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On the front line

Pupils touch bases with this hands-on history. Paige Richardson reports. This active lesson on the First World War incorporates the teaching of diversity with relation to ethnicity. There are five bases around the room. In groups, pupils spend eight minutes at each, studying sources on different elements of the war and completing tasks on a worksheet.

Recruitment. This base shows numbers recruited from across the British Empire and photographs of the West Indian Regiment in Jamaica. Pupils must match statistics with facts.

Women at the front. There are four mini biographies of Mata Hari, Maria Botchkareva, Mairi Chisholm and Elsie Knocker. Pupils have to decide who is speaking.

The fighting many. There are photographs of Flanders' gravestones and war memorials. Pupils must locate the countries on a world map.

Women at home. Includes Empire Day postcards, women's recruiting posters and a ration book. Pupils answer questions on the detail of the sources.

The Empire needs men. A short video about soldiers recruited from West Africa and India. Youngsters watch it and circle correct answers.

At the end, pupils review their learning and the way they have learnt.

Pupils like the fast pace and variety of the lesson and the fact that they learn a lot without the literacy requirements being great.

My school has a very diverse population, with a high proportion of pupils of West African, Chinese and Caribbean heritage. They are motivated because they feel the lesson tells part of their story in a positive way. This lesson is easy to adapt to the diverse nature of any school's community.

Meeting curriculum requirements

The new curriculum asks pupils to understand "the diverse experiences and ideas, beliefs and attitudes of men, women and children in past societies and how these have shaped the world". This also meets the greater emphasis on empire.

Making it work

- Give pupils a worksheet and pen as they walk in, make them leave bags and coats in a separate part of the room - moving belongings always takes too much time.

- If you have an interactive whiteboard use an online stopwatch.

Paige Richardson is a subject leader and an Advanced Skills Teacher at Deptford Green School in London.

Primary resources

The Primary Project Box

Designed to offer primary schools a practical means of ensuring that their subject work with key stage 1 children is excellent, enjoyable and based on sound subject knowledge and pedagogy. It costs pound;89.99 (Subject Association members, pound;59.99). Available from early January, via your subject association or direct from


A teachers' book and CD-Rom Talk About History: Key Stage 1, by the teachers of South Farnham School, has been recently published by LCP, pound;49.95. Visit or call 01926 886914. This resource uses six of the QCA key stage 1 history units to develop pupils' speaking and listening skills. All activities are plotted against National Strategy speaking and listening objectives, and are carefully thought out history activities.


Family Memories: When Your Gran Was Little, by Jane Bidder and Shelagh McNicholas, is published by Franklin Watts, pound;5.99. Grandmothers describe a childhood incident, including watching the coronation of Elizabeth II on the only television in the street. The illustrations are gorgeous. Magazine Primary History, the journal for primary members of the Historical Association, has a special edition on identifying and teaching the gifted and talented pupil. There is also a useful self-assessment chart where you can see how your own teaching scores against the principles outlined in the journal. To request a copy (non-members pay pound;6), visit or call 0207 820 5981.

Alf Wilkinson.

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