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World War 2 Day Ideas

By Mark Warner
Age Range: 5 to 11

The ideas below were contributed by teachers from all around the world when I was planning a World War 2 day with my Year 5 class. Thanks to everyone who helped.

  1. Pupils create identity cards before the day.
  2. Dressing up, of course.
  3. Writing postcards home.
  4. Luggage labels.
  5. Listening to the 'wireless'
  6. Recreating the famous broadcast - podcasting throughout day.
  7. Watching British Pathe news clips.
  8. Siren alerts - (fire alarms) children have to get under the table or into an air raid shelter.
  9. Video recording of what to do in the blackout, perhaps in the style of the VideoJug website.
  10. Inviting in community members who were evacuated to be interviewed - these can then be written up by children and shared on a school website and blog - also useful for archiving podcasting interviews.
  11. Children to research what happened in local area during War, e.g. photos of buildings that survived and why?
  12. Science - investigating what materials are best seen in a black out or not seen.
  13. I really love the idea of radio broadcasts. Audacity is a great tool for recording and creating it.
  14. Give children names which were common during the period.
  15. Carry out radio broadcasts and news reports on both Battle of Britain and VE day.
  16. Invite members of the British Legion in and recreate a street party! They are really helpful and like coming in and sharing their stories - we have linked it to what is going on now as well as the country now celebrates a veterans day for all who served in June each year.
  17. DT activity - using recipes from Home front books. Lots are available online and children can cook these!
  18. As part of the shelters topic, they had to 'design' what they thought would be the 'best' shelter using given materials.
  19. What about talking to someone on the other side of the pond? Maybe a Skype/IM event where you talk with another class about WWII?
  20. DT/Maths - design and make a gas mask box.
  21. Watch an episode of Dad's Army or extracts from other videos (e.g. Goodnight Mr Tom, Carrie's War, videos from BBC class clips etc.).
  22. Interview characters from the period. Try this site - http://www.nwlg.org/pages/resources/living_blitz/ - with eyewitness accounts on.
  23. Use Crazy Talk with a photo of Winston Churchil. The pupils would love to see his lips moving.
  24. How about writing in role - in a shelter - freeze framing and then thought talking to follow. They could be shown a photo of children / family in the shelter and try and express how the people feel.
  25. Think about being evacuated and taking a suitcase of your favourite items. What would you put in it? Bring some of them into school to discuss. Children bring a small bag with their favourite items in it?
  26. Learning simple first aid - like how to make a sling or put somebody in the recovery position. It would be an important skill in times of war. Maybe invite St Johns ambulance or Red Cross?
  27. You could write 'found' poetry where children look at poems written by others about war and collect words and phrases from them and then create their own poetry by selecting and rearranging - could be linked to freeze-framing.
  28. Make a book quiz using Wordle. Copy and paste extracts from books for people to guess the book... could be done with war extracts.
  29. What about sticking tape across the windows of classrooms to stop them shattering if a bomb were to explode? You could also try blacking some out too.
  30. What are they going to eat on the day? Can you get dried egg nowadays? They should also see suet - there is the whole history of food here.
  31. Think about 'voice' and the cooks of the day - was it Margureite Patten. Great to do comparison with Jamie Oliver in terms of how formality etc has changed. Could you write instructions in the style of both?
  32. Design WW2 campaign posters and slogans. You could also use Glogster for this. Have a look at this site for lots of lesson ideas about using the campaign posters - http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/wwii-posters/
  33. Make Anderson shelters in DT. Use Go Control and they will build procedures to control their shelters - e.g. the lookout sees the planes coming, then air-raid siren sounds, light comes on in shelter etc. After preset time the all-clear siren goes etc...
  34. Singing WW2 songs - the old BBC Music tapes are great... http://www.bbc.co.uk/schoolradio/music/timeandtune_autumn06.shtml. What about learning actions as well - think "Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run".
  35. Watch WW2 dramas... Spywatch is fantastic.
  36. Suitcase activity - what would they pack if they were being evacuated? What does the content of a particular case tell us about its owner?
  37. Get the children to bring in a cereal box and design a suitcase and then put things that an evacuee would have in the suitcase (suggested by Katie Warriner).
  38. Photograph the day using 21st century technology then use editing software to make B&W / sepia and add effects to make look like old photos.
  39. I am sure there is lots of map work - is it possible to find 'old' maps online?
  40. Use a tool like Primary Pad for collaboration on the day. Have a Primary Pad page up on the computer and throughout the day messages are sent to the pupils? e.g is there anyone out there? My house is under attack etc. This could also be used to communicate between different classes... and share experiences of the day? If all classes are doing ww2 day, then each can be given a different role and therefore respond differently to the messages?
    Home guard, RAF, Land army, etc.
  41. How about a virtual telegraph STOP they could send each other telegram-type messages STOP. Makes children be aware of fullstops STOP.
  42. Overlap with English dept - The Machine Gunners is a brilliant novel aimed at young teenagers.
  43. What about a short drama about feelings; saying goodbye to Mum as you're packed off on the train to the countryside. How does it feel as you leave the station/arrive at your destination?
  44. Could you do some dancing? Find out about dancing from the period and try it out for yourself!
  45. ...and following on, what about some WW2 music? You could get students to write extra verses / analyse the mood / message of different songs
  46. It would be a good idea to develop the unit by COMPARING the experience in the UK with that of civilians in Russia (Leningrad) and Germany (Dresden) - otherwise it gets a bit "Anglocentric"...
  47. Art - how about some dramatic 'going over the top' paintings?
  48. The day itself could be interspersed with "events" that can be presented to the students via radio broadcasts from Chamberlain (declaration of war) through Churchill ("Fight them on the beaches" etc) through to 1945; for each, the students could keep their own "war diary" so that as well as getting the empathetical skills, they are also developing their chronological understanding of the main events. Lord Haw-Haw's broadcasts could be used too, all the way up to VE day ("we may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing" etc).
  49. 'In the Mood' - get the children to imagine they are playing instruments - join together to form an orchestra with a band leader. Learn the Lambeth Walk and Jitterbug - Pathe News have great clips of both these dances. Why not teach the children how to waltz? There must be some parents out there who would come in for an afternoon.
  50. A simple timeline always keeps things in perspective - try http://www.dipity.com. Works well in a group as you can log in with a single username/password and timeline will update in real time. I like to use research groups to look at different aspects of the same subject and each group adds to the same timeline.
  51. Could you ask parents to come in at the end or beginning of the day to 'choose' their evacuees to take home with them? We did this in school and it was good fun!

Do you have any more suggestions? Please add them to the comments below, or email me and I'll add them to this page.


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