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Drama for Holocaust day

Drama is an under-used tool which my school is using more and more to support learning. Teaching children about the Holocaust can be a daunting and difficult experience. For the past two years, our Year 6 children have taken part in the national Holocaust Memorial Day at the Broadway Theatre in Lewisham.

This year, the children worked on this in their history and literacy lessons. As the majority of the class has little knowledge of the Second World War, a very creative cross-curricular approach was necessary to enable them to understand this emotive subject.

The children began by researching the causes and consequences of the Second World War in literacy. During the course of this research, they became particularly moved and horrified by the Jewish experience. The next step was to study the life of Anne Frank, and they wrote their own versions of her life story as well as biographies of their own. This study helped them to gain a deeper understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust.

After that, they worked with a drama teacher from Greenwich and Lewisham's Young People's Theatre, who introduced them to a range of dramatic techniques to enable the children to put themselves into a Jewish person's shoes. This included sitting in the hot seat where they pretended to be a Jewish character, and a "corridor of thought" where they listened to other people's points of view as they walked in character through the middle of the group.

The children then wrote poems called "Hate". These demonstrated perception, compassion and a deep understanding of the Jewish experience, and the poems were then used to create dramatic still images of scenes from Jewish life.

Finally the children wrote raps about the images they had created. They wrote one called Love and Hate, which they performed at the theatre on Holocaust day.

Using drama allowed them to achieve a much deeper understanding of the Holocaust. It also gave them the opportunity to be compassionate towards a period of history that is traditionally left until secondary school.

Sue Blyth, headteacher, Gordonbrock Primary School, Lewisham

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