KS2: Pablo Fanque – The greatest Victorian showman

Roll up, roll up! Come and see the greatest Victorian showman, Pablo Fanque.

Pablo Fanque was an inspirational performer who’s daring stunts, expert horsemanship and generosity captured the attention of the Victorians and The Beatles!

In this short film, we learn a little about his performance skills, passions and the work that he did to help others. Narrator Scherrikar Bell tells us all about Pablo Fanque and how he was one of the biggest names in Victorian entertainment.

This film discusses how Pablo Fanque’s travelling circus act would tour the country. With such expertise as tight-rope walking, juggling horseback and acrobatics, Pablo’s circus was clearly something to behold.

We even discover how Pablo trained horses to dance in time with music.

Scherrikar explains how Pablo put together music and time signatures and explores Pablo’s use of language in his advertising, which captured the attention of John Lennon.

This short film is from the BBC series, The Victorians.

Teacher Notes

These films introduce a character that can be used as a jumping off point for cross-curricular learning. This can be applied to a variety of subjects across the Key Stage 2 curriculum.

This series of films is designed to introduce real historical figures in an engaging context that can be explored by both students and teachers to help understand a variety of subjects.

The format runs through a few key stories or elements from the lives of the historical figures and applies them to a subject that can be discussed or explored in the classroom. The films act as a catalyst to kick-start ideas and introduce students to a world that can cover all kinds of subjects.

Each film should offer you lots of opportunities to create activities and schemes of work that take an element of the film and expand on it in the classroom with a curriculum based learning objective in mind.

The films should leave the students feeling like they have both a basic knowledge of the Victorian character and that they are engaged with the fun personalities that the film portrays.

The aim is give students a context to understand a variety of subjects that co-exist in real scenarios.

Before Watching

Before getting started with the film, you could introduce your students to the Victorian era. Roughly when it took place historically, what it was like to live in that time and how it’s different from today.

Another useful approach would be to give the students a short introduction to the character, just sticking to the key points to peak their interest.

Before playing the film you should ask the children to keep an eye out for the different subjects, ideas, and objects that are spoken about in the film. At the end of the film you could ask the class to speak about what they’ve seen. This should bring up plenty of jumping off points for you to expand on.

To really bring the history to life you could set a themed day and ask students to wear costumes or adopt a special timetable to reflect the Victorian classroom.

You could ask the students what they already know about the character that features in the film to get a feel for their understanding. Then if the film mentions something they know and have mentioned they’ll feel affirmed in their knowledge and engaged with the film, but also any new information will help them to feel like their understanding has improved.

After watching

Following the film there should be activities lined up to take the learning in the film further. Introducing more detail to the stories and developing the understanding of the elements that have been touched up in the film.

These could be based around a subject. For example as the film talks about the moves that Pablo used to use in his circus performances, if possible, it could make for an interesting P.E. lesson to let your students try and create a performance of their own.

Pablo’s film also talks in detail about the language of advertising and how it is used today. You could follow up the film by analysing real modern adverts, looking at the language and asking the students to write their own adverts for modern brands or shows.

The film also touches on issues surrounding race. This could be a good way of introducing the subject in the classroom and exploring both equality and meritocracy.

Next Steps

The next step should be to take the understanding of the subject that is in the Victorian context in the film and develop it into a deeper understanding of the subject that is required by the curriculum.

Curriculum Notes

This short film is suitable for teaching at Key Stage 2 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Curriculum for Excellence First and Second Level in Scotland.

More from The Victorians:

Charles Darwin – The biggest name in Victorian science
Isambard Kingdom Brunel – A total genius of engineering
Florence Nightingale – The founder of modern nursing
Queen Victoria – The ultimate Victorian