I have been hard at work producing another history booklet, this time for KS1, on the Great Fire of London. This is on the National Curriculum for KS1 and is a popular topic in schools. However, quite often this topic is handled through role-play, videos and delightful artwork of burning London. I wanted to create something knowledge-rich, memorable and steeped in the disciplinary tradition of history teaching. This presented several challenges. How do I make it knowledge-rich without overwhelming early readers in KS1? And by limiting the amount of text to what a 7-year old can digest, what part of the story do I leave out?
Over a period of weeks, I researched the Great Fire, made notes and came up with three enquiry questions:
- What were the living conditions for people in London in 1666?
- Why did the Great Fire of London cause so much destruction?
- How did London change as a result of the Great Fire of 1666?
Through these three questions, I wanted to get pupils to start tackling the second-order concepts of cause and consequence, as well as change and continuity. By whittling it down to these three questions, it soon became clear what I would regretfully leave out. I had thought about discussing the war with the Netherlands and France, and immigrants in London who were scapegoated after the Fire. This part of the story would have to be left out. The focus became on London’s streets, buildings and trades. What factors contributed to the destructiveness of the Fire, and how London changed, including what didn’t change, after the Fire.
As a Learning For Memory booklet, naturally I also had to focus on making the content as memorable as possible. With this in mind, I tried to write an engaging and accessible narrative, whilst also interleaving vocabulary throughout the narrative. Terms such as ‘flammable’, ‘tinder-dry’, ‘sewage’ and ‘wood, straw and pitch’ make regular appearances in the text. There are also regular retrieval practice exercises dotted throughout the booklet.
The booklet is available for purchase and download here.