TEACHING ACTIVITIES

1. CREATING A PAST IN LITERATURE

Introduction:

  • Think of stories you have read that are set in the past. Brainstorm/discussion
  • What clues do the writers give that the story is not about the present? Look at the opening paragraphs of The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips. Morpurgo starts in the present, jumps back 10 years when Michael first read the letter when he was 12, creates a mystery, uses parts of a diary that has survived written by someone else who was there, introduces a complication in the form of a disappearing cat, and finally brings us back through the letter to the 10 years before the present and solves the mystery.

 

  • Create two time diagrams of the novel's structure:
  1. Chronological - this would start with 10th September 1943 and end with the present.
  2. As the novel is written - this would start with the present then end with 10 years before the present
  • Discuss why the writer structured the story the way he did. How does the structure help us to enter and believe in Lily's world of 1943-44?
  • Think - how do writers find out what a place or time was like? What sources might they use?
  • How does Michael Morpurgo create the world of Slapton and Devon in 1943-44?
  • Describe this world as you imagine it - words, pictures, sounds, sights, images, etc.
  • Create a collage or draw a sketch map of how you imagine the local area and include some pictures of the outside and inside of the farmhouse.  
  • OR use multimedia storyboard software to create an animated visualisation of your interpretation of Morpurgo's created landscape using multimedia presentation software such as Kar2ouche or Powerpoint 
  • Why have you imagined it like this? How is it different to our world now? How might it be similar? Look at Slapton Sands on Google Earth - is this how you imagined it?

 

  • As we read the story we learn a lot about what was happening in that part of England in 1943-44 - the planning and training for the invasion of France, the American involvement, and the actual D-Day landings. The novel also includes maps and plans and a Postscript which gives a summary of the history behind the novel.
  • Read the Postscript - how accurately does Morpurgo's fictional story reflect the factual events of 1943-44?
  • What sources might Morpurgo have used to find out what it was like to live there in 1943-44? 
  • This is a novel, a work of fiction. Does it matter if Morpurgo's details are not accurate?

 

2. CREATING A VIRTUAL WORLD

  • Now think of virtual worlds in computer games. Who plays them? Discuss - when are the games set? How do you know? Does it matter if they are not accurate?
  • Like Michael Morpurgo creating 1943-44, the historians at University of East Anglia wanted to recreate the world of Walberswick in Suffolk about 1940. They had studied the physical remains of the coastal defences - pillboxes, observation posts, anti-tank blocks and trenches - that are still visible in Walberswick and they needed to find a way to use those remains to tell the story of what happened here in 1940 when people believed and feared an invasion was about to happen.
  • These are the sources they used to find out what Walberswick looked like in 1940:
  1. Aerial photographs taken by the RAF and the Luftwaffe
  2. Maps and plans
  3. Archaeology
  4. Oral history
  5. Photographs - but so far there doesn't seem to be any official war time photographs specifically of the defences at Walberswick
  6. Official documents from the War Office in The National Archives
  7. Local history collections
  • Their task was to create a virtual Walberswick in 1940 when fear of invasion was at its strongest and the coastal defence systems were being put in place to try to protect Britain from the sort of Blitzkrieg invasion that happened in Poland, Holland, Belgium and France in May 1940. The site was to be based on all known sources and to be as accurate as possible.
  • Explore the site http://www.walberswickww2.co.uk/animations/
  • What do you see? Do you feel like you are there? 
  • How successful do you think UEA have been in creating this virtual world?

3. WHAT ABOUT THE CHARACTERS?

  • Now think back to Michael Morpurgo's novel and Adolphus Tips at Slapton. In Morpurgo's novel we learn a lot about how people at the time felt about what was happening to them. Different family members have different points of view about what was happening to them.
  • In groups or pairs, write a clear statement of each of the following character's point of view about the war and what is happening to them:
  1. Grandfather
  2. Lily's mother
  3. Lily
  4. Barry
  • How can you account for the differences in their points of view? Think about what is important to each of these characters and how the war has affected this. Do their points of view change during the novel? If so, what brings these changes about?
  • One advantage the novelist has is that he can use language to create characters; people we can become involved with and care about. In a virtual world, it is often difficult to ‘put the people in'. The virtual figures are usually ‘one dimensional' and we know little about them other than what we can see. In computer games they are either heroes or villains, figures which attack or which we try to destroy.
  • Look at the virtual site again and this time concentrate on the people - write down all the words you think of as you watch them going about their duties. 
  • What questions would you like to ask them? 
  • How are they different from the characters in the novel? What would you add to the animations to make the figures more alive?

STRANGERS AMONGST US?

  • In 1939-40 Walberswick, like Slapton, was a village full of people with a school, a church, chapel, shops and garage. Fishing and farming were the main industries. Then in the autumn of 1939 not only were women and children evacuated there from London but nearly 1000 soldiers came to stay in the area in and around Walberswick.
  • What did the people in the village think about that? Read the stories from Jill, Tommy and Beryl and the School Log Book and Minute Book and decide whether the Walberswick villagers saw the arrival of the soldiers and evacuees as positive or negative.
  • One of the affects of the war in the novel was to create suspicion of strangers or anyone who appeared to be foreign or different. Lily's new teacher Mrs Blumfeld:

"can't even say her words properly. She says zink instead of think and de instead of the. She can't even speak English properly ... I hate her accent; she could be German. Maybe she's a spy! She looks like a spy. I hate her ... " (pp23-24)

  • Lily also comments on the evacuees from London, ‘townies':

"they're always fighting too ... they talk funny. I can't understand half of what they say. And they stick together too much. They look at us sometimes like we've got measles or mumps or something, like they think we're all stupid country bumpkins ..." (p24)

  • Was this also the case in Walberswick?

4. INFORMING AND INSTRUCTING THE PEOPLE

  • On 14 September 1939 the parents of students at Walberswick School received this circular informing and instructing them about arrangements for their children's schooling now war has broken out:

                                                                                                                                                                        WALBERSWICK SCHOOL

Arrangements for the continuance of education.

 

(A) A copy of this circular will be given to every parent of children attending Walberswick School and the acceptance of it will imply that the parent has made himself or herself acquainted with the contents.

 

(B)  The School will re-open on Monday, September 18th, at 9 a.m.

No child is to arrive before 8.45 a.m.

No child will be admitted without a gas mask.

 

(C)  The children who should attend are -

1.     The Walberswick children who would normally attend school. I.e., up to 11 years of age, and

2.     All evacuated children up to the age of 14 years.

 

(D)  The children will be mixed and the school will be organised as one school with Mrs. Piper in full control. The temporary teacher, irrespective of her status, will be under Mrs. Piper's authority.

 

(E) AIR RAID WARNINGS.

1.     If on the way to school: - The children should either run home or to school. The place chosen should be the one that is the nearer at the time of the warning. Or, the child can run into any house near at hand and ask for protection.

2.     If during school hours: - The head teacher will remain in full control within the school premises. Parents are asked to inform the head teacher whether they wish their children to be sent home or to be retained at the school under the teacher's control. Mrs. Piper will use her discretion as to what should be done, but normally, she will take the children into the lane and line them up in single file with two yards between each child. Arrangements have been made for Mrs. Piper to receive notice of every air raid warning. If the raid is not likely to be in the vicinity, school will carry on as usual. Action will only be taken if the air raid is likely to be local. This will avid unduly alarming the children. As it may dark before the "All Clear" is given, parents are asked to arrange for their children to be fetched when the raid is over. Otherwise the children will be sent home and it must be clearly understood that no responsibility will the rest on the teacher.

(F)  It must be clearly understood that no responsibility rests on the teacher for any accident to any child who leaves the school premises without permission.

 

(G) Evacuated children and parents. No parent will be allowed to take a child away from school during school hours unless the parent can first of all satisfy the teacher as to his or her bona-fides.

 

(H)  Children cannot be received from another village except through arrangements made with the Billeting Officer.

 

N.B. - Mrs. Piper has full control at all times within the boundaries of the school premises. She has full control over children during an air raid in cases where the parent has elected to leave the child in her care.

 

                                    (Signed) A.D. THOMPSON,

                                    Chairman and Correspondent.

 

Sept. 14th, 1939.

  • This circular was written for the parents. Your task is to design and create posters suitable for the classroom at Walberswick which will instruct the children on the new rules about carrying and wearing gas masks and what to do in the case of an air raid.
  • The poster must be designed and written as suitable for children to understand. You will need to use pictures and drawings as well as words.
  • It must be written in present tense.
  • It must include answers to What? Why? When? and Who?
  • It must include the use of commands.
  • The instructions must be in clear sentences.
  • The instructions must be in an order that makes sense to the reader.

You might want to research instructions about air raids and gas masks from the internet and your library. There are some films and leaflets from World War 2 on The Learning Curve website http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/lessons/lesson09.htm and
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/focuson/film/film-archive/ - select World War 2 and the clip "If War Should Come".

If your school has the Home Front Heroes Pack from Suffolk Record Office then there are also leaflets in the pack.

5. PERSUADING THE PEOPLE

  • The people of Slapton and nearby villages were ordered to evacuate their homes in late 1943 in order for the troops to practice for the invasion of France on the beach at Slapton Sands and the whole area behind it. The troops would be using live ammunition and the whole area was to be fenced off and out of bounds. Lily describes the public meeting in the church on pp52-56. How does the ‘bigwig' try to persuade the people that it is necessary for them to move? Find examples of his use of persuasive language.
  • Lily's mother tries to persuade her father to move on p74. What persuasive methods does she use?
  • Mrs Blumfeld also uses persuasive language on pp76-77 to try to persuade Grandfather to leave his farm. Why is her use of persuasive language more effective than the ‘bigwig's' during the public meeting? What makes the difference?
  • In Walberswick people did not have to move out of their homes although many wealthier people did leave their homes for somewhere safer. But the coming of the troops and the building of the coastal defences did affect the lives of the Walberswick inhabitants.
  • Look at the stories of Jill, Tommy and Beryl and the School Log Book and Manager's Minute Book again and write down all the ways the lives of the villagers changed from 1939 - 1940. Look at the Walberswick site and the interactive map for more details about the changes.
  • WHAT WILL CHANGE IN WALBERSWICK 1939-1940
  • HOW MIGHT THIS AFFECT PEOPLE?
  • HOW MIGHT THE VILLAGERS REACT TO THIS?
  • There is going to be a public meeting in St Andrew's Church in Walberswick to tell the villagers what will be happening and how their lives will be affected by the war. The purpose of the meeting is to persuade the villagers to co-operate with the military authorities.

Prepare one of the following to be used for or at the meeting:

  • A persuasive poster announcing the public meeting and persuading people to attend - the poster must persuade readers
  • That the meeting is very important
  • That at least one adult from each household must attend and provide meeting details - place, time, date etc
  • A speech outlining the changes and persuading people to co-operate - the speech must be
  • Informative - tell them what is happening and why (remember also that war matters were Top Secret!)
  • Authoritative - you are in charge!
  • Persuasive - you want people to do what you say and not argue and allow for questions although you might not be able to answer them!
  • A leaflet to be handed out at the meeting outlining one or more of the changes - the leaflet must
  • be informative and easy to read
  • use headings and subheadings
  • use diagrams and pictures to persuade people to co-operate

 

6. FROM THE VIRTUAL TO THE LITERARY WORLD

  • Reread pp122-125 of The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips. Your task is to use the virtual site and other information including the maps to write a diary entry or series of diary entries about your secret visits in Walberswick in 1940.
  • This can be done in pairs or small groups. Use the map of the area to help you. 
  • Create a story map:
  1. The reason why you decide to explore the military area of Walberswick in 1940. Michael Morpurgo used a missing cat. Curiosity? A dare? Something you left behind before the area was closed off? Something missing? A mystery? A lost pet? Following someone or something? Looking for spies? Looking for a particular soldier? Something you saw in the sea? Searching for something or someone you saw that falling from a plane? etc
  2. The time and season for your journey.
  3. Are you going alone or with someone else?
  4. What will you take with you? Remember it is 1940!
  5. What are you wearing? Remember it is 1940!
  6. Decide where you will enter the area and how.
  • Now describe your journey as you move through 1940's Walberswick.
  • What do you find? 
  • Are you found?
  • What surprises are there?
  • Discovery? 
  • Remember the senses:
  • What do you see?
  • What do you feel or touch?
  • What do you hear? What do you taste?
  •  What do you smell?
  • Feelings? Excitement? Anxiety? Fear? Surprise? Fright? Terror? Being tense? Scared?
  • You might like to use some of the Sources in the teaching pack to add more details to your diary.

 

  • When you are satisfied with your story, record your journey as a ‘voice over' for one or more sections of the virtual animations. You can use music and sound effects as well here. Remember you can use the buttons to pause and backtrack if you want to spend more time in any one place.
  • Extension - you might like to record your voice over in the present tense (as if it is happening as you speak) and then again in the past as if you are remembering what you did or relating it much later to someone else. What difference to the audience's experiences of the story does the change in tense make? Which is more exciting, more immediate? Which allows you more chances for explanation or description or understanding? Which do the listeners prefer?