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Archaeology and the National Curriculum: Part 3

Welcome to Archaeology and the National Curriculum: Part 3.  To catch up, read ‘Can the whole of the National Curriculum be taught through Archaeology?’ and ‘Archaeology and the National Curriculum: Part 2’. So, where am I up to? Ah, yes! KS1 English, En3 Writing.

Under the heading ‘Knowledge, skills and understanding’, the first category for writing is Composition.

As part of this, pupils should be taught a number of things that can be undertaken with reference to learning about the past or through taking part in archaeological activities. For example, the objective a. use adventurous and wide-ranging vocabulary can be encouraged when writing about the past, describing visits to heritage sites or taking part in other archaeological activities, such as a workshop.  In this way, children will also be able to b. sequence events and recount them in appropriate detail, and c. put their ideas into sentences.  Likewise, as they do this they can be taught to d. use a clear structure to organise their writing.

In order to fulfil the next objective – e. vary their writing to suit the purpose and reader – children can be asked to write, for example, a leaflet describing an archaeological site designed for visitors to the site, such as that illustrated below, created by a pupil of Curbar Primary School about the site of Arbor Low in the Peak District.  They could also be asked to write a short story about the past designed for children in Reception, a ‘police’ report describing evidence found as part of a ‘time detectives’ topic, or even try their hand at persuasive writing to encourage tourists to a particular Heritage attraction in their local town.

Arbor Low Leaflet 2

As they embark on such activities, children will necessarily be introduced to other examples of writing and will be able to f. use the texts they read as models for their own writing.

‘Planning and drafting’ is the next category.  Whilst children embark on the suggested activities to fulfil the objectives for composition, they can be taught to… a. write familiar words and attempt unfamiliar ones b. assemble and develop ideas on paper and on screen c. plan and review their writing, discussing the quality of what is written d. write extended texts, with support [for example, using the teacher as writer].

Likewise, using archaeology and the past as the context, pupils can be taught the objectives relating to punctuation: a. how punctuation helps a reader understand what is written b. the connections between punctuation and sentence structure, intonation and emphasis c. to use capital letters, full stops, question marks and to begin to use commas.

to spelling: a. write each letter of the alphabet b. use their knowledge of sound-symbol relationships and phonological patterns [for example, consonant clusters and vowel phonemes] c. recognise and use simple spelling patterns d. write common letter strings e. spell common words f. spell words with common prefixes and inflectional endings g. check the accuracy of their spelling, using word banks and dictionaries h. use their knowledge of word families and other words i. identify reasons for misspellings.

to handwriting and presentation: a. how to hold a pencil/pen b. to write from left to right and top to bottom of a page c. to start and finish letters correctly d. to form letters of regular size and shape e. to put regular spaces between letters and words f. how to form lower- and upper-case letters g. how to join letters h. the importance of clear and neat presentation in order to communicate their meaning effectively.

and to understanding standard English and the structure of language: a. how word choice and order are crucial to meaning b. the nature and use of nouns, verbs and pronouns c. how ideas may be linked in sentences and how sequences of sentences fit together.

As the programme of study states, the objectives listed above should all be taught in context and through a range of purposes for writing. It is archaeology and the past that can provide this context. So, for example, a. to communicate to others – children can write about a period of time or a heritage site in order to inform others. b. to create imaginary worlds – children can imagine what it was like living in the past or imagine what a mysterious artefact once was. c. to explore experience – children can write about the experience of visiting a heritage site or of taking part in archaeological activities such as an excavation or workshop. d. to organise and explain information – children can write informative pieces explaining the different parts of a site or explaining what had once happened there.

Pupils can be encouraged to write notes whilst on a site visit to help them remember what happened and to develop ideas.  In fact, during school visits to the Arbor Low Environs Project last year, each group was given a clipboard on which to record their ideas as they walked around.  Even if the children were not doing the writing themselves, they were still learning about “the value of writing for remembering and developing ideas.”

Children can write stories about a trip to a site, about how they imagine the past to be; they could write poems, such those to which I referred in the previous post about Ancient Greece (Archaeology and the Curriculum: Part 2); notes can be written as they visit a site using clipboards, as I mentioned above; lists of features of a particular period, lists of evidence found in a trench, or lists of questions to ask at a museum, can all be written down; captions can be written under pictures of artefacts, sites or of historic costumes; during an archaeological workshop children can write records of what they have found and where, and fill in (some of) the boxes on context sheets and finds records; they can pretend they are soldiers on Hadrian’s Wall and write messages to each other; and they could pretend they are a person in history writing instructions, for example, of how to run a Tudor Farm or cook a Tudor lunch (click here for information on the Tudor Farming Day at the Dove Valley Centre).

Each of these forms of writing could be addressed to a variety of audiences, such as “teachers, other adults, children and the writers themselves”.  All you need do is choose!

There are so many examples I could give, and I’m sure you can think of many, many more.

Hey! that’s KS1 English done (3 weeks later!). What subject should I address next, I wonder…?


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