World War 2 Teaching Ideas
- October 15, 2021
- Bargain Mummy
This post is written by history specialist Anne.
Whether you are studying the Second World War as a history topic, or are looking for some resources to extend your work on Remembrance Day , take a look at our new World War 2 resources. Our Second World War lesson presentations include lots of factual information, photographs and offer a real insight into what happened and the effect on people’s lives during the war. Explore our World War 2 teaching ideas today!
Battle of Britain KS2 teaching resources
Our Battle of Britain KS2 lesson presentation takes you and your children through the key events of the Battle of Britain. Learn about Hitler’s first plans for an invasion of Britain named ‘Operation Sealion’, the battle in the air between German and RAF planes, and how a new British radar system ultimately led to Hitler’s first defeat of the Second World War.
Allied Forces KS2 teaching resources
British Allies from all over the Commonwealth and the world joined forces to stop and defeat the Nazis. On the other side, the Nazis joined together with Italy and Japan to form the Axis.
Explore some of the key events involving the Allies through the text, illustrations and photographs in our Allies KS2 lesson presentation . Find out about the events of Dunkirk, the D-day landings, the role of the Soviet Army, and the atomic bombs which were dropped on Japan at the end of the war.
The Home Front KS2 teaching resources
If you want to investigate how the Second World War affected the lives of ordinary people, then this Home Front KS2 lesson presentation is perfect. It illustrates how everyone in Britain contributed to the war effort and had to change their daily lives. Women took on men’s roles and worked in hospitals treating the injured, children were evacuated from their homes, whilst regular air raids and rationing affected the everyday lives of the British people.
The Holocaust KS2 teaching resources
The Holocaust was a horrific event that occured during the Second World War. Though not suitable for study by younger children, it is important that older children have an understanding of the way the Nazis discriminated against some groups of people.
We have created a thoughtful and sensitive Holocaust KS2 lesson presentation on the Holocaust for use with older KS2 children. The presentation refers to the concentration camps, Anne Frank and her family, and the rules that the Jewish people had to follow. It also explains how some people were freed and how we remember all the victims today. As with all of our presentations, it is editable so it can be adapted to the needs and sensitivities of your own children and we strongly advise that you read through all of the text before using with your class.
Explore the rest of our World War 2 resources here.
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World War Two (WW2) outstanding lessons
There are some great activities here: role play and debate, zones of inference, market place, explanation builder, call my bluff, curators dilemma as well as sequencing , cartoon annotation, graph analysis and asking questions and evaluating the BBC website . There is also an excellent assessment task with markscheme to show how well pupils have understood the topic, against national expectations.
Planner and assessment task
Planner for Britain at War: The Home Front 1939-45
The new detailed downloadable planner below has key questions, suggested activities, resources and assessments for teaching The Home Front in…
WW2 – KQ1 – Why did Britain have to go to war in 1939?
Pupils learn the sequence of events leading to the Second World war before a lively role-play debate in which they…
WW2 – KQ2a – Why was it necessary for children to be evacuated? Introductory task
Why was it necessary for children to be evacuated throughout the war, and what was the experience of evacuation really…
WW2 – KQ2b – Evacuation enquiry – links with numeracy
This lesson comes towards the beginning of the topic after pupils have explored the nature and reasons for evacuation. I…
WW2 – KQ2c – Extending the BBC website on Eric the evacuee
The BBC children’s history section has been in touch with the school asking for their help in extending their website…
WW2 – KQ3 – How was Britain able to stand firm against the German threat?
This enquiry revolves around a central contemporary cartoon which encapsulates life on the Home Front and how it was geared…
WW2 – KQ3 additional information – Rationing
In order to prevent serious shortages, as early as 1936 the British Ministry of Food had begun to make plans…
WW2 – KQ4 – Curator’s dilemma. Which 8 objects should we show to explain how Britain coped with the effect of war on the Home Front?
In this activity pupils are cast in the role of local museum curators specializing in the commemorating and interpreting of…
WW2 – KQ4 – Britain during World War Two – Call My Bluff
This activity is designed to promote creative thinking as well as to deepen pupils’ understanding of the objects that are…
WW2 – KQ4 – Christmas for children on the Home Front during World War Two
This is not an outstanding lesson as such, more a collection of good ideas and support material to stimulate even…
WW2 – KQ5 – Britain at war. The Home Front
Why is it so difficult to be sure what life was really like on the Home Front? Two great tasks…
WW2 – KQ6 – What was VE day really like? Advising the film producer
In this really varied lesson pupils are asked to offer first-rate historical advice to a film producer who is about…
WW2 – KQ6 Background information – What was VE Day really like?
8 May 1945 – VE (Victory in Europe) Day – was one that remained long in the memory of all…
Y6 pupils play film detectives to learn about government propaganda SMART TASK
Using a short Ministry of Information film, which last just 8 minutes and can be accessed online here (please note…
Why did Germany lose the Battle of Britain?
If Britain was only a few days away from defeat in August 1940 how on earth did she win the…
Teaching Life in Britain 1930-1945 at Key Stage 2
Inexplicably axed by Michael Gove from the curriculum, my advice is to carry on teaching this highly successful unit focusing…
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World War 2 (WW2) History Lessons, Worksheets & Resources
Browse our online library of world war 2 (ww2) history lessons and resources. aimed at students 11-14 years old (ks3) & 14-16 year old (gcse). great for home study or to use within the classroom environment., featured resources.
Looking to save time and find the most popular and useful resources on School History? Take a look at the featured resources below.
KS3, GCSE & A-Level Resources
Are you teaching students aged 11 to 16? If so, you can save a lot of time with our specific World War Two modules below.
Key site in bristol: stokes croft facts & worksheets.
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Resources you can trust
World War Two teaching pack
Take a step back in time with your KS2 class to explore wartime Britain. Designed to develop children’s understanding of the impact of this life-changing event, the pack focuses particularly on children’s experiences and includes a range of activities and resources for history, English, DT and display. We’ve even gathered together an audio collection of childhood memories.
- 31 teaching ideas and accompanying resources, including some based upon texts by Michael Morpurgo
- links to the curriculum.
History (pages 1-53)
- Teaching ideas
- The United Nations International Day of Peace
- What started the Second World War?
- Anne Frank – Key events
- Anne Frank timeline
- Anne Frank dos and don’ts
- D-Day landings
- Remembrance Day study
- How was life different during the war?
- Clothing coupons
- Report on rationing
- Air raid shelter
- Air raid precautions
- What was it like? – Gathering evidence
- Now and then
- Evacuation suitcase – activity pack
- How did you feel on VE Day?
Literacy (pages 54-92)
- I Believe in Unicorns
- Friend or Foe activity pack
- Letter to a new teacher
- A week of diary writing – step back in time
- World War II picture poetry
Design Technology (pages 93-106)
- Curriculum coverage
- Wartime recipes
- Rationing in World War II – sandwich filling survey
- Sock monkey template
- Propaganda PowerPoint
Display (pages 107-125)
- World War II word mat
- World War II leaders word mat
- World War II leaders fact cards
- World War II fact cards
- Board game template
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World War II
What was World War II?
World War II involved many countries around the globe fighting against each other, including the UK. It lasted six years, from 1939-1945.
The War became a global conflict after the German military, led by Adolf Hitler , invaded Poland in 1939 because he wanted to take some of their land for Germany . France and Britain declared war on Germany because they didn’t think what Germany was doing was right, then Italy joined with Germany, and gradually other countries in Europe and around the world became involved with either the Allies or the Axis powers.
Life during the Second World War was very difficult. Today, we mark special days to remember the many millions of people who fought and died during World War II.
Top 10 facts
- World War II lasted from 1939 to 1945.
- World War II began when German troops invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 .
- The UK declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939. It was announced by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.
- While many countries were involved in the war, they each took sides – either with the Allies, or the Axis.
- The main Axis countries were Germany, Italy and Japan .
- The main Allied countries were Great Britain, the United States , France and the Soviet Union ( Russia ).
- British Prime Ministers during World War II were Neville Chamberlain until 1940, then Winston Churchill .
- The Battle of Britain , between the German Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force, was the first ever battle to be fought only in the air. It was made up of lots of air battles that lasted from 10 July to 31 October 1940.
- World War II ended in Europe on 8 May 1945 – this is also known as VE Day (Victory in Europe Day).
- World War II carried on for a few months after it ended in Europe, and officially ended when Japan formally surrendered to the Allies on 2 September 1945 (also called VJ Day).
- 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland
- 3 September 1939 The UK and France declared War on Germany
- 14 May 1940 The Home Guard was created (The Local Defence Volunteers)
- 26 May-4 June 1940 The evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk, France
- June 1940 German troops occupied the Channel Islands.
- 10 June 1940 Italy declared war on Britain and France, and allies with Germany
- 10 July-31 October 1940 The Battle of Britain
- 7 September 1940 The Blitz begins in London
- 8 September 1941-27 January 1944 The Siege of Leningrad
- 7 December 1941 The Japanese attacked an American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
- 8 December 1941 The United States declared war on Japan, and joined with the Allies
- 6 June 1944 D-Day, when troops from Britain and the US landed in France to fight against the Germans
- 16 December 1944-25 January 1945 The Battle of the Bulge
- 8 May 1945 VE Day (Victory in Europe Day), when Germany surrendered
- 15 August 1945 VJ Day (Victory in Japan Day), when Japan surrendered
- 2 September 1945 Japan formally surrendered, and officially ended World War II
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Did you know?
- Even though World War II involved countries all over the globe, there were two sides fighting against each other – the Axis powers and the Allied powers.
- The UK was part of the Allies.
- Two types of aeroplane were used in the Battle of Britain – bombers that dropped bombs on towns and cities and fighters that attacked other aeroplanes.
- The main aeroplanes flown by the RAF were fighters called the Spitfire and the Hurricane . They tried to destroy German bombers before they could attack British towns and cities.
- The Luftwaffe (Germany’s air force) used both bombers and fighters. They used the bombers to attack towns and cities, and the fighters to stop the RAF fighters from destroying German bombers.
- The German’s most famous fighter aeroplane was the Messerschmitt and their main bombers were the Heinkel, the Junkers and the Dornier.
- British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, US President Franklin Roosevelt and Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin were known as the ‘big three’. They were all leaders of Allied countries.
- The Siege of Leningrad – when all the roads going in and out of Leningrad were closed off so nobody could come in or go out, even to get food – lasted for 900 days (about two and a half years).
- The code name for D-Day was ‘Operation Overlord’.
- D-Day is a name the military use when planning an event – the ‘D’ doesn’t stand for anything.
- The code name for the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk was ‘Operation Dynamo’.
- Hitler’s plan to invade Britain in the summer of 1940 was called ‘Operation Sea Lion’.
Browse through the gallery and see if you can spot the following:
- Spitfire planes
- The bombing of Cologne in Germany
- Omaha Beach in Normandy
- A D-Day commemorative statue
- Soldiers' graves in Normandy
- The evacuation of troops from Dunkirk
- Winston Churchill during WWII
- Neville Chamberlain declaring war on Germany
- Supermarine Spitfire aeroplanes
- Hawker Hurricane aeroplane
- A Luftwaffe aeroplane
- Adolf Hitler
- Benito Mussolini
- Franklin D Roosevelt
- Hideki Tojo
- Joseph Stalin
- World War II British Army uniform
The main countries and leaders that made up the Allied powers were:
- Great Britain – led by Prime Minister Winston Churchill
- The United States – led by President Franklin D Roosevelt
- France – led by Charles de Gaulle
- The Soviet Union – led by Joseph Stalin
- China – led by Chiang Kai-shek
The three main countries and leaders that made up the Axis powers were:
- Germany – the Nazis, led by Adolf Hitler
- Italy – the Fascists, led by Benito Mussolini
- Japan – known at that time as the Empire of Japan, led by Hideki Tojo; the emperor of Japan during World War II was Emperor Hirohito.
World War II began when the UK and France declared war on Germany, after German troops led by Adolf Hitler had invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 to claim land there as their own. Hitler had already invaded Austria and Czechoslovakia, so the war began over his plan to take more land for Germany.
The Siege of Leningrad is a famous event during World War II. For 900 days – from 8 September 1941 to 27 January 1944 – the city of Leningrad in Russia was surrounded by German troops. That meant everyone inside the city had to stay there, and that there wasn’t any way for food or other provisions like medicine to get in. Many hundreds of thousands of people died during this time (600,000-800,000) because there wasn’t enough food or heating to go around, but the people who lived in Leningrad refused to surrender to the Germans.
In 1940, the French port of Dunkirk was the location of a big turning point for the Allies in World War II. Hitler’s armies bombed Dunkirk heavily, and many Allied troops were waiting on the beach to be rescued because they didn’t have the resources they needed to fight back. From 26 May to 4 June, over 550,000 troops were ferried to safety across the English Channel – the code name for this was ‘Operation Dynamo’. Some British civilians (people who weren’t in the army) even used their own boats to help save as many people as they could. The rescue operation helped to boost morale in Britain, where they really needed some good news. This helped in going into the next major event in World War II, the Battle of Britain .
The Royal Air Force were the stars of the Battle of Britain , which is the first military battle to be fought entirely in the air. In ‘Operation Sea Lion’, Hitler planned to invade Britain and add another country to his list of conquests. But, first he had to fight off the RAF, which is where he ran into trouble. Britain’s RAF beat Germany’s Luftwaffe, but after a long series of battles from 10 July-31 October 1940. The whole thing is called the Battle of Britain because it’s what made Hitler eventually change his mind about trying to invade the UK, and he went after Russia instead. The RAF pilots showed tremendous courage and bravery as they kept fighting the Luftwaffe even when it looked like they might lose.
June 6, 1944 is also known as D-Day. On that day, the Allied forces launched a huge invasion of land that Adolf Hitler’s Nazi troops had taken over. It all began with boats and boats full of Allied troops landing on beaches in the French region of Normandy. They broke through the German defences and carried on fighting them back through Europe for the next 11 months until they reached Berlin, where Hitler was then hiding.
The Battle of the Bulge took place from 16 December 1944-25 January 1945, and was the last major effort by Hitler to defeat the Allies. He had hoped to break up the parts of Western Europe that the British, American and French troops secured by splitting the area in half – this would mean that the armies wouldn’t be able to get supplies across to each other, and would make them easier targets for Hitler and his armies to fight against. But, all Hitler did was to make the Allied line of troops ‘bulge’ in the middle as he fought to push them back, and the line didn’t break completely. So, he didn’t accomplish his goal, and the Allies won the battle.
Names to know
Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940) – British Prime Minister from 1937-1940; Chamberlain was Prime Minister when Britain declared war on Germany. Winston Churchill (1874-1965) – British Prime Minster from 1940 to 1945, then again from 1951 to 1955; Churchill was Prime Minister during most of World War II. Churchill is famous for his speeches that inspired people to keep on fighting. Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) – German dictator during World War II, and leader of the Nazi political party Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) – Italian dictator during World War II, and leader of the Fascists; Mussolini was also known as ‘Il Duce’ (‘the leader’), and joined forces with Hitler as one of the Axis powers. Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945) – United States President during most of World War II Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) – leader of the Soviet Union during World War II Hideki Tojo (1884-1948) – Japanese leader and military general during World War II
Just for fun...
- Learn to sing songs that were popular during WWII , including 'White Cliffs of Dover' and 'Everything stops for tea'
- Use interactive maps to see the battles of WWII in Europe, Africa and Asia
- Take a WWII quiz
- Design the interior of an Anderson Shelter and try some WWII craft activity ideas with the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum Armchair Explorers Activities
- Watch the Horrible Histories song about WWII pilots, The RAF Pilots - The Few Song
- See a Battle of Britain dogfight in action and find out about Britain's pilots in a BBC interactive guide to the "secret" of winning the Battle of Britain
Children's books about World War II
Find out more:
- A series of BBC films about WWII for KS2 children offers a comprehensive overview of World War Two for primary schools
- Watch a brief video overview of the Second World War
- Read about the 5 phases of WWII
- 10 facts about WWII from National Geographic Kids
- Watch WWII video clips from the BBC archive and find out more about evacuation, the Blitz, rationing, famous WWII songs, news reports, speeches and eye-witness accounts
- A children's guide to WWII from DKfindout!
- Interactive articles and timelines about the major events and people of World War Two
- Video information about rise of the Nazis
- Read a BBC Bitesize summary of WWII
- A complete BBC interactive timeline of WWII , including videos of key events
- Maps, investigations and individual sources about WWII from the National Archives
- Look at an interactive map of the world and events during World War II
- Watch short BBC films about the significance of D-Day, the biggest air and seaborne invasion in history
- Understand more about D-Day: look through information sources about D-Day and read a D-Day guide from the National Army Museum
- The CBBC guide to D-Day
- See photographs of the Dunkirk evacuations
- Read about what people who lived during World War II remember from those difficult years at the website ‘The People’s War’
- Find out about 9 iconic aircraft from Battle of Britain , including the Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane
- A detailed guide to the Spitfire, the most famous plane of World War Two
- Find out about all the different types of World War II defences (called pillboxes) that you can still see around Britain
- Watch a Newsround introduction to the Holocaust
- The life and times of Winston Churchill , and how Churchill's speeches (and his dentures!) contributed to the war effort
- Read about life during WWII in kids' historical fiction set during the Second World War
- Nathalie Sergueiew, 'Treasure', was a WWII spy
- Look through photos of Victory in Europe (VE) Day celebrations
See for yourself
- See exhibits from the Battle of Britain and the Blitz at the RAF Museum in London . You can even climb into a Spitfire and experience what it would have been like to fly one!
- Take a tour of the HMS Belfast, one of the ships used to ferry troops to Normandy on D-Day
- See the aeroplanes involved in the Battle of Britain, inside on of the hangars that was actually used in 1940, at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford
- Walk through the Cabinet War Rooms , which were located underground so Winston Churchill and other leaders could kept safe during the Blitz and hold top security meetings
- Britain built thousands of defensive structures called Pill Boxes all over the country that soldiers could use to defend the country if the Germans invaded. Are there any near where you live?
- Find out about code-breaking at Bletchley Park
- See and find out about objects from World War II
- Hear all the sounds of WWII: Chamberlain and Churchill's speeches, WWII songs and music, news as it was reported in 1939-1945
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World War 2 Day Ideas
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.
- Pupils create identity cards before the day.
- Dressing up, of course.
- Writing postcards home.
- Make luggage labels.
- Listening to the ‘wireless’ (old broadcasts may be available on Youtube).
- Recreating the famous broadcast – podcasting throughout the day.
- Watching British Pathe news clips.
- Siren alerts – (fire alarms) children have to get under the table or into an air raid shelter.
- Make a video recording of what to do in the blackout.
- 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.
- Children to research what happened in the local area during the War, e.g. photos of buildings that survived and why.
- Science – investigating what materials are best seen in a blackout (or not seen).
- I really love the idea of radio broadcasts. Audacity is a great tool for recording and creating it.
- Give children names which were common during the period.
- Carry out radio broadcasts and news reports on both the Battle of Britain and VE Day.
- 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.
- DT activity – using recipes from Home front books. Lots are available online, and children can cook these!
- As part of the shelters topic, they had to ‘design’ what they thought would be the ‘best’ shelter using given materials.
- 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?
- DT/Maths – design and make a gas mask box.
- 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.).
- Role-play interviews with characters from the period.
- Use Crazy Talk with a photo of Winston Churchill. The pupils would love to see his lips moving.
- 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 to express how the people feel.
- 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.
- 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 John’s Ambulance or the Red Cross?
- 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 – this could be linked to freeze-framing.
- Make a book quiz using a word cloud tool. Copy and paste extracts from books for people to guess the book…. This could be done with war extracts.
- What about sticking tape across the windows of classrooms to stop them from shattering if a bomb were to explode? You could also try blacking some out, too.
- What are they going to eat on the day? Can you get dried eggs nowadays? They should also see suet – there is a whole history of food here.
- Think about ‘voice’ and the cooks of the day – was it Margureite Patten. It’s great to do a comparison with Jamie Oliver in terms of how formality etc, has changed. Could you write instructions in the style of both?
- Design WW2 campaign posters and slogans. Have a look at this site for lots of lesson ideas about using the campaign posters – https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/wwii-posters/
- 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 a preset time, the all-clear siren goes etc…
- Sing WW2 songs. What about learning actions as well – think, “Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run”.
- Watch WW2 dramas… Spywatch is fantastic.
- Suitcase activity – what would they pack if they were being evacuated? What does the content of a particular case tell us about its owner?
- Get the children to bring in a cereal box, design a suitcase and then put things that an evacuee would have in the suitcase (suggested by Katie Warriner).
- Photograph the day using 21st-century technology, then use editing software to make B&W / sepia and add effects to make it look like old photos.
- I am sure there is lots of map work – is it possible to find ‘old’ maps online?
- Use a tool like Google Docs for collaboration on the day. Have a document 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.
- How about a virtual telegraph STOP? They could send each other telegram-type messages STOP. Makes children be aware of full stops STOP.
- Overlap with English dept – The Machine Gunners is a brilliant novel aimed at young teenagers.
- 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?
- Could you do some dancing? Find out about dancing from the period and try it out for yourself!
- …and following on, what about some WW2 music? You could get students to write extra verses / analyse the mood / message of different songs.
- 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”…
- Art – how about some dramatic ‘going over the top’ paintings?
- 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).
- ‘In the Mood’ – get the children to imagine they are playing instruments – and 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.
- A simple timeline always keeps things in perspective. I like to use research groups to look at different aspects of the same subject, and each group adds to the same timeline using online tools.
- 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.
James And The Giant Peach
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