For KS1 (also KS2 & KS3)
The children delve into the Jacobean world of the Gunpowder Plot and persecuted catholics to not only learn history but to bring it to life (and do some literacy work along the way). Luckily, Fawkes was known as a friendly sort of fellow, liked by his friends, and so I need not be scary at all, even if being bearded, cloaked, ‘spurred and booted’ make my appearance unusual.
An assembly with all the children is followed by sessions with individual classes. The class sessions vary in format and time according to the school timetable and the number of classes involved. About an hour works well, though if I have the morning with one class and the afternoon with another, I can do more.
I have worked all day with one class as Fawkes on many occasions, allowing me to add extra activities such as creating propaganda posters for after the ‘blow’, praising the Spanish and the various Catholic sovereigns who will no doubt help put things right again in England! And posing for a portrait of myself – after all, I will surely become famous.
Session Outline for Key Stage 1
This is for all the children, and you might want the Key Stage 2 classes to join this too. I introduce myself and explain what the other plotters and myself plan to do, as well as exactly why and how. The children play the parts and act out the intended events according to my instructions – sometimes everyone has a part to play, sometimes several classes do the acting while the visiting classes watch. The famous plot was intended to involve more than just blowing up the House of Lords, it involved keeping secrets, riding around the country, kidnapping a princess, stirring up revolt, telling the pope (at just the right time) and inviting the catholic monarchs of Europe to send help afterwards to make the whole kingdom catholic once more. This elaborate plan emerges as I guide the children through the plot, with boys and girls galloping here, marching there and occasionally sneaking about, while the others dramatically play the victims!
Sessions with the Individual Classes
I often begin by asking the children for their opinions on the plot: Will it work? Could anything go wrong? Is it the right thing to do? Before long I talk about our need for secrecy and demonstrate to the class one of the ways in which we send secret messages. As this method is one that is only safe for adults to try (and I do stress this to the class), I then teach the children another way to write secret letters, a method they themselves can use …
Using a ‘Cipher’ to write a message
After explaining and demonstrating how my cipher works, the children divide into groups to write a name or names down using the cipher symbols. I give clear supervision for this task, ensuring every child will get a turn at writing one of the cipher symbols.
We then pass the letters on to other groups to attempt to decipher them. The children always want me to leave the cipher for their own use so that they can practise further and send more secret messages (which other classes will not be able to read). This is a fun and involving literacy exercise which can be revisited after I have left.
I then talk about the plight of Catholics during Queen Elizabeth’s reign and how it has grown worse with the new king. Eventually this leads me on to describe how Roman Catholic families try to hide priests in their houses. I wonder if the children could do it …
Hiding a Pair of Priests
“A fantastic day had by both children and teachers. The children were engaged with different relevant activities. The activities were easily managed and well led. The children were able to recall many events and were given an excellent insight into the past.”
A cipher message written during playtime by a Year 2 girl
This cipher translates as: “To Guy Fawkes. Thank you for coming in today. Love from Lucy.”