Solving a medieval murder

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
The king's tax collector lies in a pool of blood. Arthur the peasant has been accused of murder. Who could have committed the deed? The haughty lord? The dotty apothecary? The shifty inn-keeper?

Pupils at The Ramsgate School, Kent, were enlisted one day last term to solve this medieval murder mystery. They watched a play, interviewed suspects in the village, deliberated over alibis and came to a verdict, setting Arthur free and leaving the real culprit - the dastardly Lord Deville - in shackles.

All the parts were acted by student teachers on our PGCE secondary history course, run by Kerry Jordan-Daus and Megan Elliotte. Students scripted the play, made sets, inhabited the role of suspects or worked alongside teaching assistants to help pupils formulate the questions they needed to ask. Red herrings, false leads and complex motives abounded.

Pupils had carefully to sift evidence laid before them. They also had to absorb ideas about the medieval village as they went on their way, curtsying to the lady's maid or greeting the blacksmith in Old English.

Many of us felt trepidation about donning tights and capes before a potentially difficult Year 7 audience but, primed by their history teachers, including head of humanities Gareth Price, the pupils proved to be receptive and shrewd detectives. Energy and enthusiasm remained buoyant during the two-hour activity. The pupils displayed good critical thinking and got their man.

Benjamin Crozier and John Gardiner Students on the 2004-5 PGCE secondary history course at Canterbury Christ Church University College

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