Outside of school I co-run a children’s drama group. Drama and music are a great way of teaching as they help engage the pupils in a different way, especially for more complex ideas. I thought I would share some of the ways I use them in the classroom with my Year 7 history class.
Our first foray into drama was the Battle of Hastings. Half the class as Normans, and the other the Saxons. They can be very dramatic, dying is a particular favourite part of the action! It can help to explain how the Normans went from a virtual stalemate to final victory.
The Domesday book is perfect for role play. I cut out cards with local details on, split the class into the information collectors and those being interviewed. The interviewees are then split into different strands of society. We discuss why some information is missed off and how they might feel about the amount of details being collected. It allows pupils to explore the intricasies of the Domesday Book.
The Feudal System is an important part of the understanding of Medieval history. The pupils voted for the king, who then appointed his knights, and so on. As we carried on through our lessons, each member of the class could play their own role they had been assigned at the start.
The death of Thomas Becket was another firm favourite with the pupils. We started off in the court of Henry II over in France, with the class being a mixture of knights and those in Canterbury Cathedral. Though I am sure Becket probably wasn’t quite as dramatic in death as our’s was, definitely would have given Richard Burton a run for his money! However, they then discuss how both parties might feel, and how it got to the point of murder, allowing further discussion points.
It is really difficult to find music from the Norman period, however, once we head into the Angevin era the music is widely available on YouTube. When we were studying anything to do with the royal court, I always started the lesson with a piece of music from the time, the same with the Church, allowing them to see a contrast between the two. Richard the Lionheart was an excellent musician and songwriter so it is an ideal time to introduce the music of the Crusades. It gives another dimension to the pupils understanding of the Medieval world, as well as showing the similarities between our time and then.
The pupils thoroughly enjoyed these lessons, and talked about them all the time. Lesson retrieval was easier as well, as they could picture in their minds what they had acted out or listened too.