Reaching a dead end

5th April 2013 at 01:00

It is the last day of spring term and a massacre is impending: "Children, you leave me with no choice but to bring this pandemonium to a bloody end," I say. "And when they find 30 little bodies strewn over the carpet, spreadeagled across tables or staring grotesquely from the book corner, you will have only yourselves to blame."

Before a stun grenade bursts through my window followed by several heavily armed members of the SAS, let me explain that it's only a game. I call it Murder Mayhem and it is very similar to Dead Fish. The main idea is to get children to play dead for the rest of the afternoon. Or for all eternity, whichever comes first.

The rules are simple: when I shout "Murder Mayhem", the children have 30 seconds to die in an interesting and dramatic way. A good example is a slow agonising death by poison. This usually involves doubling over, collapsing by inches and expiring to an accompaniment of groans.

While girls and boys alike seem to enjoy death by poisoning, other ways of departing this world are more gender specific. Ophelia tends towards a passive mode of expiration brought about by unrequited love. There is an anguished moment when her face tells you she has suffered an emotional yet nonetheless fatal wound. This in turn causes her to swoon dramatically, to languish briefly and to depart gracefully.

Ryan, on the other hand, prefers to die in battle. He does this in a way not dissimilar to Sean Bean in his role as Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring, and spends his last moments suffering an accumulation of killer blows, none of which prevents him from wiping out nearly everybody else. Consequently, lots of children get to choose death by Ryan.

In complete contrast, Dylan chooses to die in his sleep, although frankly it's hard to tell.

It is a universal truth that the last afternoon of term will be chaotic. And the best way to survive chaos is to embrace it. For example, our Year 6 children have been studying China, and their teachers decided it might be a good idea to unleash their vast end-of-term energy reserves in a controlled explosion of noise and colour. Their dragon dance involves huge papier mache dragon heads, coloured drapes for children to hide under and a dozen drummers in red.

Constructive chaos would also have been my preferred method for getting through this afternoon, but our RE leader, in a fit of overzealous monitoring, has discovered a terrible truth. My children have missed out on a vital learning experience. Consequently, she has given me two hours to teach them everything there is to know about Hinduism.

"Think of it as karma," she says.

Instead, I think of several unpleasant deaths and loathsome reincarnations for an overzealous RE leader. This just about gets me through the lesson.

"Now children, while I collect your RE folders, I will be looking around for the best dead bodies," I say. "Anyone who remains perfectly deceased from now until home time will be resurrected by the miracle of a Cadbury Creme Egg."

The sudden calm is almost palpable. A rare moment of serenity uninterrupted by ... The approaching sound of drums is unmistakable. I see dead people twitching. I move to bar the door but it is too late. The dragon enters in a blaze of anarchy. Rigor mortis instantly gives way to vigor activus. Mayhem resumes and there is nothing I can do about it other than contemplate murder.

Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield.

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