This year is the 100th anniversary of the 1914 Christmas Truce that took place during WWI, between British and German troops in No-Man’s Land. In the spirit of Christmas, soldiers from both sides put down their weapons and played football, as well as singing carols and giving each other gifts.

The retelling of the evocative story has been beautifully done through an advert by Sainsbury’s and the British Legion, gaining a lot of attention, and rightfully so.

As soon as I saw it, I wanted to use it in class as a stimulus for writing. Below, are some ideas that I hope are useful and I know I will be trying out myself.

The making of:

The Sainsbury’s advert itself:

1.) Show the video through once for the children to enjoy and discuss. How must the soldiers have felt? What was going through their minds? How would they feel?

2.) Re-run and at 0.22 seconds, pause the video where a depiction of No-Man’s Land is clearly seen in the night sky. Using a screen shot such as the one below, I’d have images of this as stills for children to see at their tables as well as on the IWB. What is No-Man’s Land? Why was it called this?

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 21.34.02

Next, ask the children to describe the scene.

Recently, I have been trialling a great site called Padlet where images, video and text can be added with ease to a digital noticeboard, that others can add to and share collaboratively.

See the shared ideas on my Padlet wall for No-Man’s Land so far, here. Please feel free to add yourself too! (More to be added soon.)

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 22.19.58

From these prompts, children could also generate descriptive and multi-sensory locational writing.

– One approach that I find effective, is by asking the children to first of all list the nouns seen, heard and sensed or even imagined by immersing them in the surroundings and imagining themselves there, in the trenches.

– Ask the writers to then independently and collaboratively generate verbs (actions) of what these nouns are actually doing, later building on these as a basis for generating personification or pathetic fallacy: a term I came across through Mat Sullivan (@inspiredmind5) and use regularly whenever I teach descriptive writing.

E.g.  Nouns: wind, snow, sleet, gales…

         Verbs: piercing, falling, blowing…

– Following this, I’d recommend getting the children to think of some human actions the nouns could be doing. Such as, screaming, whispering, howling, staring etc.

– A simple, yet rather effective technique for stimulating descriptive language and personification, is using ‘The Personification’ – a term used and suggested by Alan Peat.

– You can see here on Lend Me Your Literacy where we used it for describing the Dreadful Menace in the BBC’s Winter Olympics advert. Over 1550 views in a year!

– Children, especially the less confident, find this really accessible and fun too!

The wind screamed…

or, get the children to swap the verb and nouns around, playing with words.

The screaming wind whistled through our trench…

Verb opener:

Screaming, the whistling wind… 

…and so on. See the Padlet above for some ideas of personification and descriptive language.

3.) Another idea, as echoed on a few other blogs, is that children could write a diary entry of their Christmas Day playing football with fellow allies against German soldiers. They could be allowed to choose which perspective to write from – the British or German soldier’s viewpoint.

– A great video prompt by the British Council, as part of their educational material linked to the Christmas Truce is superb. Unfortunately, this video cannot be embedded but the site is FULL of lesson ideas and useful resources about World War One.

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– This video makes you aware of the various nationalities fighting the war and how perceptions of events differ.

Here are some more links to useful resources by the British Council, based on the 100 year anniversary and Christmas Truce.

4.) Be the Ball!

– In year five this term, we wrote from the perspective of an inanimate object which the children loved and really enjoyed. See our Diary of a Paperclip model below which our children read and picked out features from. This was based on the Cinderella Blog from Alan Peat’s – 50 Ways to Retell a Story A fabulous text and teaching resource which I rely on regularly.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 21.51.47 Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 21.51.59

– Recently, I came across this photograph from a newspaper’s blog: one of the actual balls used by British soldiers during the Battle of Loos in No-Man’s Land.

Incredible: This ball was kicked across No Man's Land by British soldiers under heavy machine-gun and mortar fire during the Battle of Loos in the First World War

Incredible: This ball was kicked across No Man’s Land by British soldiers under heavy machine-gun and mortar fire during the Battle of Loos in the First World War.

In 1915, while staring death in the face, British troops from the London Irish Rifles passed this ball between them as they courageously charged across No Man’s Land under heavy fire.

– You could ask the writers to pretend they were the ball owned by the army and kicked across No-Man’s Land, generating first person writing that encompasses the experience in the trenches. They could even record audio of their experiences, using an app such as BossJock, which I originally heard about off Lee Parkinson @ICT_MrP – this allows for various recordings that can be added to video and images with real ease. Here’s an example of how Mr Parkinson has used this in class –

– Bring the Christmas Truce football to life using the app Morfo. In class, we brought a mountain alive last year to develop our locational writing. For the football game in No-Man’s Land, learners could record their experiences as a football. It’s also a great tool as a hook within a lesson and would be great as an opener, with children seeing the ball come to life!

5.) Based on the letters and accounts from the British Council history collection, children could write a letter home following their experiences of the Christmas Truce.

– Below, a soldier wrote his own story of the football match between the German’s for a nurse, and speaks of the singing from both sides that day.

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6.) Interview a soldier Using Cover-it-Live

– Cover-it-Live is a live blogging tool which I use in class a lot. It gives children the opportunity to ask characters questions LIVE, giving them responses relating to their very own enquiries about the thoughts and feeling of the person, alive, or dead.

– For Ancient Greek mythology, we retold the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, as well as wrote a blog entry from the perspective of Ariande. To understand the story and character even further, we asked her some questions…

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Using the responses from myself as Ariadne as key information, both year five classes applied the gathered evidence to produce their Ariadne blog. Here’s Chelsea’s finished piece on our class blog site.

Monday, Day 1

Mood: Angry

What a terrible day! Angry, I’m so angry! How dare he?!

Sat here, so lonely, so warm and thirsting for water. I’ve got nothing to eat, nothing to drink. Not a thing. Well, at this rate, I’ll be eating sand and grass.

STUPID he is so STUPID! He made such a huge mistake. Firstly, Theseus, who is an idiotic moron, told me to collect fresh supplies, which means fruit and vegetables, for us both on the boat. And guess what? No, he didn’t want me to collect fruit from the trees, I fell for it. I fell for his horrible, evil plan to ditch me on an island. You know, I don’t even want to say his name. That idiot!

Tuesday, Day 2

Mood: Irate

Now I’m stood on this desolated, dreadful island in the middle of nowhere with basically NOTHING. If I didn’t help that pathetic loser, if he didn’t lie, then I wouldn’t be here in this mess! When will he learn how to treat a beautiful princess like me? Honestly, I’m telling you he WILL learn because I will get revenge and I will do something to make him doubt his existence. Or at least make him not want be alive. R.I.P Theseus. The more I starve, the more vengeful I will feel. So that means larger revenge. After all, he deserves revenge, doesn’t he?

Wednesday, Day 3

Mood: Vengeful

This is my third day on this prison of an island and I am feeling vengeful. I want no more of it! I am ready to get off this stupid island and I am ready to give Theseus a taste of my revenge. And let me tell you something, he won’t like it. My life could not get even worse right now, you know. As soon as I get off this island, I will set up a revenge plan… And that will be as soon as possible. Awful, this week so far has been awful!

Thursday, Day 4

Mood: Relieved

You’re probably wondering why I’m happy today, right? Well, I escaped the island today. Now that foolish person is going to, well you know. I don’t know how I am going to plan my revenge but trust me, I will.

There’s just one thing I don’t want anyone to know about. And that’s everything about Theseus. Nobody should know that I fell in love with him and that includes my father (King Minos of Crete) too. Why did I even fall in love with him? Now I know that he’s a pathetic moron, I won’t be making that mistake again!

By Chelsea

Thanks so much for reading. I hope you find some of the ideas useful, fun and effective.

Mr Cotter


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