I hated history in school, apart from Henry VIII.  He fascinated me.  The rest however was plain boring.  In particular I hated learning about wars and battles.  To me it was a list of dates and names of people with whom I had no relationship with and frankly didn’t care whether they lived or died.  Apart from Henry VIII.  I always wondered if he had lived longer, how many more wives he would have worked his way through?  Anyway I digress.  Now I’m an adult I understand that learning about battles is an effective way to learn about leadership, strategy and thinking and acting under pressure.  This is important stuff.  History is about real people and it is possible to build a relationship with these historic figures who walked the lands centuries before us.  And it is that relationship, the meeting of minds, which allows us the privilege of wandering alongside them, learning not just from their mistakes but their successes.  The following exercise led the children towards an understanding of the state of affairs (and the state of the two armies) involved in the Battle of Hastings 1066.  It introduces us to the main players and helps us to understand why events unfolded as they did.

Before I started the lesson (another one from this excellent website), I had the children read these books during their quiet time:

     

For the record, they are all excellent books and the children really recommend them.

They also watched:

I don’t think it’s necessary to read all of these but things are always more interesting for my children when they know their subject matter well.  In this case I wanted them to really understand who Harald Hardrada, Harold Godwinson and William were and how the three of them had come to believe they were the rightful heirs to the throne.  I wanted the children to know them so well they didn’t need to think to recall who was who and who did what.  This would be important during the lesson to prevent any confusion.

I asked them to dress up – one as Harold, one as Harald and one as William:

DSC_0415

I thought the characterisation would be helpful, as well as adding an element of fun to proceedings!

The purpose of this lesson was to have the children think about why Duke William wanted the English throne.  As teacher I was supposed to be William and read out a speech.  I had to change the exercise from the above website as it was written for a classroom of students.  I read out the speech, but not as William just in third person (I had to reword some of the speech to make this work).  I asked the children to put up their hands whenever they heard a reference to the king they were dressed up as.  This served to ensure they were paying attention and also worked as a visual account of the people contained within the speech.  I had cut out pieces of card with the different reasons William wanted the English crown printed on them.  Each child had an individually set:

DSC_0420

The speech contained six paragraphs, each pertaining to one of the reasons that William wanted the throne.  I paused at the end of each paragraph to allow the children time to discuss and choose the alluded to reason.  They found this fairly simple.

DSC_0421

Once we had got through all the speech and the children had held up all six cards, we organised these reasons into a Venn diagram categorising them according to whom he should share each reason with: the Anglo-Saxon, his barons or both; or ones he should keep to himself.  For example it was in William’s best interest to tell both his people and the Anglo-Saxons that the pope supported him, meaning God was on his side; however it was probably best not to tell the Anglo-Saxons he was hoping to get rich by heavily taxing them-this may have lead to a revolt!

DSC_0422

We had some great discussions and a lot of fun:

DSC_0426

Afterwards I set them an essay to discuss some of the reasons William wanted to become king of England, which they are ploughing their way through this week.  They are now set to learn about the actual battle and its ramifications for Britain.  I’ll need my handy dandy papier mache map for that…..