KEY STAGE 2 (7-11 years)
This 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 for key stage 2 are taken from Learning Through Drama in the Primary Years by David Farmer. The complete drama unit can be purchased as a mini-download, covering 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 variety of drama techniques and strategies are used.
Extensive use is made of archive radio recordings from BBC School Radio. The audio material can be streamed from the website. Hyperlinks to all external websites are included within the text.
War posters, photographs of evacuees at railway stations, audio material.
- To empathise with the experiences and feelings of evacuees
- To present the viewpoints of different characters through dialogue, role-play and writing
- To understand and use drama strategies to explore issues
- To identify and discuss the qualities of others’ performances
Below are some sample activities from the Unit.
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 full Unit includes a story of a brother and sister who were evacuated at the ages of seven and ten, based on real-life stories.
Show the class photographs of children being evacuated at railway stations and in train carriages (displaying a range of emotions). These work well if they are projected or on a white board. 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.