Christmas approaching, cue inspiring projects to hook the pupils. A Thursday morning, after a school trip the day before and our English lesson was based on recount writing (I know, how predictable). However, after seeing the Sainsburys advert whilst having breakfast that morning, I decided to go off -piste. I set their recounts as homework and took a punt. No WALT, no WILF, no plan, the children were my direction (which is really what teaching should be about). Honestly I can say the work they produced was the best so far this year, you can be the judge…
After teaching the lesson I made some notes for others thinking of using the advert as a prompt. Here..
First thing we did was to watch the advert all the way through, not speaking a word. There was no need to talk as the video speaks volumes Then we discussed what the advert was about, spoke of the war, that it is based on a true story, etc. As we had just looked into advertising as our prior unit, we also discussed whether Sainsburys should use this to advertise, evaluating the ethics.
After, I played the video for a second time I paused for questions, to ensure everyone had fully understood.
- 0:05 Which side is this soldier?
- 0:10 Which side is this soldier?
- 0:12 How is he feeling to receive the package?
- 0:20 Upon hearing the singing- what might he be thinking? Who is singing and what song?
- 0:30-1:00 How have the soldiers expressions changed?
- 1:15 Why does he clench his fists?
- 1:20 Why do the Germans react that way?
- 1:25 Why does he hold up his hands?
- 1:27 What might the German be saying?
- 1:40 What might they both be thinking or feeling?
- 2:26 After the tackle look at their faces, is there any rivalry or hatred?
- 2:37 How does he feel upon hearing the cannon?
- 3:00 Why did they share their food? Did they know the other person was going to do this?
From there, once we had really taken in the message, we started to write our narratives. We wrote from the perspective of the British soldier. As the advert holds such a clear and powerful message, the children really took pride in matching the standard of their writing to meet it.
We broke the clip down and focused on writing short parts at a time, in thorough detail. Not exactly ‘slow writing’ but to that effect. Here are the times the clip was broken down into and the prompts we discussed.
- 0:00- 0:20 Hearing the cannon, receiving letter and opening it
- 0:20-1:09 Hearing a faint noise, getting louder, recognising the tune, joining in and how they’re feeling- hope.
- 1:10- 1:18 Waking up, clenching fists, standing up
- 1:19- 1:27 Hearing Germans shout, guns being raised, friend shouting no
- 1:28- 1:44 Seeing the walls of guns, all the shouting and then silence, seeing the German
- 1:46-2:36 Wall of Germans and English, shaking hands, football together-forgetting about war (discussed feelings- thankful, relieved glad, hope)
- 2:38- 2:58 Hearing the cannon, the feelings, today together and tomorrow fighting
- 3:00 Back in trenches, exchanging gifts
- Thinking about one last line to finish.
These bridged over two lessons. Our first lesson we extended as the pupils were so engrossed, and why, as teachers, should we stop after an hour because it is ‘maths time’. I proposed the question to the pupil: that if Roald Dahl had scheduled lunch for 12 and he was on a roll would he stop? Interesting.
It was amazing to see boys and girls alike love to write. More interesting was when asked why they enjoyed it so much, they answered with because there were no restrictions for them, no WILF to tick. Of course, I modelled the language I wished for them to use, but independently they were including embedded clauses, personification. Level 3 writers were using level 5 techniques. You could argue that I allowed them to ‘work with someone you work well with’ and as such were mixed ability, but as seen from some of the video clips, they mostly worked independently.
As you will see, we used the ipads for the children to play back the advert- through uploading it to my Dropbox account (guidance on this to follow). We also used them to record our narratives over the advert, in a similar way to our advert voice-over lesson.
I gave them freedom. Which is rare to come by with the pressure on teachers. But the results speak volumes, and it didn’t go unnoticed…