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Put Henry in the hot spot

Get your key stage 2 pupils to quiz him on his wives, Jerry Springer style, says Seamus Gibbons.I was amazed at the enthusiasm that my class of eight-year-olds had for our Tudor topic, particularly Henry VIII's six wives. Their most frequent question: "Who was Henry's favourite wife?"

So I decided to consolidate their understanding by role-playing a Jerry Springer style show with one child playing Henry and six others his wives. I told the children we were going to create a time machine to bring Henry and his wives back and they were going to work in groups to work out which wife was the favourite.

The children worked in seven groups, each researching a different character with technology and books. They needed to find reasons why the wife they were researching was or was not Henry's favourite, while the Henry group researched his opinions. I cross-linked this with circle time so pupils could discuss what emotions they thought the women would have felt.

The children then picked one person in their group to represent the person they had studied. They discussed what they would say, how they would act and so on.

We set the classroom up like a chat-show with chairs for the wives and Henry. The other pupils were the crowd and I was the host, mainly for classroom management reasons.

Henry, in costume, told us about himself, his wives and why he had so many. We took questions from the audience and it was brilliant to see the children in character. We then brought out the wives one by one who told us why they were or were not his favourite and what they thought of Henry.

They really got into character, they were stomping their feet, raising their voices, being competitive with one another and it was hilarious. The crowd asked questions and booed and clapped throughout.

At the end they voted on who they thought Henry's favourite wife was.

The children thoroughly enjoyed this and I loved teaching it. It was so nice to see the children learning from each other, encouraging each other and consolidating each others' understanding.

Later the whole class wrote a Lonely Hearts advert for Henry's perfect wife - the children excelled themselves, displayed a very good understanding and were not afraid to add humour and opinion.

Seamus Gibbons teaches Year 4 at Charville Primary School in Hayes, Middlesex.

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