Outstanding KS2 history lessons on Anglo-Saxon Britain

To ensure that you follow the National Curriculum requirements, and more importantly to deepen pupils’ real understanding of this topic, it is important to plan it with the Vikings in mind. Indeed, there is a case for combining the two to make one longer topic. The reasons for this are clear in my mind. You can’t teach the Anglo-Saxons for long without mentioning the Vikings. For example, Alfred the Great was considered great partly because of the way he saw off the Viking threat at a critical time in Britain’s history. So our approach has been to have 4 enquiries relating exclusively to the Anglo-Saxons, a couple which look at their inter-relationship and then perhaps 3 or 4 more that look separately at the Vikings. The key thing is not to get too bogged down in the suggested content that Gove left as his legacy. Too much attention to Anglo-Scottish relations and you’ll run the risk of boring the pupils. Remember deep vibrant learning trumps curriculum content coverage every time. In terms of the concepts being taught, there is ample opportunity to look at causation in terms of why the different invaders came to our shore, change and continuity as the battle for control of these land ebbed and flowed, and interpretations: has history been fair to the Vikings? and were the Dark Ages in Anglo-Saxon Britain really that dark?

Why did the Saxons invade? Push or pull? KQ1

A fun thinking skills activity in which pupils infer from visual clues before moving on to analyse a range of influence cards and evaluate a video before coming up with their own explanation for the Anglo-Saxons invasion.

This activity is part of a series...

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Where did the early Anglo-Saxons live and how do we know?

This ambitious but engaging lesson asks children to test some simple hypotheses about where the early Anglo-Saxons settled.  They start with some very straightforward statements to make sure they know how to use a map key.  To make this fun they have to make...

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Anglo-Saxons: Coming of Christianity

A series of smart tasks, rather than a full outstanding lesson. The first part of this two part session looks at how it happened, the second at how we know. The early part asks pupils to grasp the narrative of events within a timeline from Roman...
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Anglo-Saxons struggle against the Vikings KQ3

This task encapsulates the struggle between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings in an engaging way that really makes pupils think about the dynamics of the conflict - rather than 'one damn event and treaty after another'. By using a technique called living (or fortunes) graph, pupils...
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Alfred the Great. How great was he?

In this outstanding lesson, pupils are asked to critique and then improve the BBC children’s website entry for Alfred the Great. But first they need to see how history has commemorated Alfred and then carry out some research for themselves. This lesson offers plenty of opportunities...
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How effective was Anglo-Saxon justice?

Pupils work in groups to create a series of short dramatic enactments, each of which illustrates a way of keeping law and order / punishments meted out in Saxon times. These are then summarised before giving the real-life case of Edgar for them to decide...
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Were Saxon times really ‘Dark’ Ages?

Pupils design a two-sided paper plate on which they record the arguments used in the debate about the 'Darkness' of Saxon Britain. On one side they show the enlightened side of Saxon society. On the other, covered in black paper to represent the Dark side...
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