Title: Anglo-Saxons

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Repeat for each group.
Note - Teacher Compass (Quadrant 3): In this quadrant the inquiry focuses in on particular details and then, by using the Levels of Commitment framework, burrows deeper, unravelling more and more layers of significance and meaning. In the language of the Compass this is termed Parsimony - ‘doing more with less’. In the example above the detail under inquiry is the retrieval of the sword. Each new group will introduce a new detail.

There is an emphasis on quality and precision and those watching are as important to the process as those involved in the action - The Work/Penalty axis.

The teacher’s role in this quadrant is to guide the inquiry into deeper levels of thinking, she needs to provide information, teach skills and set limits. At times she will need to step in and help, offer opinions and give guidance. As well as insist on high standards, make demands and provide feedback.
Step 7: Review, reflection and evaluation
The aim of this step (the last of the sequence) is to look back, reflect on what has been done and evaluate the process. This can be done immediately after the drama sequence outlined above or later if time is short. Sometimes it makes sense to give the students time to ‘digest’ everything that has happened before starting a review.
The teacher’s role during this step is to help the students consolidate their thinking and to reflect on what the work tells them about the subject under investigation. In this case the Anglo-Saxon emigration from Northern Europe and settlement in England. It is also to draw attention to the skills they used and the different strengths and qualities demonstrated.
Gather the children together on the carpet and start by asking a question. Generally nothing so blunt as: “So, what did we learn?” This can be a bit off putting and (what Dorothy would call) ‘teacher talk’. The way in is less of an interrogation and more of a discussion. Something like:

You known when Jamie dropped the sword it made me think how different the world is now. I mean some of the soldiers would have been teenagers, not much older than you and some of the teenage girls would have already been married, or at least promised to a boy…”


It must have been hard, leaving your home and everything you knew so well, to go off in a ship into an uncertain future. Some of them must have been scared…”

You will notice neither of these two sentence are actually a question, they are more a ‘provoking’ statement. A little like dropping a line into a river and hoping the fish will bite. Here’s another,

It must have been strange also for the Britons. In less than ten years the Romans leave - leaving behind their stone cities, aqueducts, and amphitheatres - and then a completely different group of people arrive, looking entirely different, speaking a strange language and worshiping strange Gods. Hard to imagine what it must have been like…”

Some classes will pick up on these kinds of statements and run, others might need a bit of help. Generally I like to keep the discussion informal and relaxed in the hope the children will not feel I’m asking them to guess the ‘right answer’.
As the discussion develops try to introduce other areas of conversation, such as:

- Group dynamics - “Did anyone find it difficult working with other people’s ideas?”

- Using drama - “Did it feel strange being in role?”

- Personal perceptions - “Was anybody surprised by what happened or something someones said or did?”

- Developing skills - “Did anyone change their minds or think differently during the work?”

- Curriculum exploration - “Obviously we were using drama, but do you think we explored other parts of the curriculum as well?”
Another useful strategy is to use a “Learning List” like the one in the resources section. I like to laminate and cut out this list, then (its a bit of a palaver) stick each one to one side of the whiteboard. At the end of the discussion I ask the children to look at the list (it becomes familiar after a while) and say if they think we used any of the skills and when. They then move the skill to the other side of the whiteboard, often there aren’t many we left.
Note - Teacher Compass (Quadrant 4): In this quadrant the emphasis is on reflection and evaluation. The discussion can be wide-ranging and open-ended, there is no striving for the ‘right answer’, rather the class are exploring ideas, implications and other possibilities. We are back at the playful/no penalty end of the axis and no one should feel judged or under any obligation to agree or come to a consensus.

The teachers role is to question, provide opportunities for consolidating ideas, provoke new thinking by turning things around and/or playing devil’s advocate, she should create a relaxed atmosphere where the students feel comfortable taking risks and saying what they think.

Using Time Lines and Planning Nodes

Its worth pausing at this moment and reflecting on where the context has got to and where it is going next. Sometimes it can be a bit confusing, following the planning as it is written down, to work out where we are and were we have been. Its worth saying this is less a problem when the action is happening in the classroom. I liked to use a time line to keep track of events.


500 1000 1500 Now
A favourite planning method used by Heathcote was to make a quick list of different possible next moves centring on a particular event or scenario. She called these ‘nodes’ are used them to think divergently and not always take the most obvious route.
Further Activities




Scotland & the Celts



Anglo-Saxon Army

Anglo-Saxon Soldiers


Armour & Weapons


Armour plate












Names of the Gods & powers


Once king god of war & wisdom (Wednesday)


Goddess of love (Friday)


god of thunder (Thursday)


god of battle (Tuesday)



Holy places







Family structures


Short, hard lives




Animals & monsters






Named after chiefs

On rivers - bends & islands


Long Houses





Using & Applying

Problem solving


Processing, representing and interpreting data


Shape, space and measures

properties of position and movement


Speaking & Listening


Standard English


Text Types


Story writing

Play/film script

Myths & legends








Non-chronological report




Planning & drafting



Include. using ICT


Reading strategies


Reading for information


Life processes

Humans, animals and plants

Materials and their properties


Chronological understanding

Historical interpretation

events, people and change

Organisation and communication

Local history study

British history



Geographical enquiry

Knowledge and understanding of places

Geographical skills

Art & Design

Exploring and developing ideas

Evaluating and developing work

Investigating and making art, craft and design


Developing, planning and communicating ideas

Working with tools, equipment, materials and components to make quality products

Evaluating processes and products

Knowledge and understanding of materials and components



of resources

Food supplies

Water supply


of people



Subjugated people





Using Anglo-Saxon roads

Canals & rivers




Status & Power


Non Anglo-Saxons


Entertainment & Leisure



Health & welbeing




Anglo-Saxon Games

Memories and myths




King Arthur


Golden Age

Viking destruction



Distribution of power

Changes in social structure

Role of women

Historical Study

Learning about the past






Historical sources





Monks and monestries

Anglo-Saxon invasions

Historical legacy


On the countryside



Dev of towns

Forts & walls-burhs

Changes in the use of land

Anglo-Saxon ethics

Treatment of women

Captured people

Animals esp wild animals



Rights of citizens

Electing chiefs


Growth of Kingship

Anglo-Saxon rituals & beliefs

Role of the Gods

Conversation to Christianity

belief systems

Life after death

Rembering the dead

Honouring the dead



Sutton Hoo

Pagen & Christain


Effects of Anglo-Saxon& Viking invasions

People of Britain



To travel

To marry

To trade

To worship


Social health


Ownership of land

Ownership of weapons

Social standing



Connection to a wider world





Communication & transport

New beliefs & Religions

History Team

Skills developed


Background information

History of the time

The Anglo-Saxon cultures



Working as a team

Information processing



Mapping the site

Reports to the BBC


Reconstructing the settlement

3-D model

Creating the artefacts



Creating the stories
Historical speculation/hypothesis

What happened here?

Who where the people?

Further excavation

New finds

Other artefacts

Evidence of the A-S community

Of the burial


Artefacts pagen and christain

Evidence of war



With the BBC

With the arch team


Wider world

Methods of communication




Press release

Information leaflet

Guide book

Powerpoint display

Newspaper reports







From the POV of the Anglo-Saxons



Oral stories

Eye-witness accounts

Soldiers report

Possible outcomes

Report to the BBC

Extracts from the programme
Historical Background

  • The Romans officially withdrew from Britain in AD 410.

  • Anglo-Saxon is used by some historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Britain

  • Anglo-Saxon era denotes the period of English history between about 550 and 1066.

  • Three Germanic tribes - Angles, Saxons & Jutes

  • Old English was divided into four main dialects: West Saxon, Mercian, Northumbrian and Kentish.

  • Anglo-Saxons way of life can be paralleled in northern Germany and Denmark, but also in northern France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia and there would have been an element of the original Romano-British population.

  • Christianisation of the Anglo-Saxons began in 597 and was at least nominally completed by 686.

Kings & Succession

  • 600 − 800 seven kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, Kent, East Anglia, Essex, Sussex and Wessex - and - Hwicce, Magonsaete, Kingdom of Lindsey and Middle Anglia.

  • 800 − 1066 In the 9th century, the Viking challenge grew to serious proportions. First began to appear around 789, three longships appeared off the coast of Wessex. Local official sailed out to greet newcomers but the men from the ships struck him down at once and killed him. In 869 King Edmund of East Anglia was captured by the Vikings. One legend describes how they tied him to a tree, fired arrows at him and then beheaded him. Body buried in Bury St Edmunds.

  • Offa - King of Murcia (758 − 796) to be king for 40 years - a very powerful man and a successful warrior. Offa’s Dyke by far the largest structure built in Anglo-Saxon times. 128 km long ditch running from north to south along the Welsh border. Land from the ditch made a bank or dyke. It may have been over 8 m high.

  • An important development in the 9th century was the rise of the Kingdom of Wessex - by the end of his reign Alfred was recognised as overlord by several southern kingdoms.

  • Alfred the Great King of Wessex (871-900) - battles against the Vikings (the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles) - Vikings were attacking along the east coast for 50 years. 865-6 Kingdom of Northumbria defeated by the Vikings. East Anglia was next, and finally Mercia.

Viking King, Guthrum’s, army forced Alfred into the marshes of Somerset - he built a fort on the island of Athelney. Tale of the burning of the loaves.

Alfred tried to buy time by exchanging prisoners. In 878 Alfred struck back and defeated the Danes at the battle of Edington. Alfred was renamed Alfred the great. To protect the country from more Viking invaders Alfred set up a network of forts known as burhs. Many of these burhs developed into towns.

Alfred instigated a resurgence in English culture - scholars from oversees, rebuilt monasteries and commissioned new books. He promoted English language and what united the Anglo-Saxon people.

  • Vikings established Jorvik and the Danelaw.

  • Edward - son of Alfred became king of Wessex. (899 − 924) Fought back against the Vikings driving them north.

  • Æthelstan (925 −939) was the first king to achieve direct rule over what is considered "England". Æthelstan - great-grandson of King Alfred - defeated the Vikings. He captured their stronghold at York in 927. Scotland, Wales and Cornwall soon also accepted him as king of all of Britain. In 937 he defeated a vast army of Britons and Vikings.

  • Edgar the Peaceful (959 − 975) 16 years of peace free from Viking attacks. But many rich nobles were unhappy with Edgar’s reforms that gave their land to the church.

  • After Edgar died trouble returned. Edgar had two sons - Edward (12 yrs) & Ethelred (9 yrs). Edward became king but was murdered 3 yrs later by Ethelred supporters. Edward was murdered while he visited his brother. Some accounts claim Aelfthryth (Ethelred mother) was involved. She offered Edward a drink as he arrived, while the murderer crept up behind and stabbed him. Ethelred turned out to be a weak king (and always tainted by his brother’s murder).

  • In 991 the Vikings came back. Ethelred was called the Unready (meaning ill-advised). The English were defeated at the Battle of Maldon (despite the efforts of the giant, Byrhtnoth, who was beheaded). Ethelred tried to bribe the Vikings to stay away, but they continued to raid and in 1002 he ordered the murder of al Danes in England. The massacre enraged King Swein of Denmark who attacked.

  • By 1014 Swein defeated the whole of England and Ethelred and his family fled to Normandy.

  • Sweins son - Canute (1014 − 1035) became King of England. He was then defeated by Ethelred’s son Edmund (Ironside). Canute returned in 1016 and after winning a victory agreed to split the kingdom with Edmund. After Edmund died, Canute again became king of all England. An apocryphal story tells of Canute demonstrating his lack of godly power to his nobles by failing to turn back the tide. Canute was very unpopular. To prevent an uprising he divided England into four regions Wessex, Murcia, Northumbria and East Anglia. He gave control of Wessex to an Englishman called Godwine. His strategy was largely successful and England was ruled peacefully while he was king. Canute married Ethelred’s widow Emma. Edward, Ethelred’s son continued to live in Normandy.

  • A messy succession. Harold (Canute’s son) 1035 − 1039. Then Harthacanute (1039 − 1042) first act was to order Harold’s body dug up and thrown in a bog. When Harthacanute suddenly died after a drink at a wedding feast, Edward succeeded him as King of England.

  • Edward (1042 − 1066) The Confessor. Was popular with ordinary people but he never got on with his nobles, especially the ambitious Earl Godwine of Wessex. Godwine was a powerful and rich man, in 1036 he had been involved in the murder Edward’s brother, Alfred. Edward had no choice but to make an ally of Godwine by marrying him to his daughter, Edith. Edward established Westminster as the centre of English government. Edward knew that he was the last of Alfred’s line to rule as he had no children, so in 1051 he named a distant cousin, William, Duke of Normandy as his heir. However, Godwine died and was succeeded by his son Harold Godwinson. By the Time Edward died in 1066 Harold was effectively running the country. He was Edward’s natural successor.

  • Harold (1066 − 1066) is crowned king. He defeats a Viking attack from the north at Stamford Bridge. And then takes his arm south to meet William at Hastings. His army is defeated.

  • William (1066 − 1087) The Conquerer, first Norman King.


Sutton-Hoo who was found in 1939.

There is a large mound of earth covering the burial of an important Anglo-Saxon chief probably keen Raedwald who ruled East Anglia in the seventh century. He was buried inside the ship along with lots of treasures which the Anglo-Saxons believed he would need in the afterlife. This ship is huge around 30 m from bow to stern and nearly 5 m at his widest. Archaeologists think the ship was dragged to the top of a cliff from the river below. It was then placed in a trench that had been specially dug for it. A hut was built in the middle of the ship and the coffin and treasures - grave goods - placed inside it. The ship was then completely covered with a mound of earth.

This is a pagan burial because Christians do not need grave goods. So the king that was buried had not converted to Christianity.

Some of the grave goods were not made in England but other countries. Some large silver dishes for example were made in the Middle East in about AD 500. This tells us that trade between England and the rest of Europe was common in Anglo-Saxon times. The fact that these foreign goods are often much older than the grave tell us that people handed goods down from one generation to the next.

The shield found at Sutton-Hoo had to be reconstructed. This is because all of its wooden parts have rotted away in the ground leaving only the metal parts intact. The metal parts included a gold covered bird of prey and a six winged dragon. These may be symbols of courage.

Anglo-Saxon people were cremated after they died and they remains placed urns. Grave goods have also been found near urns.

Most Anglo Saxon burial sites have been looted.
Power - Rulers & Kingdoms

The Saxon society was made up of rich and poor, of Freeman and slaves. It was war like times the stronger and more ruthless you were the more successful and powerful you became.

The King (‘over-King’ - Bretwalda) was a warlord. His job was to provide opportunities for plunder and glory this was how he paid his followers if he did not, then he could expect to be murdered and a stronger person put in his place. You remained King for as long as you could defeat your enemies. Kings could not remain peaceful because they had to get treasure or bounty for their followers. There were no clear rules of succession, would-be kings were often stabbed to death by rivals before they could be crowned. Kings were often executed after a battle, if they lost.
Below the king were freemen. If you had more than five hides of land you were a Thane, Thanes were noblemen. Bodyguards to the king and full-time warriors. Senior noblemen were called Earls. People who owned less than five hides of land called Ceorls (churls). They had to work their own land and the land of their Lord. They could also be called up to the part time army. The slaves were called Thralls. Slaves were captured enemies.

If you were poor, you might sell a son or daughter into slavery so that someone else would take over the job of feeding them. And if you could not pay off your debts you would be made into a slave until you had paid them off. The children of slaves were also slaves, it was possible to be bought out of slavery.

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