Teaching Primary History: Anglo-Saxons & Vikings for Key Stage 2
>>>Latest addition February 2015 KQ3 Anglo-Saxons
MEDIUM-TERM PLANNERS on Anglo-Saxon Britain and Vikings available to subscribers in Planning Section
The following Key Stage 2 history lessons have all been judged to be outstanding according to OFSTED criteria. There is a wide variety of teaching and learning activities as well as a rich array of teaching resources including PowerPoint® presentations. New lessons will be regularly added to meet the demands of the changing primary curriculum.
Outstanding KS2 Lessons/Smart Tasks
Anglo Saxons and Vikings
Teaching the new 2014 curriculum
My strong advice is to teach this as one longer unit combining Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, as there is so much overlap. Teaching them separately would lead to unwelcome repetition.
As you will have noticed the new curriculum pays far greater attention to the Saxons and Vikings. The statutory elements are:
1. Britain’s settlement by Anglo-Saxons and Scots (covers the
period before King Alfred)
2. Viking and Anglo-Saxon struggle for the Kingdom of England to
the time of Edward the Confessor
There are several points that need to been borne in mind when considering your planning. Firstly, both Saxons and Vikings as depth studies are now compulsory in a way they were not in the 2000 curriculum. So there will be work to do. Even schools who have taught the Saxons before will not have done so in this detail. Few will have taught about the Scots.
The most important point to consider is not the content alone but how it provides a context for developing key historical skills. Many of the outstanding lessons featured do just that. Evidence-based enquiry work centres on the cremation urn evidence for Saxons settlement in which pupils test historical hypotheses. The problem-solving Sutton Hoo ship burial detective work lesson really helps pupils to think like historians. Interpretations are well provided for with Has history been fair to the Vikings? Work on causes is dealt with in the push v pull activity on the Saxons.
Background reading for Anglo Saxon key questions
KQ1 Who were the Saxons and how did they arrive?
The terms Saxons and Anglo-Saxons were often used as a shorthand for all the tribes and groups from north-west Europe and Scandinavia, including Jutes, Angles, and Frisian (among others the pupils don’t really need to know). They did, of course, find a deserted island after the Roman legions had left in the 5th century. However they arrived, it was not sudden. There had indeed already been contact and attacks prior to the departure of the Romans and Picts.
I lived for nearly 20 years a few miles away from Portchester castle, a so-called fort of the Saxon shore.
Why they came is the focus of the first lesson which will leave pupils with an understanding of the natural disasters such as flooding as well as man-made motives.
KQ2 Where did they settle?
Pupils discover through archaeological evidence that pupils settled along rivers. Many established themselves as farmers, by-and-large avoiding the Roman settlements, at least in the early days.
KQ3 How did people's lives change when Christianity came to Britain and how do we know?
Christianity was a key feature of Saxon society, especially late Saxon. We know this from the monastic writers such as Gildas and Bede so we have divided the question between the effects of the coming of Christianity and the evidence we have for the changes.
Initially, of course, the Anglo-Saxons were pagans. As we know, their gods were commemorated in the days of the week such as Tuesday named after Tiw and Wednesday named after Woden.
The story of the conversion to Christianity is complex but needs to be told. Essentially it began with Pope Gregory’s mission to Kent in 597. He used St Augustine to convert the rulers first and then the mass of the population would hopefully follow. It did not always run according to plan of course. Some rulers still clung onto their pagan beliefs as pupils will have found out in Key question 3 with Raedwald. Some rulers reverted back to paganism. It is usually thought that King Penda of Mercia was the last pagan ruler.
The Scottish church at the time was founded by Columba in 563. Iona, about which the story in the lesson was written, was the centre of Irish monasticism and had been for a few hundred years.
Pupils also need to learn about Lindisfarne, created by monks in 635 as a centre for learning. It was here that the Book of Kells was written. Pupils need to know that there were two strands to Christianity at this time and this caused tension. One was Celtic Christianity, the other was Roman. This is probably too complex to go into in detail. Suffice to say that the Roman form won out at a meeting to sort out the problems, known as the Synod of Whitby which met in 663. Conversion to Christianity was neither continuous nor easy, so pupils need activities which stress this point.
How do we know?
Pupils need to be aware that much of our knowledge of the early Christianity comes in written rather than built form. The principal source is the Venerable Bede. As he spent his life at Jarrow, in the centre of religious changes he was uniquely well-placed to write his excellent History of the English People and the coming of Christianity in 731. Later Christianity can be seen in the form of stone churches which outlived the more abundant wooden ones. It may be that there are nearby Saxon churches.
KQ4 How were the Saxons able to see off the Viking threat?
Pupils will find it hard to grasp that England was not a united entity. Instead, there were many tribal groups organised into seven kingdoms, often referred to as the Heptarchy but kids don’t need to use this word - sorry, Gove. The magnificent 7 were: Northumbria, Mercia (M for middle of England - helps pupils remember), East Anglia, Wessex, Essex, Sussex and Kent. It is more important that the pupils know the Big 4: Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex as these will feature most prominently in the story of the struggle against the Vikings, the focus for KQ4. Wessex then triumphed by the 10th Century.
Teaching Britain's settlement by Anglo-Saxons and Scots
Although the first part of this requirement poses few problems, the second is highly contentious. It may well be that the Gaels on the Scottish west coast were actually part of the same group as those in Northern Ireland. Where is the evidence of a Scottish invasion? Anyway the whole idea is, as one historian recently put it, 'way, way too complex for Y3 and 4'. so my advice is, don't agonise on this point. Mention and move on.
Resourcing your Anglo-Saxon and Viking topics
A great place to start looking for material ion the Anglo-Saxons is the 24 hour museum site for children called showme. You will be helped to explore an Anglo-Saxon village and 3D artefacts as well as seeing video clips of a recent archaeological dig.
The same site can also be a a great starting point for checking out which museums offer pupils the opportunity to get involved in some problem-solving activities using Viking finds.
The discovery of the first fully intact Viking burial site in the UK (October 20th 2011) - on the Ardnamurchan peninsula in Scotland provides a great opportunity for de-bunking some well known Viking myths. The 16ft-long grave containing the remains of a “high-status Viking” who was buried with an axe, a sword and a spear might suggest the typical Viking warrior image. About 200 rivets - the remains of the boat he was laid in - were also found. Previously, boat burials in such a condition have been excavated at sites on Orkney. Until now mainland excavations were only partially successful and had been carried out before more careful and accurate methods were introduced.
Other finds in the 5m-long (16ft) grave in Ardnamurchan included a knife, what could be the tip of a bronze drinking horn, a whetstone from Norway, a ring pin from Ireland and Viking pottery. These finds question the stereotypical image about the Viking helmeted warriors pillaging the land at will.
5 good reasons for thinking the Vikings were more traders than raiders.
Challenging a stereotypical view of the Vikings
Realising where the evidence comes from and then evaluating it.