A team of history researchers are commissioned by the BBC to do the background reasearch for a series of programmes called ‘The Really Interesting History of Britain’.
They visit an Anglo-Saxon excavation site and discover ancient artefacts - uncovered by the archeologists working there - tell amazing stories of the people who once built, lived and died in the village. They learn the villagers were part of a civilisation which was displaced from their homeland, settled in Britain, and created a culture which thrived for over 500 years before being destroyed by defeat at the battle of Hastings.
This unit begins with the children looking at the noticeboard of a team of successful and busy history researchers. The associated inquiry introduces the students to the work of the team and creates an opportunity for them to ‘step into’ the fiction. The first task for the children is to create the meeting room for the history team from the furniture of the classroom. The second (as the experts) is to give feedback to the BBC for their newly commissioned series ‘The Really Interesting History of Britain.’
They then visit a local Anglo-Saxon excavation site and talk to the archaeologists with the aim of deciding if the site would make an interesting location for filming. To begin with the site doesn’t look promising, however once the team start looking a bit more closely at the background to the artefacts they realise that even the most mundane objects can tell amazing stories.
The found objects in this unit operate as ‘bridges’ into the past. Creating opportunities for the children to engage in learning and experiences both from the points of view of the history research team and the Anglo-Saxon people who lived in the settlement.
This unit works across the curriculum, creating opportunities for students to:
- apply their imagination, reasoning and inquiry skills
- acquire and apply history skills and develop knowledge and understanding.
- develop knowledge, skills and understanding in areas of history, geography, science, art and design, design technology, music, and ICT as well as skills in English and maths.
Author: Tim Taylor
Theme: The Anglo-Saxons
Age Range: KS2
Main Curriculum Focus: History
Inquiry Question: What was effects did the invasion and settlement of the Anglo-Saxon people have on the culture and history of England?
Expert Team: History researchers
Commission: to do the background research for a series of programmes called ‘The Really Interesting History of Britain’.
The following inquiry questions are just a sample of the lines of inquiry the students might explore during this unit. They are not meant to be exhaustive or prescriptive. They are meant to be for your planning purposes only and not necessarily for the students in their current form.
Why did the Anglo-Saxons come to Britain?
What is left for historians to study?
What effects did the Anglo-Saxons have on English history?
What effects did the Viking invasions have on life in Anglo-Saxon England?
How did monarchy and kingship change during Anglo-Saxon times?
What roles did women play in Anglo-Saxon society and its history?
Why did the rules of succession become so important during Anglo-Saxon history?
How did Anglo-Saxon kings (and warlords) establish their authority?
What pagan gods did the Anglo-Saxons worship?
How did christianity become the Anglo-Saxon religion?
How did the Anglo-Saxon’s worship before and after the conversion?
What was life like in an Anglo-Saxon monastery?
What was an Anglo-Saxon settlement like?
What was life like in an Anglo-Saxon settlement?
How did they change in response to the Viking invasions and the conversion to christianity?
How did the Anglo-Saxons protect themselves?
What was Anglo-Saxon literature, art and design like?
How did the conversion affect Anglo-Saxon culture?
How did the monasteries and the work of its monks affect Anglo-Saxon culture during the ‘golden age’ and its restoration after the Viking invasions.
How did the kings of Wessex (beginning with Alfred) help develop Anglo-Saxon culture and the creation of the ‘English’?
How was the landscape and the environment affected by the decline of the Romans and the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons?
What geographical features did the Anglo-Saxon’s look for when establishing a settlement?
How much responsibility do we have to tell the truth about the past?
Is historical reconstruction a valid part of historical research or just guess work?
Thoughts on options
Historical context - moving forward & backward in time
Keep asking the question: what's going to grab the children and give them an authentic understanding of the topic
Spend sometime getting to know the subject - the more you research the more options you have
Main Curriculum areas:
This unit can be used as a 'depth study' for curriculum 2014 for both Anglo-Saxon units and (if appropriate) for the local History Study Unit.
Britain’s settlement by Anglo-Saxons and Scots This could include:
Roman withdrawal from Britain in c. AD 410 and the fall of the western Roman Empire
Scots invasions from Ireland to north Britain (now Scotland)
Anglo-Saxon invasions, settlements and kingdoms: place names and
Anglo-Saxon art and culture
Christian conversion – Canterbury, Iona and Lindisfarne
Viking and Anglo-Saxon struggle for the Kingdom of England to the time of Edward the Confessor
This could include:
Viking raids and invasion
resistance by Alfred the Great and Athelstan, first king of England - further Viking invasions and Danegeld
Anglo-Saxon laws and justice
Edward the Confessor and his death in 1066
A local history study For example:
a depth study linked to one of the British areas of study listed below
a study over time tracing how several aspects national history are reflected in the locality (this can go beyond 1066)
a study of an aspect of history or a site dating from a period beyond 1066 that is significant in the locality.
Programmes of study:
Develop a chronologically secure knowledge and understanding
Develop the appropriate use of historical terms
Know and understand significant aspects of history: nature of ancient civilisations; expansion & dissolution empires; characteristic features of past non-European societies; achievements & follies of mankind
Gain historical perspective by placing their growing knowledge into different contexts
Ask questions about change, cause, similarity and difference, and significance
Note connections, contrasts and trends over time
Establishing clear narratives within and across periods of study
Understand how our knowledge of the past is constructed from a range of sources and that different versions of past events may exist, giving some reasons for this.
Understand the methods of historical enquiry, how evidence is used to make historical claims, & discern how & why contrasting arguments & interpretations of the past have been constructed
Regularly address and sometimes devise historically valid questions
Construct informed responses that involve thoughtful selection and organisation of relevant historical information
Make connections, draw contrasts, analyse trends, frame historically-valid questions and create their own structured accounts, including written narratives and analyses
Resources for steps in
(See Resources page: http://www.imaginative-inquiry.co.uk/2012/12/anglo-saxons/)
1. Resources for team noticeboard
2. BBC commission letter
3. BBC Information sheets for different episodes
4. Map of the archeology site
5. Archeologist's notes
6. Archeology slide-show
7. (Optional) a collection of ropes, tape, trowels and other tools used by the archeology team
8. Mind map
Further Steps and Activities
After this point, where the context is now firmly established it becomes increasingly difficult to suggested detailed planning routes for further activities. Much of what happens from now on depends on the class and how the respond to the different tasks they have engaged in so far. For example, in researching this unit we started the planning steps with three parallel year 4 classes. They all completed the nine steps detailed above but then went in three different directions. The first class were really interested in the Battle of Hastings and the aftermath. The second where fascinated by the skeletons in the archeologist slideshow who appeared to be embracing. The third wanted to stay at the dig and explore the different objects discovered by the archeologists. You may find your own class take a different route. If possible try and follow their interests and plan activities that create opportunities for extending their knowledge and understanding.
Below are outlines of the activities followed by the three classes mentioned above, I have not written them up in the same detail as the previous nine steps but they will give you a general summary of where each class went. These summaries are then followed by a further ‘bridging’ activity which you will want to use at some point after establishing the context and following the activities created by the children’s interests. The bridging activity involves the class in creating a model of the Anglo-Saxon settlement discovered by the archeologists. The settlement is essential to the development of the context beyond the BBC research team and the Battle of Hastings and will create further learning opportunities for the children to explore the arrival of the Anglo-Saxon people, their effect on English culture and society and how life changed and developed over 500 years ending with the Norman invasions.
The Battle of Hasting
[Resource: BBC Informmation sheet Anglo-Saxon episode on whiteboard]
Sequence 1: The Battle of Hastings
The purpose of the following activities is to explore what happened at the battle. Both on the battlefield itself and in the Anglo-Saxon encampment. And then to explore some of the repercussions of the battle, especially for Harold’s wife.
As a matter of note, not all the children were interested in the ‘blood and guts’ and so I was careful to include tasks that would engage those children as well as the ones that were.
Step 1: Looking at the battle scene painting
Using the whiteboard the class examined the painting of the battle as used in the BBC programme information sheet [Episode 2 - The Anglo-Saxons]. I followed the same planning steps as used in the “Roman Box” context [Ref]
Here’s a summary:
(I-Describing) Project the painting onto the white-screen
“I’d like to show you a painting. It’s quite an old painting, but not as old as the events it portrays. When you look at it could I ask you first just to say what you notice.”
The students might start to interpret the meaning of the painting or try guessing what is happening. For the moment ask them to just to describe what they can see as accurately as possible. Sometimes this can take a little while, but it is an important step.
“Hold on to those thoughts for just a moment, we will be coming back to them very quickly, but just for now can you say only what you can see."
As the students work help them to use precise language, as if they were describing the events in a book, without the reader seeing the painting.
Once you feel everything in the painting has been described (and before it becomes boring) move onto to the next mini-step.
(II - Interpreting)
“In art nothing is included by accident. This is not a photograph of the event, but a painting, painted hundreds of years later. The artist has thought carefully about every tiny detail and what it might mean to a person looking at it."
As the students work through this process they might share some of their own knowledge. For the time being try not to do too much of the work for them and to keep back your own knowledge; let them speculate for the time being. It will be a good opportunity for you to find out what they know, as a group, already. Ask questions that help them dig a bit deeper and make connections. Keep the language speculative…
(III – Some background information)
Battle of Hastings - end of the Saxon era - William the Conquer
Before moving onto the next mini-step give the students the opportunity to ask you questions. Be honest about what you don’t know and don’t make things up. It is important they can use you as an accurate historical source.
(IV – Consolidating)
You will need some post-it notes, ideally two different colours.
Step 2: Creating the Anglo-Saxon camp the day before the battle - Soldiers Training
“I wonder what the Anglo-Saxon camp was like the day before the battle? Just before Harold arrived with his soldiers having marched directly from the North. I expect there was a lot to organise. The stables for the horses, the kitchens for cooking the food, the medical tent for the sick and wounded. And the armoury for sharpening and repairing the soldiers weapons. If we move the tables and chairs around in our classroom and used our imagination we might be able to recreate what it was like. What do you think? We might needs some paper for drawings and possibly some other resources.”
Give the children support and resources if they need it. Some might have trouble deciding which part of the camp they want to be in. You might find (as I did) that some of the children get very excited and start play fighting. If they do you will need to step in and remind them what the purpose of the activity is. Don’t be afraid to take charge, many sessions of this kind have fallen to pieces because the teacher doesn’t take a lead.
Its quite natural, particularly if the children are unfamiliar with drama and in an exciting context like this, for the children to misinterpret this activity as play. However, play is the wrong medium and they will need support (and understanding) to refocus the activity as drama.
You can find a good article on this process on the mantle of the expert website by Luke Abbott and Brian Edmiston - “Contexts Between Play, Drama & Learning.” [Ref: http://www.mantleoftheexpert.com/about-moe/articles/] & My article from PTU
Basically the shift is from play, through dramatic action, to invested action, by way of the use of the conventions of drama. It sounds more complicated than it is. I’ll illustrate by using an example from when I taught this session.
- Play: Two boys have made swords out of rulers and are engaging in a mock fight. They are clearly engaged by the context, have made something which will serve as a sword and have gone straight for the most exciting part of the story, the battle.
This is clearly an example of play. There is little regard for the general narrative or the involvement of others. The action (sword fighting) is playful (happening in real time) and there is no opportunity for interpretation or for making meaning. Its likely others will soon join in and the session will quickly loose coherence and direction.
What is needed is some leadership from the teacher. Without getting angry, feeling disappointed or dismissing the boys ideas the teacher needs to redirect the boys energy and excitement into something more controlled and meaningful. He can do this by using one of the conventions from Heathcote’s list [Ref: Appendix 8)
- Dramatic Action: In this example I used convention 4 - the role is present as an ‘effigy’. It can be talked about, walked around and even sculptured afresh if so framed. Further, it can be brought into life-like response and then returned to effigy. Which all sounds very complicated, but actually (like all the conventions) makes perfect sense when used in context.
“Lets imagine,” I say to the two boys, “that this painting,” I point to the one on the whiteboard depicting the battle, “is only one of many paintings of the Battle of Hastings. Some of the other paintings are also of the battle itself, showing different events and moments during the day. Others are of events before and after. Now I can see you two are involved in fight of some kind. Is that right?” “Yes we’re two soldiers fighting.” “Right, but this is the day before the battle and the Normans haven’t arrived yet. But if you were in a painting of Harold’s camp the day before the battle - which is what we’re building here - then you could be two soldiers training for the battle. That would make sense. Could we see [this is the use of the convention] the two soldiers in the painting training?” The two boys make a pose. “I see, now hold it there, keep it still like a painting.” I step back and look at the pose (the effigy) as if it were a painting (the boys will take note of my seriousness, I’m not playing either). “I wonder could we see another?”
By this time a number of other children had taken up rulers for swords and I was obliged to bring them ‘into’ the painting. After five minutes there were fifteen or so children posing as figures in a painting of the camp training for the next day’s battle. They were quite still and self-controlled. However, the focus for the children was on the form (the painting) rather than the meaning. For this they needed an opportunity for reflection.
- Invested Action: Invested action is reflection (contemplation) on dramatic action in context. Which again sounds very complicated, but is simple when explained. For example training with a fellow soldier takes on very different meanings in the following three contexts:
Context one: training at home for a fight that might happen
Context two: training at Harold’s camp the day before the battle
Context three: training at Harold’s camp, with my brother, the day before the battle
This is because in each context the ‘level’ of investment (what it means to those involved) becomes more and more significant both because of the change in time and location and because of the closer family bonds. Now when the children take up the pose of those training in the painting they are seen as warrior/brothers on the eve of a battle where their lives will never be the same again.
Its a mistake to think drama for learning is about ‘acting out’ or ‘pretending’. There is little value in reenacting the Battle of Hasting with children posing as soldiers on either side, firing arrows or riding horses. The purpose of using drama in the classroom is to bridge the gap between children’s own experiences and the content of study. It is not enough for them to know there was a great battle in 1066 that affected the course of English history or who was on which side and what happened to the two kings. Education is about understanding, developing a greater appreciation and insight, which can be applied across a wider range of subjects than those taught at school. The Battle of Hastings was a human experience, the people involved felt the same kinds of emotions we would feel in the same circumstances. For children to understand and appreciate this they have to develop their imagination beyond playing or reenacting or (worst of all) just being told the facts. Quote from "Birth of the Nation"
Step 3: Creating the Anglo-Saxon camp the day before the battle - The arrival of Harold
In the meantime the other children were busy creating the other parts of the camp, the stables, the medical tent, the kitchens etc.
In order to ‘invest’ the action we used convention 2: The role actually present framed as a film. Can be stopped and restarted, or re-run. The children took position as people in the camp at the moment the king arrived. One of the children in the class represented the king, others represented his entourage. After a short discussion the children decided the king should be met by a line of soldiers and then shown around the camp, he could then see everything was in order and ready for the battle ahead.
Step 4: The Battle - in five steps
By this stage the children were very keen to get going with the battle. There were high levels of excitement and expectation with a commensurate potential for disaster. Once again it was the use of conventions that would ‘hold’ the situation, allowing for tension without loosing control.
We returned to convention 4, this time a painting from the beginning of the battle, with both sides lining up for attack. The children chose which side they would represent. I explained the battle would be shown in five paintings, each one depicting a stage of the attack.
“Stage 1,” I shouted, ‘Make the shield wall.” The children on both sides of the classroom shuffled together to make the walls [Action].
I stopped the action for a moment of reflection. “Lets take a look at this shield wall. Has the artist got the shields locked closely enough together. Remember not a chink of light. No room for a blade or an arrow” [Invested Action].
“Stage 2,” I shouted again, “Normans step forward and raise your weapons. Saxons hold the line.”
"Stage 3, Normans step forward and choose your target.” The gap between the two lines was now no more than a few feet.
“Stage 4, Normans strike!” I was careful to remind them this was a painting, so we would only see one strike.
“Stage 5, Normans fall back.”
“And so,” I related, “The first part of the battle was over. Ending in the Saxon shield wall intact and the Normans back in their lines. No side victorious.”