Humanities - Playing for your life

29th June 2012 at 01:00
Tell the story of Anne Frank with a game of hide-and-seek

This is a year of historic anniversaries and national celebration. But 6 July marks another, less heralded, anniversary: it will be 70 years since Anne Frank and her family went into hiding from the Nazis and she began to keep her celebrated diary.

The Second World War is always a fantastic topic to teach. Pupils are fascinated by its impact on daily life and evacuation is a wonderful way to emphasise the effect it had on children in Britain. Children quite easily relate the stories of evacuees to themselves, imagining how they would have survived in those conditions.

But I also like to encourage pupils to consider the impact the war had on children in occupied countries, particularly those who were Jewish. Victimised, humiliated and persecuted, they did not have the luxury of evacuation to keep them safe.

A lot of the real terror and impact of war is lost if you only teach about evacuation, which is why I am so fond of relating the story of Anne Frank.

I start by taking the class into the hall or out into the grounds for a game of hide-and-seek. When the children return to the classroom we talk about how seekers were outwitted or how easy it was to find hiders who gave themselves away too easily. When we begin to study Anne Frank, children rapidly realise that the "game" of hide-and-seek being played by many Jewish families during the war was actually a desperate bid for survival - not only against tyranny but often certain death.

In the past I have taken the concept further by erecting screens in the classroom, encouraging children to change into PE kit or eat cake from a plate with a knife and fork without making a sound for fear of being caught. They quickly get a very real sense of the terror the Jewish families must have felt.

Children understand hiding. By using it to teach what war meant for those caught up in it, the nature of Anne Frank's story becomes all the more harrowing. Anne is no longer just writing on a page, but a frightened little girl, hiding for her life. When the ending is revealed - that Anne's family has been captured, sent to a concentration camp and slaughtered - my class is always devastated.

Chris Fenton is an associate headteacher, author and publisher. Email him at

What else?

Watch a recreation of Anne Frank receiving her diary in a dramatisation from BBC Class Clips - History.

Explore the story of Anne's life with a timeline activity shared by fairykitty.

Find all links and resources at

In the forums

In the TES Resources history forum there is advice for trainee teachers on how to impress in a Second World War observation lesson. The activity ideas could help with your lesson planning.

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