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We didn’t start the fire

From now until the end of the year, Year 9 history classes will be focussing on the 20th century. We’ve got units on the Titanic. WW1, Immigration, Family History and 20th century personalities to come, as well as a couple of chances for pupils to devise their own enquiries, but we wanted to start by giving pupils a ‘big picture’ of the century.

To do that we’re breaking each class up into group, each group gets a decade which they have to research and produce a poster on. I’ve got three year 9 classes, so they’ll be competing with each other to see which classes posters make it onto my wall for our timeline. Our first lesson on this will be in the library, as there are some great books that sum up a decade in a couple of pages – a far more useful start than researching online (although this will follow to allow students to fill in any blanks). As I couldn’t get my class into the library today, I went back and tweaked an old lesson I used to do at the end of yr 9 using Billy Joel’s ‘We didn’t start the fire’, for which there’s a great video here.

The old version involved looking at who pupils recognised and then having them write the next two verses (one on the 90’s and one on the 00’s).

This time I used it as a way into the 20th century project. This is how I described the outline in an email to the rest of the dept:

The lesson will run a little like this:

  • Show the video. Ask pupils if they knew anyone / any thing mentioned.
  • Show the video again asking pupils before hand to look at what type of things are mentioned (people, technology, events etc etc). Go through ideas to create a mindmap on the board
  • Give out factsheets (taken from this page) (1 per group of three) and ask pupils to go through a couple of years to see if there’s anything that they can add.
  • Explain we’re going to focus on the 1960’s. Why has he chosen those events? (bringing out the idea of significance) Does anyone know of anything else he could have included?
  • Each table then has to try and bring the events from the 1960’s into some kind of poster on FC paper. Looking for ability to make sense in a way other than chronological (grouping etc)
  • We then look at each version, www & ebi
  • Then explain from next lesson each group will have a specific decade to do (excluding 1960’s) during which they will have to produce a poster, plus come up with their own verse to ‘we didn’t start the fire’ including key events.

If needed we can then reshow the video and have a sing along ;0)

It worked really well, students picking out a whole range of ideas from the video and giving some excellent feedback on each others posters, identifying ideas that they will and won’t use in their century poster next lesson. As a final activity we threw out ideas of what would be in the verse for the last year. Including, much to her apparent embarrassment, Ellie’s achievement’s at the Paralympics!

I’ll add some pics of the final posters when they’re done

Dave Stacey

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