Lessons from the media – Christmas on the Western front


This is a guest post from Hélène Fyffe, an undergraduate starting her final year at Edinburgh Napier University, having spent a year on placement with Microsoft UK Education as part of her course.
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The last chapter

Today's blog will culminate the 'Lessons from the Media' series with what I hope will be an insightful last piece that will inspire primary teachers with lesson ideas and creative ways to use Windows technology in the classroom during the last few weeks of the Christmas term. If you're new to the Lessons from the media series, the blogs intend on suggesting creative ways for primary teachers to use Microsoft Education solutions to turn relevant and exciting content from the media into engaging exercises for students to improve their reading, writing, research, collaboration and presentation skills. The previous four blogs found fun exercises from the Monty the Penguin John Lewis Christmas advert, The Great British Bake Off, Philae's Rosetta space mission and the BBC Wildlife Camera-trap Photo of the Year 2014 which I hope will be insightful to you if you're interested in ideas for lessons and in finding out contextualised scenarios for using Microsoft Education technology effectively in lessons.

With Christmas creeping upon us as rapidly as the demolition of fish and chips on a Friday lunch time in the school canteen, which also signifies the marking of Great War's centenary coming to a close, I thought it was only befitting to base the last lesson idea on Sainsbury's spell bounding Christmas advert.

A brief snowy history lesson

If you've not yet seen Sainsbury's Christmas advert, (without sounding like a movie critic) it is a must-see. Set in the trenches on the Western front on Christmas day 1914, the clip captures the poignant yet painfully jarring moment from history when the Germans and British/French soldiers held fire for a few snow-scattered hours to celebrate Christmas with a peaceful football game. Like me, you might feel a lump in your throat from the sentimental innocence of the young opposing soldiers exchanging that brief moment of relief and escapism. Historians recount that a truce was agreed with several ceasefires along the Western front during the week leading up to Christmas, which at times reduced tension to such an extent that soldiers would walk across to their enemies bearing gifts and would exchange songs and seasons greetings. Sainsbury's interject their presence into the advert by showing a sentimental and selfless exchange of a (Sainsbury's) chocolate bar being gifted by a British soldier to a German, which although many journalists have severely criticised as tactless, doesn't hinder the educational value of the video.

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(Sainsbury's, 2014)

Back to the classroom

I think the video would be a great example to bring into the classroom because it really captures what my 91 year old grandmother expresses would have probably been a realistic portrayal of that moment in history, that will engage students. It's still so important for everyone today to have an understanding about the history that cruelly took so many lives 100 years ago. After all, the losses from the Second World War are remembered every year and have been respectfully illuminated in 2014 in the UK with the poppies exhibition spilling from the Tower of London for Remembrance Sunday and well-documented D-Day memorial service.

Lesson idea

My suggestion would be to show the video to your class and then to have each student to recount their own version of the story using Createbook Windows 8 app published by Microsoft partner, the Tablet Academy. Createbook is a fantastic app that provides students with simple tools to make their own eBook and include text, visual illustrations, videos, sound and illustrations. What makes the app a great learning tool in my opinion is the pride it can instil in young learners as it makes written work look really professional and enables students to publish their eBook to show to their equally proud parents.

If this potential lesson idea appeals to you or you'd like to explore more ways of using Createbook app in the classroom, you can download Createbook from the Windows store here for use on PC's desktops and tablets, and find out more about its advantages in the classroom from previous blogs.

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