Don't go with the Flo

19th October 2007 at 01:00
Famous people who changed history can be the basis for imaginative lessons. Michelle Dexter tells you how to incorporate more than Florence Nightingale.When it comes to studying famous people at key stage 1, Florence Nightingale seems to be the only name around. So we decided enough was enough. We were going to be brave and say no to Flo for the first time in six years. Although she had been joined by Mary Seacole, Florence Nightingale still seemed to be at the forefront of our topic. It was time for a change - to meet some new people.

In lesson one, the focus was to see if the children understood what the word famous meant. We made a class mind map of what pupils understood by this term and then they drew a person they thought was famous.

Then we introduced the topic and began the first session with a look at Elizabeth I. Initially the children were shown a picture of her. They had to decide who she was and why she was famous. Then they watched a BBC programme about her life, discussing the new information they had learned.

We then looked at our Queen and compared her clothes with Elizabeth I's. During the plenary the findings were discussed and the evidence they had used highlighted.

Lesson two focused on the life of Mary Anning, the fossil hunter. The children listened to a story about her in the book Stone Girl, Bone Girl by Laurence Anholt. The children highlighted four main events in her life and turned these into a comic strip with written captions.

During lesson three the children looked at Mary Seacole. We watched a DVD about her life in the Crimea and they then focused on the main events in her life, with pupils ordering pictures of her life chronologically and writing captions. The BBC Famous People website page was used during the plenary as a different source of evidence and as a reminder of her life.

Lesson four looked at the work of Florence Nightingale and in particular the changes she made to hospital conditions. The children watched a short BBC programme and discussed what they had seen. The pupils then stuck a before and after hospital picture in their books and noted the major changes.

Lesson five was based on the pupils using their observational skills to gain evidence about a famous person. They watched a BBC programme about Boudicca. Once it finished, the children worked in groups to compare three pictures of her. They were told that the images were only what people thought she looked like as this person lived a very long time ago. They discussed their findings, decided what they thought she looked like and used the visual accounts well.

The final lesson was aimed at developing all the skills they had learnt over the past few weeks and to develop their independence as learners. I set them some homework to research a famous person of their choice and then bring the information to school. The children were fantastic, and supported by their parents brought in interesting and well-researched pieces of information.

The children were then divided into groups working on the same person, to create a fact sheet. This worked well for those who did not have time to research as working in a group meant they could share the collected information.

The lesson was wonderful: all the children were engaged in their learning and used a wide range of information and skills to retrieve the details required for their fact sheet.

At the end, I assessed what the children had gained and learned. Ninety per cent could tell me one fact about a famous person of their choice and how they found this out. Some of the feedback showed it was a worthwhile experience, not only for history but for the children as learners. The comments included:

- "I enjoyed my history lessons."

- "I liked finding out the information."

- "I learned facts about famous people."

- "We worked well as a teamgroup."

- "I like doing the project on my own."

I was pleased with work the children produced and their responses. This will definitely be the way forward for learning about famous people in our school. My colleague and I had to do our homework, but said how enjoyable the topic had been for us and the children.

Next year, I will give the children more time to research their own famous person. It was amazing to see how much pleasure the pupils had in gaining not only new information but historical skills too.

Michelle Dexter is history co-ordinator and Year 2 teacher at Manor Leas Infant School in Lincoln.


Video - BBC Children's Learning Video Plus: Famous People with Magic Grandad.

DVD - BBC Children's Learning DVD Plus: Famous People 2 with Magic Grandad.

Website -

Book - Stone Girl, Bone Girl by Laurence Anholt

CD-Rom - Heinemann Young Explorer CD-Rom - History


The Tutankhamun Exhibition opens at London's O2 Centre on November 15 and extensive teaching resources, created by the British Museum, are now available online at

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now