KEY STAGE 2 (Year 3/4)
This updated drama unit links to QCA History Unit 9: What was it like for children in the Second World War? and in particular section 4: What was it like to be an evacuee?
These drama activities are taken from Learning Through Drama in the Primary Years by David Farmer. The material can be extended over several sessions, including such activities as Packing a Suitcase, At the Railway Station, Spotlight, Rumours, Journey and Arrival, Settling in, The Letter.
The unit uses a range of media, drama strategies and a fictional story to explore the experience of World War Two evacuees. A range of drama techniques and strategies are used. The full unit can be purchased using the link at the side of the page (Mini-Download).
Extensive use is made of archive radio recordings from BBC School Radio. The audio material can be streamed from the website or ordered on CD from the BBC. Transcripts of the recordings can also be found on the BBC School Radio website. Hyperlinks to all external websites are included within the text.
War posters, photographs of evacuees at railway stations, audio material.
Packing a Suitcase
With the class standing in a circle explain that one and a half million children, teachers and mothers with children under five were evacuated from cities and urban areas in September 1939 in case of air raids. Parents were given instructions to pack a suitcase for their children which would be light enough for them to carry. Ask the children to think about what items parents may have packed in the cases. When they have an idea they should step into the circle, make the shape of the object and say what it is, for example, “I am a tooth brush.” They can invite other pupils to help them make the shape if they need to. Encourage them to think of as many ideas as they can. Keep going until they run out of ideas or everybody has stepped into the circle.
Ask the students to re-form the circle and discuss whether there were any items which may not have existed in 1939. These items should be excluded from the next activity. Using masking tape, mark out a ￼￼￼rectangle (approx 2m by 1.5m) on the floor to represent a suitcase. Ask the remaining objects to step back into their shapes in the circle – but not standing in the suitcase. Using the strategy of Speaking Objects each object must justify why it should be packed in the suitcase. Students simply make the shapes of objects and speak aloud what they are observing and feeling. Select two children to represent the parents packing the case to question the objects. Once they have heard what all the objects have to say they should choose which ones should be packed - and these should stand in the “suitcase”. Of course not every object will fit!
At the Railway Station
This section uses audio from BBC School Radio and photographs of evacuees which can be sourced from books and websites.
Begin by playing Audio 1: Children evacuated on 1 September 1939
The recording provides background sounds and commentary of children waiting at Waterloo railway station to be evacuated. Discuss what is happening: the children are leaving their homes and parents to travel from urban areas to the countryside and may remain there for several years. The class will listen to you reading the story of a brother and sister who were evacuated at the ages of seven and ten.
Away From Home (Part One)
It was a bright sunny morning as the crocodile of children wound its way towards Paddington Station. Among them was seven-year old Alice Taylor, clutching a large suitcase, a worn out teddy bear and wearing a small cardboard box strung around her neck. A long way ahead she could see Jack, her ten year old brother, in amongst the rest of his class. As they entered the station Alice could hardly believe her eyes. Hundreds of children thronged the platforms, carrying backpacks, pillowcases and even bulging coal sacks. Miss Meriwether, her form teacher, lined the class up in pairs.
“Jack! Alice!” She turned round when she heard her name and saw a crowd of worried-looking women by the barrier waving their handkerchiefs. There at the back was her mother. Alice wanted to run back along the platform and hold on to her but Miss Meriwether gave her a stern look. The children had practised evacuation drill once already and been given strict instructions to stay together. Some of the class were crying but many of them looked quite excited about embarking on an adventure. The great railway engines were ready and waiting with plumes of smoke rising from their sooty funnels.
“Maybe we’re going to the seaside,” whispered her friend Timothy Tucker, “Have you brought your bucket and spade?” Alice shrugged and checked that her name label was tied securely onto her coat. Before she knew it Jack was helping her scramble aboard with her heavy case. She held tightly to her teddy bear and the gas mask in its little box and looked back just as her mother shouted again, “Whatever you do, don’t get separated from Jack! Write to me when you know where you’re staying!” But Alice could hardly hear her through the sound of the excited voices, the thundering of the steam engine and the stationmaster’s whistle as the train slowly left the station.
Show the class photographs of children being evacuated at railway stations and in train carriages (displaying a range of emotions). Ask the students to describe the different feelings being shown by the evacuees. Looking at the pictures, are there some things they would like to know more about? Beginning their sentences with “I wonder...”, what questions can they ask? For example, “I wonder what’s in that box,” or “I wonder who the little girl is waving to.” There is no need to answer these questions at this stage.
Divide the children into groups of four or five. Explain that you would like them to devise their own photograph of evacuees at the station by creating tableaux. Remind them to think about the emotions of each character and to show facial expressions as well as body posture. Give them a couple of minutes to discuss and work out their ideas. When the groups show their work you can use “I wonder...” as a way of drawing out what pupils think may be going on. You can use spotlight to organise this and thought-tracking to allow individual characters to speak their thoughts and feelings aloud.
Explain that you are going to ask individual characters to speak their thoughts or feelings aloud - just one or a few words. When the group are in position, tap each person on the shoulder in turn (or hold a cardboard 'thought-bubble' above their head). Ask them to speak the word or words as though they are the character. Many children will find this easy to do. However, if they are stuck, you can ask for suggestions from the observers as to what that character might be thinking or saying. The more you practice this technique, the easier the children will find it.