Content (leaves): History – Victorians
Skills (roots): Good communicators
Year group & challenge: Year 6 (Level 4/5)
The challenge is to put together arguments that will persuade members of
parliament to improve the Factory Acts governing the conditions for children
working in factories. Groups are set to prepare their arguments and present them to
MPs (adults suitably dressed in Victorian attire) at the end of the week.
Groups need to:
• agree a plan of campaign
• research the conditions under which children worked – accident rates etc
• find out about existing legislation
• put their arguments persuasively (cue National Literacy Strategy – persuasive
After a first discussion with the MPs, groups went back to the research and had
They were then shown the arguments used by the 19th century reformers to compare
with theirs. (Which occasioned unusual excitement – “We got that one!!”)
Investigate changes within and between periods (history level 4) and give reasons for
those (history level 5). Development of communication skills, including speaking and
listening, writing persuasively, organising an argument. Also development of their
research and teamwork skills.
Planning – the teacher’s planning did not extend beyond the initial scenario and
making sure resources were available, including the MPs, but she had very clear
goals relating to knowledge, understanding and skills.
Use of time – this type of activity was unlikely to fit in half-hour lessons so needed
longer periods of time allocated. The activity was also going to finish when the
problem was solved, not at the end of the half-term.
Audience – there was a clear audience for this activity (the other class and parents).
Learning focus – the idea was not to learn everything they could about the Victorians
(content) but to focus on a specific feature (changes in law governing factory
conditions for children). This led to high challenge tasks that helped learners to
develop their communication, research and teamwork skills.