In autumn 2014, Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Leeds Museums and Galleries and partners brought together 120 children from four primary schools in Nidderdale AONB and Leeds to remember the Leeds Pals. The schools worked in pairs, and visited Masham and Leeds, to find out how the Leeds Pals were recruited and trained, what happened to them after the First World War and how they are remembered now. Between the visits, the schools worked with Matthew Bellwood, a local writer, to weave their own creative responses to the First World War.
The intended learning objectives were for pupils to:
- Gain greater / deeper knowledge and understanding about the First World War and the involvement of the Leeds Pals
- Understand the backgrounds of some of the Leeds Pals, the training they undertook in Nidderdale, life on the home front for their relatives and their return home
- Understand how we know and learn about the past
- Gain a sense of, and understanding about, the importance of the First World War in their history and the history of Britain
- Enjoy the project and be inspired by the process.
The specific intended KS2 curriculum links were:
- Develop a chronologically secure knowledge and understanding of British, local and world history
- Use and understand historically valid questions / terms about change, cause, similarity and difference, and significance
- Understand how our knowledge of the past is constructed from a range of sources
- Topics: local history study, study beyond 1066
- Emphasise pupils’ enjoyment and understanding of language, especially vocabulary, to support their reading and writing
- Increase fluency as readers and writers.
What the students and teachers said about the project:
- I felt very, very privileged to have had such a great experience (student)
- I feel more grateful about what I have because they gave their lives for us (student)
- I feel really proud (student)
- Now I can recognise objects from WW1 and tell others about them (student)
- They have developed their independence as learners (teacher)
- They have become more able to 'put themselves in others shoes' and appreciate how and why things happened in the past (teacher).
In Leeds and Masham, the children worked alongside each other, and handled real letters, photographs, objects from the Leeds Museums and Galleries collections and recent finds from the University of York’s archaeological dig to bring the stories to life. One student said it was 'magical seeing all the WW1 objects'. The teachers said that working closely with the objects stimulated discussions, sparked questions and developed thinking skills.
Following the project, the schools have used the experience as a springboard for further cross-curricular work in the classroom. They held entirely child-led and interpreted exhibitions, assemblies for parents, written newspaper reports, created stories and drama, drawn comics, made Design Technology projects and used the history as inspiration for numeracy, geography and languages. One of the teachers said of the project, 'really cross curricular – even the children have noticed!'
Using the First World War as stimulus for creative writing
Creative writing is one of the best ways for students to develop empathy and is a useful lens through which to view a sensitive time in history. It can allow students to explore general feelings around conflict and grief as well as giving them the chance to debate and discuss ideas that might not necessarily be their own.
The students involved in Remembering the Leeds Pals worked with local writer, Matthew Bellwood, to think about the history of the Leeds Pals and explore some creative responses to the different histories and perspectives they were gathering.
Matthew asked the pupils to write antonymic diamante poems. It is a simple format, but allows the students to think about and contrast some of the persuasive vocabulary being used during the First World War. There are links to propaganda, persuasive writing and developing critical thinking skills. In this form, the focus of the poem changes half way through. The first half of the poem describes the noun in the first line, while the second half describes the noun in the last.
Verb, Verb, Verb
Noun, Noun, Noun, Noun
Verb, Verb, Verb
Matthew had written an example for the students:
Fighting, Winning, Cheering
Hero, Champion, Coward, Traitor,
Cringing, Sponging, Snivelling,
Download more of Matthew Bellwood's poetry inpsired by war from the resources page, including examples of shaped, sensory, rhythmic and acrostic poems.