of the 8th Battalion, East Yorkshire during the Third Battle of Ypres

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The language is challenging for today's children, but you can help pupils unpack the poem's meaning by asking questions such as, 'Who do you think Laurence Binyon wrote this poem for?' (Grieving families?) and 'Why did he write it?' (As a tribute? To encourage others to fight? To offer some comfort?)

Take individual lines of the poem and ask pupils to put them into their own words. For instance, how many ways can they render 'They fell with their faces to the foe'? That line could be interpreted as 'They died facing their enemies' or as 'They did not run away from death'. Pupils could add their interpretations as digital footnotes to a word-processed version of the poem, perhaps for a class webpage.

Groups of pupils could produce their own audio slideshows for verses by their favourite war poets, using 'For the Fallen' as a model. The children could collate images (contemporary photographs, sketches, their own photographs of war memorials or museum displays) and record a choral reading as a soundtrack. Shorter poems make good subjects. Pupils could try some of these:

  • Mark Anderson (by Wilfred Gibson)
  • Lament (by Wilfred Gibson)
  • The Dug-Out (by Siegfried Sassoon)
  • The Owl (by Edward Thomas)
  • The Cherry Trees (by Edward Thomas)
  • I Saw His Round Mouth's Crimson (by Wilfred Owen)

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