A-Z of WW1
These resources are suitable for use with pupils aged 5-11.
Using a mixture of children's research, artefacts and archive from the time, A-Z of WW1 centres round personal testimony monologues. Although fictional, the stories are based on primary sources and highlight the diversity of the people affected by the war.
Alongside each, there is more information about the content of the film, and suggestions of how it could be used in the classroom.
The films are hosted on an external, non-BBC platform. The BBC cannot take any responsibility for recommendations or content promoted by third party sites.
A - Teacher resources
This film explores the beginning of World War One in 1914, sparked by the assassination of Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could draw or paint flags to represent the various warring nations. They could gather these flags into two groups, representing the opposing sides in the war.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could identify on a wall map of Europe all the countries mentioned in the commentary. They could add pins or flags to the map, with labels to represent key moments in the outbreak of war. They could find out more about the death of Franz Ferdinand from a range of information sources and discuss the question, ‘How could one man’s death spark a world war?’
B - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel and dramatic footage to illustrate how the British army recruited groups of friends and neighbours to fight together.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could draw Private Fred Prescott and label parts of his uniform, as well as all the equipment he carries. How do the children think Fred feels about being a soldier? How do they think Fred will feel after his first battle?
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could discuss the advantages of Pals’ Battalions. Why were friends, relatives and neighbours keen to enlist together? Can pupils think of any disadvantages? For example, how might a large number of casualties affect a single community? The children could go on to improvise and script monologues for others in Fred Prescott’s life, such as his pals in the battalion or his family at home. How does each of these people feel about Fred joining up?
C - Teacher Resources
This film uses newsreel and dramatic footage to describe how Britain introduced conscription - compulsory army recruitment - in 1916.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Ask pupils to suggest things Mrs Draycott could pack for her son Stanley, to help him on his journey to the front and to remind him of his home and family. The children could draw the contents of a bag or mime packing things in a knapsack. How do they think Mrs Draycott and Stanley felt about his conscription?
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could discuss the impact they think conscription had on families. Do they think conscription was a fair measure? A necessary one? What do they think the consequences of not introducing conscription might have been? The class could work together to draft a reply to Mrs Draycott’s letter, explaining why her appeal has been turned down.
D - Teacher resources
In this film pupils examine wartime diaries and discuss the value of first-hand accounts. In a monologue, a war widow reads from her husband’s diary.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could write diary entries about their own lives. Do they think these entries might have been different if they had lived during the war years? Would they have eaten the same things, done the same things, seen the same people? Pupils could share their ideas about what might have been different and what might have been the same.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could freeze the frame to view details of one of the diary entries shown. What can they discover about the life of the man who wrote the diary? Pupils could go to search online and in printed texts for diary entries from the war years. The website of the National Archives has examples of war diaries on open access. Pupils could compile a collection of telling phrases to form a wall display about first-hand reactions to the war. They could respond to the question, ‘What can first-hand accounts tell us that history books and websites cannot?’
E - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel and commentary to explain how the British Empire helped in WW1. An Indian soldier describes his brave actions in battle in a monologue based on a true story.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could co-operate to make a life-size collage of Sepoy Khudadad Khan, using scraps of fabric to show his distinctive uniform. How do they think Sepoy Khudadad felt about his medal?
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could identify all of Britain’s war time colonies on a world map. They could find out what other resources the colonies contributed, in addition to troops. Why do pupils think these countries supported the British war effort? Pupils could discover when each of Britain’s colonies gained its independence.
F - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel, commentary and a monologue from an army chef in his field kitchen to illustrate what soldiers in the WW1 trenches were given to eat.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could help to prepare a stew using a selection of root vegetables. Alternatively, they could mime all the jobs Private Arthur Biggs would need to do to make a hot meal for the troops in the trenches. What obstacles or hazards might he face?
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could find out more about the diet in the trenches, from books and websites. They could try a recipe from the war years, or weigh out items of a soldier’s daily ration. They could improvise a scene in which soldiers complain about the meal they receive, with increasingly unflattering descriptions of its contents.
G - Teacher resources
In this film school pupils handle a British gas mask from WW1 and newsreels of the period show soldiers using gas masks in training and at the front.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could collect images of artefacts from World War One to present in a digital slideshow. The children could photograph and perhaps handle some objects at a local museum. They could add captions to their slideshow explaining how each item was used.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could prepare and read aloud further extracts from Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’. You could discuss with the class the meaning of individual lines of the poem. Together, write a summary of what takes place. Challenge pupils to choose five key words from the poem that sum up Owen’s feelings about the gas.
H - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel and a dramatic monologue to illustrate life on the Home Front in Britain during WW1.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could compare Charlie’s First World War scout’s uniform with the one worn today. How many differences can they spot? What is still the same? Which of the wartime jobs Charlie mentions do the pupils think he enjoyed the most?
Key Stage 2/ Second Level: Pupils could try their hands at knitting, one of the wartime jobs that children helped out with. They could go on to find out more about the work of the scouts and guides during World War One, using websites and books. What impact do they think working outside of the home had on women’s lives?
I - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel, photographs and commentary to introduce the Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, who wrote the famous poem 'In Flanders Fields'.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Ask pupils to list special days in the year when we remember specific people. These might include birthdays, mothers’ and fathers’ days, some festival days and other anniversaries. Explain that on November 11th, people wear poppies to remember soldiers hurt or killed in war. Pupils could look for and photograph local war memorials and plaques.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could read together the full text of McCrae’s poem. Why do they think it is still so well-known today? What do they think the message of the poem is? The children could go on to compile a digital slideshow of images from a range of sources to illustrate a poem of their own choice by another poet of the First World War.
J - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel, commentary and a monologue to tell the story of Jack Cornwell, VC. He died in battle aged 16.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could draw or paint portraits of Jutland Jack and add captions to say why he is still remembered. They could go on to find out more about medals of all kinds, from those awarded in war to those awarded in civilian life. Why do pupils think people wear medals? They could use fabrics and other materials to make collages showing their favourite medal designs.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could search online and in the index of textbooks for more details of Jack’s life story. They could also look for information on other young combatants of World War One, using search terms such as ‘boy soldier’. Pupils could also consider how Jack’s example was used to inspire others during the war. In the monologue, Jack’s mother says it doesn’t matter that one of his brothers posed for a press photograph in Jack’s place. Do your pupils agree?
K - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel and commentary to explore the role of patriotic songs in World War One, plus a dramatic monologue about the songwriter Ivor Novello.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could learn the words of ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’ and sing along to a recording or with piano accompaniment. You could take individual lines and ask the pupils what they think they mean. How does the song make them feel?
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could find out more about other patriotic songs of the war years, from books and websites. They could compile a wartime songbook, grouping the songs in sections, according to their subject or purpose. The pupils might have a section of recruitment or home-coming songs, for instance. They could practise singing a selection of songs and vote for their top ten favourites.
L - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel and a dramatised monologue to tell the story of the Lusitania, a passenger ship that was sunk by a German U-Boat off the coast of Ireland.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could make models of steam ships like the Lusitania, from a variety of materials. Encourage the children to base their models on images of ships from books and websites. Ask pupils to list all the jobs they think might have been done on board. The class could mime some of these jobs, such as stoking the boilers, or keeping a lookout.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: On a map, pupils could trace the route from New York to Liverpool that the Lusitania took. How far had she travelled when she was torpedoed? How much further did she have to go? Encourage pupils to list any questions they have about the sinking. For instance, why did Germany want to sink a passenger ship? The children could seek answers to their questions in books and websites. The sinking is said to have been decisive in drawing the USA into the war. Do your pupils agree with this judgment? If so, how do they explain the two years that passed before the USA’s declaration of war in 1917?
M - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel and a dramatised monologue to explore the advances in medicine made during World War One.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Ask pupils if they know what they should do when they get a cut. Establish the importance of washing the cut and of keeping the wound covered and clean while it heals. Pupils could make posters, showing how to treat cuts and the importance of hand-washing to prevent germs spreading.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could develop a timeline, showing when X-Rays, antibiotics and blood transfusions were first discovered or employed. They could use a range of information sources, such as books and websites to find out more. What are the names and life stories of the scientists most closely associated with these developments?
N - Teacher resources
This film uses commentary, newsreel and dramatic monologue to describe the role of nurses during WW1, including the work of Edith Cavell.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could mime some of the routine jobs a nurse might have done during World War One. These could include bed-making, rolling bandages, washing wounds, emptying bedpans, helping the wounded to eat, taking temperatures and tying slings.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could discover more about the life of Edith Cavell from books and websites. Based on their research, the children could improvise scenes that show how Edith came to be in the prison cell we see in her onscreen monologue.
O - Teacher resources
This film uses commentary, newsreel and dramatic monologue to introduce Wilfred Owen, today one of the most widely recognised WW1 poets.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could paint pictures to illustrate phrases from the short passage of the poem Owen quotes in the onscreen monologue. You might give groups or individuals a phrase such as ‘Bent double like old beggars under sacks’ or ‘men marched asleep’. The class could assemble their paintings into a picture book that shows the opening moments of Wilfred Owen’s poem.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could read more poems by Owen, Sassoon and other poets of the period. Encourage the children to compare these verses with the lyrics of popular patriotic songs of the period. How do the messages differ? Owen’s work was virtually unknown during his lifetime. Why do pupils think he came to be seen as such a significant figure in the years after World War One?
P - Teacher resources
This film uses photographs, newsreel and dramatic monologue to show how the Post Office carried messages and parcels from home to British Tommies in the trenches.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could practise wrapping up items such as chocolate, socks and cake, using just string and brown paper. How easy is it to make a parcel that doesn’t fall apart? Which 3-D shapes are the easiest and hardest to wrap? This activity provides a practical context for learning the mathematical names of some simple solids. There are also opportunities for measuring and accurately cutting lengths of paper and string.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could search in books and online for examples of messages sent to soldiers in the trenches. Institutions such as the Imperial War Museum and the National Archives publish examples of letters online, which provide rich sources of information. Children could share their discoveries from these letters and the class could record a soundtrack of quotes from various letters as a lasting memorial of the everyday cares and concerns of individuals caught up in the conflict.
Q - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel and dramatic monologue to explain the role of the quartermaster in keeping British WW1 troops supplied and equipped.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could weigh the coats, bags and sandwich boxes they bring to school. How much equipment do they carry around with them every day? They could sketch items of a British Tommy’s kit, or capture digital images for a slideshow about British Army equipment in World War One.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: British soldiers on the Western Front were expected to carry 30 kilos of equipment. Pupils could convert this amount from kilos into the imperial units of pounds and ounces. They could make up packs with a mass of 30 kilos. Is it easy to lift this pack? To carry it? To run with it? Challenge pupils to list all the items they think a British Tommy would need to carry into battle. Pupils could check their ideas with books and websites to confirm if their list matches the standard issue made to British troops in World War One.
R - Teacher resources
In this film schoolchildren describe the national act of remembrance that takes place on 11th November each year.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could draw or paint pictures of poppies. They could make an exhibition of their poppy paintings and choose some suitable recorded music to play at the exhibition. The pupils could visit a local war memorial and copy down some of the names of the fallen. Back at school, they could add the names of these individuals to their poppy pictures, as a simple form of commemoration.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could search in anthologies of poetry for suitable poems to read out on Remembrance Day. They could write responses to these poems beginning with the words, ‘This is how we remember...’ They could visit a local war memorial. From the information recorded there, can pupils work out which year of the war saw the fiercest fighting for the troops who came from their neighbourhood?
S - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel and dramatic monologue to describe the effects of shrapnel in WW1, and the role of woman doctors in treating its effects.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Elsie Inglis was commemorated on fifty pound notes issued by the Clydesdale Bank in 2009. Pupils could examine images of the note and of other banknotes that feature famous faces of the past. Which figures of World War One do pupils think deserve to be commemorated by a bank note? They could argue for their favoured candidates and draw their own banknote designs featuring them.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could find out more about the life of Elsie Inglis, using books and websites to help them. They could also research the suffragette movement before the war. In her onscreen monologue, Elsie expresses the hope that women will gain the right to vote when the war ends. Do pupils think Elsie’s own example helped to advance the cause of equality? Did the war change the perception of women in Britain’s national life?
T - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel, schoolchildren’s commentary and dramatic monologue to describe the conditions of British trenches on WW1's Western Front.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Ask pupils to close their eyes and imagine the sounds they might have heard in a trench on the Western Front. They could use instruments, found objects and their own voices to make trench sound effects. The pupils could go on to record a trench soundscape, with the sounds of daily life, such as hammering as duckboards are mended, or sloshing as water is pumped out.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Challenge pupils to use information from what they have seen and heard to help them make a scale model of a trench. Pupils could use modelling clay, cardboard, twigs and pieces of thin wire to make their designs. They could label the various elements of the trench, using books and websites to give them more context.
U - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel, schoolchildren’s commentary and dramatic monologue to illustrate the role of animals in WW1, including the famous terrier Sergeant Stubby.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could listen to extracts from Michael Morpurgo’s book ‘War Horse’ and draw their own illustrations in response. They could go on to make simple shadow puppets of horses, using cardboard and paper fasteners, taped to sticks made from drinking straws. The pupils could re-enact moments from the story as simple shadow plays.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could discover more about the role of animals in warfare from books and websites. Do they think the armies of World War One were right to use animals in their battles? Pupils could design their own monuments to animals used in war and make scale models of their ideas. They could compare their designs with images of The Animals in War Memorial which stands in Park Lane, London.
V - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel, schoolchildren and dramatic monologue to show the victory celebrations in 1918 at the end of WW1.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Ask pupils what they think individuals in the crowd were saying to one another in the newsreel of the victory celebrations at the end of World War One. Pupils could add speech or think bubbles to photographs of the celebrations, to suggest what some of the reactions might have been.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could discuss the mixed feelings that people must have had when they heard the news that the war had ended. Ask pupils to imagine what the first reaction of individuals was likely to be. What would their priorities be, now that the fighting was over? What would their hopes for the future be? Given the level of destruction and the huge numbers of dead, was it accurate to talk of victory? Pupils could debate the issue, based on their research of the period. They could take a vote to decide the question.
W - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel and dramatic monologue to honour the role of British women during WW1, particularly those who worked in munitions factories.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Ask pupils what they think the women shown on screen did when peace came. Did they continue with the jobs they had taken on during the war? What do they think Ida Petch might have done when the war finished and the munitions factories shut down? The pupils could draw pictures of the jobs they think Ida might have gone on to do. Pupils could add captions, to explain their thinking.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could find out about a range of jobs taken on by women on the Home Front during the war. Using books and websites as sources, pupils could script their own dramatic monologues for a woman war worker. The women could describe her day, her thoughts about her job and her hopes for the future.
X - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel, children's commentary and dramatic monologue to tell the story of Christmas Eve in 1914, when peace broke out in the trenches.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could learn the carol ‘Silent Night’ and also its German version, ‘Stille Nacht’. They could sing the carol alternating English and German verses. They could go on to learn and sing the words to ‘O Tannenbaum’ and its English translation, too. The pupils could make Christmas cards illustrating the scene of the Ypres truce, with messages in German and English.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Ask pupils to decide what presents they would add to a tin to be issued to soldiers in the trenches. Which gifts would be the most practical and welcome? They could pack small tins with gifts to illustrate their ideas, before using books and websites to establish the contents of the tins issued to the troops in 1914. What do pupils make of the truce that broke out at Ypres? Pupils could suggest and then use online sites to translate useful German phrases for the British Tommies to use during the truce. How do the children think the officers of the two armies reacted to the truce? Why do pupils think men resumed fighting on the following day?
Y - Teacher resources
In this film a selection of British newspaper headlines from WW1 suggest the impact propaganda had in Britain.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could view a selection of propaganda posters from the war years. Many examples are available online. Ask pupils to suggest what the message of each poster is and how the poster makes the viewer feel.
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Was Britain right to deliberately use provocative and biased language to stir up anti-German feelings during the war years? Pupils could debate the question and vote on their response. Pupils could select examples of powerful propaganda images and discuss the language used. They could re-word some of the messages in more measured and neutral terms and note how this mutes their impact. Can they find examples of biased language in today’s advertising?
Z - Teacher resources
This film uses newsreel, a school child’s commentary and dramatic monologue to give an account of the Zeppelin raids on Britain starting in 1915.
Key Stage 1/First Level: Pupils could use toy balloons filled with helium to investigate how Zeppelins were able to fly. Explain that helium is a gas lighter than air and that is why the balloons float. Zeppelins were filled with hydrogen, another gas lighter than air. They could test their toy helium balloons by taping weights to them. How much weight can a toy balloon carry and still get off the ground?
Key Stage 2/Second Level: Pupils could locate Cuffley on a map of the UK. They could search online using the search term ‘Cuffley Zeppelin’ to find out more about the airship Stanley Grimes describes. Newsreel items, first-hand accounts, letters and newspaper reports are all freely available for study. Pupils could write a short story ‘Night of the Zeppelin’ describing the events of 3rd September 1916. Why do they think the story of the Cuffley Zeppelin was so widely reported by the British press?