This is the wonderful Year 5 class that I’ve been working with.
They’ve written a book about WW1.
Children don’t cover WW1 in the national curriculum until secondary school, so it’s been interesting teaching the kids about ‘The Great War’ and some of the attitudes back then.
I started off my thinking about why people might choose to go to war. I showed them a modern army recruiting film and got them to list reasons why war might be fun. The school had already done a good job in showing them why war was bad so I wanted to get them questioning their assumptions and getting to the bottom of what they really thought.
I got all the kids to stand in a row at the back of the classroom and look, one at a time, at various recruiting posters from WW1. The posters talked about protecting British women and children – ‘all your friends are going’ and you don’t want to be a coward. They talked about doing the right thing, having adventures and being brave and strong. I explained each one and if they felt persuaded I asked them to take a step forward… then we had the next one. By the time we got half way across the room, the kids who had chosen ‘to go to war’ were shouting at the ‘cowards’ who had chosen to stay standing at the back because they thought war was wrong.
At the end of the exercise we discussed their opinions and what had happened.
Later on (about two months later) I was working with a group of them using Google to find out about hospital trains… and I accidentally Googled some images of gassed and injured WW1 soldiers. It was very shocking for the children – I hadn’t intended to do it. Their faces went pale. As fast as I could, I clicked away. They were pretty horrific pictures and I wouldn’t ever knowingly have shown them to the kids. But hey – I’d done it. So I asked them if any of them had ‘chosen to go to war’ in that first session.
All of them had.
So I asked them what they thought about it now…
If you want to find out more about the book the children have written, click here: Nurse Mabel and Her Amazing Fleas!