My best assembly - Ruff and tumble

26th September 2008 at 01:00
Henry VIII is a study in misuse of power - but he can start some useful debates. Katie Harris and Amanda MacNaughton explain

At some point in key stage 2, the time to cover the Tudors swings around. Henry VIII is always good value. His many wives, his rotundness and elaborate hats and his involvement in the first divorce will entertain children. But hopefully they will also question his antics, perhaps on the grounds of absolute power corrupting absolutely.

You could take a somewhat light-hearted view of Henry VIII's reign, allowing the audience to form their own opinion of this controversial monarch.

One way to tackle this is to approach it like a recipe. Carefully select your cast and narrators, including King Henry, his wives, the Pope and others. Then add several spoonfuls of simple costumes from willing parents, a splash of Tudor-style music and the best cuts of pupils' previous work about the era. Add to this a scattering of easily made and accessible props, such as an axe, chairs dressed as thrones, and finally a sprinkling of humour.

With all of your "ingredients" in place, first pre-heat your class with several weeks of learning about the Tudors, in particular, Henry VIII.

Next, present the assembly idea (and a script if prepared) to the class and encourage children to think about parts they could play and ideas they could contribute. Then, create your script, ideally with contributions from pupils. Include the story of how the wives of King Henry VIII were divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. For example:

Henry: Anne, we have one daughter, Elizabeth, correct?

Anne: Yes, Henry.

Henry: Well I want a son. You're no use if you can't provide me with a son. You'll have to go!

Anne: Yes, Henry.

Henry: Executioner, chop off her head.

Executioner (looking excited): Immediately, your Majesty. (Takes Anne Boleyn away, looking at her hair.) Just a little off the top then dear. (Anne sobs.)

Henry: Jane. Jane. The coast is clear - come to me my dear.

A good idea is to layer the script with good quality cuts of children's work, for example:

Henry (looking at a picture of Anne of Cleves): Well, I suppose she'll do. Bring her in.

Anne of Cleves enters (unattractive, protruding teeth, ungainly walk). Henry looks appalled.

Henry: Oh. How awful. They were supposed to send me (looking at the picture) a beautiful woman, not this horse-like creature (tosses the picture over his head).

Servant - send a message to Hans and his gang, will you? I demand a jolly good portrait.

Servant: Immediately, your Majesty.

Once your script is ready, gently simmer by practising little and often and giving the cast time to learn their words.

Meanwhile, source simple props and costumes needed with some help from teaching assistants and willing parents.

For Henry VIII, for example, you could gather together some trousers, a white frilly shirt, velvet cape, a cushion for his stomach.

Finally, where needed, modify your assembly to suit your class and make it as elaborate or straightforward as you have the time and energy for.

Katie Harris and Amanda MacNaughton are primary school teachers.

Tudor Turbulence

For a complete assembly on Henry VIII and his wives, and nine other curriculum-based assemblies, visit


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