KS2 Music: The Anglo-Saxons. 2: Alfred the Great

Tutorial: learn the song 'Alfred the Great'

Tutorial: 'Alfred the Great'

Activities during the tutorial include:

  • Identifying how the song is divided into sections called bars.
  • Clapping along to the music and explaining that it feels comfortable to count to four - which means there are four beats in a bar.
  • Identifying how the notes of the chorus for ‘If you dare’ rise in the pitch and how they fall in pitch on ‘Big fanfare’.
  • Practising singing the words of the chorus with lots of energy and confidence, particularly on the words ‘Fight with me, if you dare!’
  • Identifying and clapping the fast word rhythms in Verse 2.

Song: 'Alfred the Great'

Song: 'Alfred the Great' (Vocal)

The song is sung from the point of view of Alfred the Great as he describes his different achievements:

  • Fighting against - and then making peace with - the Vikings and establishing the Danelaw.
  • Promoting education and learning.
  • Ruling wisely with the counsel of the 'witan'.
  • Building fortified towns to increase the security of his people.

Click here for the lyric sheet.

Song: 'Alfred the Great' (Children's choir)

Song: 'Alfred the Great' (Backing track)

You can also choose to sing with the Children's choir version of the song - good for encouraging your group to join in.

Once you have learnt the song you can polish your performance by singing with just the Backing track version.

Drama: Alfred and the Vikings

Drama: Alfred and the Vikings


Alfred was in his early 20s when he became king in 871 and the defining challenge of his reign was conflict with the Vikings.

Alfred's initial tactic was to make a pact with the Vikings: he agreed to pay them money - the danegeld - in return for peace. The arrangement was eventually broken when the Viking leader - Guthrum - launched a surprise attack against Wessex.

Alfred was forced into hiding in marshland in the West Country and the famous story of Alfred 'burning the cakes' dates from this time. It also marks the low-point in the fortunes of Alfred and the Anglo-Saxons.

Alfred gathers his strength and defeats Guthrum at the Battle of Edington. The Vikings agree to remain in an area to the east of England - which becomes known as the Danelaw. Alfred then sets about increasing the security of Wessex by training an army and building forts.

Click here for the episode transcript (pdf).

Drama: Athelstan - first king of England?

Drama: Athelstan - first king of England?


Not much is known for certain about the early life of Athelstan. There is a story that his grandfather - Alfred the Great - favoured Athelstan at court and made him a gift of a cloak and sword. It is also believed the Athelstan spent part of his youth in the kingdom of Mercia, which was ruled by Queen Ethelfleda (869? - 918), learning the skills of a young prince.

In 937 Athelstan's kingdom, which combined both Wessex and Mercia, came under attack from a combined force of Scots, Irish and Vikings. Athelstan won a decisive victory at the Battle of Brunanburgh - one of the bloodiest battles in English history. Thereafter Athelstan focused on building the strength of the kingdom.

For many historians Athelstan is the first ruler who can truly be regarded as 'king of all England'.

Click here for the episode transcript (pdf).

Music activity

Focus: Rhythms - fast and slow / Long notes and short notes / Dividing into two parts / Call and response

  • Discuss how there are usually many different rhythmic patterns in a piece of music - that’s what helps to make it sound interesting.
  • Nigel the presenter claps a variety of fast and slow word rhythms for pupils to copy.
  • The presenter claps a variety of long and short note rhythms for pupils to copy.
  • Pupils divide into two groups - A and B. They take it in turns to clap long and short note rhythms.
  • Discuss if it was easy to stay in time and together? What special skills did pupils need - eg listening carefully to the presenter and watching everyone else.

Full details of the music activity in the Teacher's Notes

Listening music

Listening music: Vivaldi - Concerto for Recorder

Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto for Recorder

  • Do pupils know what solo instrument is playing here with the orchestra? It is a recorder.
  • The music was written by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi (born 1678) over 300 years ago.
  • What is the style and tempo of the concerto? It is full of energy and very fast!
  • Can pupils hear any of the other instruments that are playing? They are string instruments - eg violins, violas and cellos.
  • The recorder is a relative of an Anglo-Saxon wind instrument called the bone whistle or bone flute, made from a hollowed out animal bone. Examples are often found on archaeological digs. The instrument has a number of finger holes, ranging from one to six.

You can watch another movement of a Vivaldi recorder concerto at this YouTube link. This is an external link. The BBC is not responsible for the content.


Teacher's Notes