St Patrick’s Day 17th March – Bite-sized for KS1, KS2

By Robert Reed

St Patrick’s Day Parades

St Patrick’s Day originally celebrated the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.  Nowadays, it’s celebrated equally as a festival of Irish heritage and culture.  The celebration is marked throughout the world, not just in Ireland itself.  The biggest St Patrick’s Day parade is in New York City; but, Ireland holds the record for the smallest parade! (lasting a distance of 23.4 metres between the only two pubs in the village of Dripsey, Cork).

St Patrick’s Day school assemblies

Every year schools worldwide celebrate St Patrick’s Day with a school assembly.  A couple of scripts for primary school assemblies are available here: http://www.artdramascripts.com/st_patricks_play

Dressing up like leprechauns

In addition to parades, people celebrate by “the wearing of the green” (shamrocks) and dressing up.  This includes wearing ginger coloured wigs and beards and looking like mischievous leprechauns- who are said to love collecting gold.  [Hmm, that’s a bit like international bankers, but when bankers get up to mischief they wipe a few trillion from the global economy.]  If you’re feeling energetic, you don’t have to be a member of Riverdance to try Irish dancing and appreciate Irish folk music.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – gothic story contest winner dismissed by British Critic

By Robert Reed

The novel Frankenstein was written by Mary Shelley whilst on holiday visiting Lord Byron at his villa by Lake Geneva.  The weather was awful, so the group of friends decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story.  Mary won.  (Byron came up with some mad idea about vampires based on his travels in Eastern Europe- it’s not as if that would ever become hugely successful.) 

Frankenstein was published when Mary was just twenty-one years old in 1818.  The public loved the book, but critics were divided:  for example, the British Critic wrote, “The writer of it is, we understand a female… and we shall therefore dismiss the novel without further comment.”  http://www.rc.umd.edu/reference/chronologies/mschronology/reviews/bcrev.html

Fortunately, times have changed British Critic. Also, Frankenstein is now recognised as a truly inspirational work, which continues to influence modern culture.  Hmm, I wonder where the idea for The Incredible Hulk came from?  (My daughter insists I mention the character of Frankie Stein in Monster High as well- okay, so now I’ve mentioned it.)

If you would like to use a Frankenstein story with children, there is a funny version Mrs Frankenstein M.D. available as a role play here: http://artdramascripts.com/halloween_kids.

If you have an assignment to write on Frankenstein, and need a little help, visit: http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/frankenstein/ .

Frankenstein is a scary tale about a slightly crazy scientist whose experiments go very wrong and he creates a monster with disastrous consequences. (Oh, and the monster is really quite a sad creature- boo hoo for him.)

Yep, even back in the early nineteenth-century people were wary about what scientists were getting up to in their labs and we can consider Frankenstein as not merely a horror story, but also one of the earliest works of science-fiction.

KS2: Everything you need to know about the Romans in 365 words!

By Robert Reed

Legend has it that Rome was founded by the twins Romulus and Remus on 21 April 753 BC.  The legend doesn’t say at what time of day this occurred, but it was probably after breakfast.  The city was named in honour of Romulus.

KS2 Ideas: There is a fantastic and very funny play for primary schools available at http://artdramascripts.com/lost_eagles , which includes dressing up as Roman soldiers.

At first, Rome was ruled by kings; however, that ended in about 509 BC when Lucius Junius Brutus established the Roman Republic based on elections and assemblies.

There were some tough times for the Romans, the Gauls looted Rome in the third century and Hannibal gave the legions a fright with some elephants, but the Romans won the day. With a highly professional and skilled army, Rome began to conquer all her neighbours, which brought a flood of wealth and slaves (including Spartacus).

Soon Rome was divided between a super-rich elite and a mass of poor folks.

In 27 BC, Augustus became emperor after having defeated Antony and Cleopatra’s forces.  It was always dangerous being emperor, because someone -usually your nearest and dearest- wanted to murder you as soon as possible.

Under Trajan in 117 AD, the empire reached its greatest territorial extent: stretching from Britain to Egypt.

Marcus Aurelius was the last of the ‘Five Good Emperors’.  There were also some very mad and dangerous emperors, like Nero and Caligula.  Definitely not the kind of people who should become head teachers, but great names for class pets.

Popular entertainments were used to pacify the masses: like gladiatorial combat and chariot racing.

Political divisions, civil wars, economic problems, plague and a whole load of invading tribes meant trouble for the Imperium Romanum.  In 410 AD, the Visgoths trashed Rome and the once all-powerful Roman army ceased to exist, and that was the end of the Western Roman Empire.  However, in the East the empire continued as the Christian Byzantine Empire for another thousand years.

The Romans were great builders, leaving behind roads, aqueducts, monuments, temples, palaces and baths.  All this building was partly made possible by the invention of concrete.

Moreover, the Romans left a lasting legacy in many fields including art, literature, law, government, warfare, language and many more. However, there is no evidence that they invented Marmite, or PlayStations.

If the cohort in your class are researching the Romans, I suggest they visit this site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/romans/ .

Mary, Mary Queen of Scots, why did you marry Darnley?

By Robert Reed

Mary returned to her native Scotland in 1561 after the death of her first hubby King Francis II of France. On Saturday 17th February, 1565, she met Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley at Wemyss Castle. He had a twinkle in his eye and was a nifty dancer. They had things in common: both were tall, red-headed and first cousins. What’s more they both had a strong claim to the throne of England. Pretty much instantly Mary was “bewitched” with her “long lad”, and they got hitched at Holyrood Palace on 29th July, 1565.

Why not bring the story of Mary Queen of Scots to life by performing a super-cool, funny play that’s totally suitable for kids! Visit http://artdramascripts.com/scotland for more details.

Darnley fell short of being a perfect husband on account of the fact that he was a violent, womanising drunk. Oh, he also wanted to rule Scotland as king in his own right. He was a bit like the Incredible Hulk: “Don’t make me angry, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!”, except that he was always angry. Also, Darnley was jealous of Mary’s friendship with an Italian musician called Rizzio, so Darnley and a few conspirator mates stabbed the poor Rizzio fifty-six times for good measure in front of the pregnant Queen. It was probably too late for marital counselling by then.

In November, 1566, Mary and some leading nobles had a secret meeting concerning what to do about Darnley. (The National Security Agency records of their subsequent mobile conversations are available on request.) Divorce was out of the question, so another way had to be found. At that time, Darnley was suffering from a rather unpleasant illness and living on a housing estate in Glasgow. Mary persuaded him to stay in Kirk o’Field near to her place. She visited him daily and then at 2.00 a.m. on the night of 10th February, 1567, the property he was staying in mysteriously blew up. Darnley was found in his pyjamas in the garden next to a plastic gnome. He had been suffocated.

The not-so-devastated Queen soon married the main suspect, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. Scotland was shocked and the ‘confederate lords’ rose in rebellion.

There are many interesting places to visit connected with the life of Mary Queen of Scots, and here’s a site full of them: http://www.edinburgh.org/see-do/itineraries/mary-queen-scots-trail .

KS2 – Fun Facts on Vikings

By Robert Reed

Do you have a friend who occasionally loves to hop in a longship and go raiding? Perhaps, they also like jewellery, plaiting their beard, incredibly violent poetry and games of chess? If the answer is ‘yes’, possibly they are a Viking.

The Viking Age lasted for about three hundred years: from the 790s until the Norman conquest of England in 1066. As well as being skilled sailors and warriors the Vikings were traders, mercenaries, settlers and farmers.

They explored and colonised islands in the North Atlantic even reaching as far as Newfoundland in Canada. They had a profound effect on British and Irish history in particular. They traded along the Volga River and as far south as Baghdad.

Many of their exploits were recorded in Icelandic sagas and on rune stones. They were famous for ferocity in battle: the word berserk comes from the Norse habit of going completely loco in combat.

However, conversion to Christianity slowly curbed the Vikings of the more anti-social aspects of their behaviour, much to the relief of their neighbours.

Generally speaking, it’s probably best for your health to invite your Viking friend to join a yoga club, or maybe take up knitting.

Scripted for use in the assemblies, read about a funny Viking story Don’t Argue with Eric http://artdramascripts.com/ks2_playscripts/vikings.

The Ancient Greeks loved the theatre

By Robert Reed

In Ancient Greece huge stone theatres were built for audiences of up to 15,000 people.  The clever Greeks designed the theatres so that even people stuck in the back row could clearly hear every word said by the actors.

The earliest recorded superstar actor was Thespis. He was so popular he toured with costumes, masks and props in a horse-drawn wagon.  (That was the Ancient Greek equivalent of a limousine.)

There were three styles of play, or genre: tragedy, comedy and satyr [yes the spelling is right here].  The Ancient Greeks were most famous for their very, very serious tragedies.  Almost always someone died, and there was a moral to teach the audience: you know something like don’t eat all the custard, or everyone will get the plague.  By custom, there were a maximum of three actors and a chorus (who sung and narrated).

Some things never change in the world of entertainment: Homer’s epics were greatly in demand back then as well… okay, so it was a different Homer to Bart’s dad.

Anyway, one final thing about Ancient Greek theatre was that it was central to religious festivals, especially in honour of Dionysus (the god of wine and having a good time).

If your class are researching the Ancient Greeks, I recommend visiting this site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/ancient_greeks/.

Would your class like to be Ancient Greek heroes in a super comedy?  If the answer is ‘yes’, here’s the perfect script for you: http://artdramascripts.com/ks2_playscripts/greeks.

Celebrate St Piran’s Day and the Cornish Piskies

By Robert Reed

Palm trees, surfing and people greeting each other with “aloha”, you can only be in one place in the world…  Welcome to Cornwall!  It’s a county located on the south-west peninsula of Britain. Okay, so it might be a bit similar to… what’s-it-called?  Ah, yes, Hawaii.  But, still Cornwall -or Kernow, in the local language- is a great place to visit.  The climate is the mildest in the UK thanks to the Gulf Stream and there are miles of sandy beaches.

Cornwall is famous for its fish dishes and cream teas.  Tourist attractions include the Eden Project and Tintagel Castle, legendary home of King Arthur.  Well, a lot of other places in Britain claim to be the location of  Arthur’s castle where he entertained round knights; however, for my money Tintagel is the real deal.  He just travelled around the country frequently because he was so famous, that’s all.

I know Hawaii Five-O wasn’t shot in Newquay, but if it had been, I’m sure Detective Lieutenant Steve McGarrett’s catchphrase would have been different: something like, “Get me a pasty, Danno!”  I like Cornwall, so I wrote a really funny play script to celebrate St Piran’s Day.  Enough said.

For teachers from Cornwall – special assembly play about Saint Piran and the Cornish Piskies http://artdramascripts.com/patron_saints.

There are some fantastic pictures of scenery and places to visit in Cornwall at http://www.visitcornwall.com/ .

St. George’s Day 23rd April – Fun Facts for KS1, KS2 Kids

By Robert Reed

St. George, or Georgius as named by his mum and dad, came from Lydda in Palestine.  He followed his father’s footsteps and became an officer in the Roman army.  Georgius seemed destined for a brilliant military career, until it was decreed that soldiers were banned from being Christian.  That was a problem because there was no way that George was going to renounce his faith. He was martyred on 23rd April CE 303 after some very unpleasant treatment.

The more popular story of George as a knight in shining armour defeating the dragon and saving a fair maiden dates from the Golden Legend– a thirteenth-century best seller in England.

If you’d like to read or perform St George’s story with children – in class or in a school assembly – visit : http://artdramascripts.com/st_georges_play where you could find a brilliant fictitious fun play featuring Saint George and his heroic quests adapted from the legend of St George and the Dragon.

George became the model of a chivalrous knight- the kind of bloke who’d give your granny a ride on his horse back from Tesco with all her shopping without complaint.  The English began to call upon St. George’s help in tricky situations: for example, before the battle of Agincourt, “Cry ‘God for Harry, England and Saint George!’”

Nowadays, St. George’s Day is celebrated with parades, pageants, a few re-enactments of St. George’s altercation with the dragon, and lots of flag waving of course.  People used to wear a red rose in their lapel, but that doesn’t happen any more.  (I think that’s a pity.)

Also, Saint George is the patron saint of several other countries, including Georgia. In fact, the Georgians loved the legend of St. George so much they named their entire country after him (kind of).

Interestingly enough, the 23rd April is the same day William Shakespeare was born… and died.

If you’d like to find out more about St. George, visit: http://resources.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/stgeorge.html .

Everything you need to know about the Tudor dynasty in 365 words!

By Robert Reed

The House of Tudor came from Wales, like Tom Jones (but, the similarities end about there). Henry VII was the first ruler in the dynasty.  He defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22nd August 1485 and literally took his crown.  Henry wanted to form foreign alliances and married his eldest son, Arthur, to Catherine of Aragon.  Poor old Arthur died four months after marriage, and so  Henry VII decided to marry his younger son, Henry, to Catherine as well.  Yuk!  Well, the Pope said it was okay, so the marriage went ahead.

In 1509, Henry -Hal to his mates- became King Henry VIII.  Hal was described as “friendly” and “gentle” when he was young.  However, unfortunately, he became a bit of an obese maniac in later years.  Also, he had a few wives and fell out with the Pope.  His son Edward VI succeeded him in 1547.  Eddie was a young lad aged nine, but was serious about religious reform- probably because there were no PlayStations back then.  He was never very healthy and died in 1553.

Then it was Mary’s turn.  She became queen and married Prince Philip of Spain.  The people weren’t happy with this.  However, Phil was even more unhappy to be married to Mary (she wasn’t exactly a beauty queen).  Mary became rather bitter and became too overzealous with reinstating the Catholic faith in England.  Finally, “Bloody Mary” died childless and in 1558 Elizabeth became Queen of England.

Elizabeth I was under constant pressure to marry and have kids to produce a successor, but she liked to be the boss and wasn’t having any of that.  There were lots of plots to get rid of her and put her cousin Mary Queen of Scots on the throne of England.  Eventually, she agreed that Mary should have a date with an axeman.  A few chops and that was that. Philip II of Spain was really annoyed about it and sent an invasion fleet.  The Armada was defeated by the awful weather -no surprises there- and some skilful pirates working for Liz.  On 24th March 1603, Elizabeth I died and the Tudor dynasty came to an end.

A good place to begin a class research topic on the Tudors is: http://tudorhistory.org/ .

Get a full assembly play about Henry VIII and his six marriages: http://artdramascripts.com/ks2_playscripts/henry_viii.
You can have the children read and/or perform the script in the classroom or in a school assembly!

Read funny dialogs from the play Henry VIII: Big Hal Knows Best:  http://artdramascripts.com/r/henry_viii_big_hal_knows_best.pdf