Advice and ideas for teachers
The activity suggestions below are designed to inspire your use of the Fire of London website with your pupils. All the activities can be adapted and easily incorporated into your lessons or they can act as stand alone activities.
Using the website
- The website and the interactive story that it contains is designed to be used by either the whole class on an interactive whiteboard or by pupils at individual computers. The navigation at the bottom of the screen allows you to skip from scene to scene, so if you choose to focus on just one day or event during the Great Fire you can easily access just a portion of the story.
- The website provides a great deal of information and activities. It may be useful to divide your classroom use of the website in the following ways:
• explore just one or two days at a time (in classrooms where the site was tested it took approximately 45 minutes to go through the entire interactive story)
• use only the story scenes to view the narrative as a whole and later return to the 'How do we know?' and game sequences
• focus on the curriculum theme of understanding how we know about the past and use the 'How do we know?' scenes to examine the evidence that tells us about the Great Fire of London.
- The interactive story can be used at any point during your unit on the Great Fire of London, as the story encompasses every day of the Fire and the rebuilding of London.
- This website brings together the collections of three museums and two archives that relate to the Great Fire. These objects, documents and paintings are introduced throughout the story. If you would like to examine them more closely you can use the image bank.
Life in Stuart London
- Discuss with pupils what it might have been like to live in Stuart times. Create categories for comparing life in Stuart times to today, such as housing, transportation, clothing, work, etc. How does it compare to life today?
- Explore the inventory taken of Edward Smith’s London house before the Great Fire. Use the image from the image bank and transcript (PDF 85kb) (including glossary), along with the following questions to help pupils explore the document.
1. Pick four things from the list and say what they are used for.
2. What does this list tell us about Edward’s life and life in Stuart London?
3. Why do you think people made lists of their most valuable things?
4. What other things are missing from the list?
5. Would any of the things on the list have survived the Fire of London?
6. Look at the real document and try and spot any words in the transcript!
- Compare pictures of modern and Stuart houses. You can find examples of Stuart buildings in the image bank on this site. List the similarities and differences.
Experiencing the Great Fire
- Make a list of adjectives to describe the Great Fire of London and use them to write poems about the Fire. Teachers can download pre-selected words (PDF 84kb) for poetry and ask pupils cut them out and arrange them into poems.
- The story of Jane is based on the experiences that Pepys describes in his diary, but the story of Tom is fictional. Pupils can create a story or drawings that show what it would have been like to experience the Fire from another character’s point-of-view. This can be fictional or based on other diarists’ accounts such as John Evelyn.
- Create a timeline for the events of the Fire based on the interactive story. Pupils can pick one character and make a timeline for that character, then combine the timelines with those created for various characters. Find other historic characters that you might be able to include in the timelines.
Diaries and accounts
- Look at extracts (PDF 58kb) from Samuel Pepys’ diary. What kind of events does he record? How does he describe events? Why is his diary an important way for us to know about the past?
- After exploring the website, write a diary entry or an account from the point of view of Tom or Jane based on their experience in the story.
- Write a diary entry describing what it might have been like to experience the Great Fire of London.
- Look at the extracts (PDF 58kb) from Samuel Pepys’ diary. What things did Pepys try to save from the Fire? Ask the children to think of one thing that they would save if there were a fire in their home today. Ask them to draw a picture of their chosen object.
- Imagine that you are a Londoner in early Stuart times whose house has just been destroyed by fire. Write a story describing what you managed to save and why you chose to save those particular items.
- Look at images of London before and after the Great Fire, some of which can be found in the image bank. Ask pupils to look at maps of your local area and get the pupils to locate their own homes, school and other buildings and public areas they know. Now imagine all this area needs to be rebuilt. Design your own street map to create your perfect town.
- As part of the website pupils created a basic street scene using buildings that were allowed by King Charles II after the Fire. Now ask them to draw a larger street scene or map using the appropriate types of buildings used during the rebuilding.
Understanding the characters
- Introduce pupils to the characters they will see in the story through the portraits in the image bank of these historic figures. Use the guides below to help encourage discussion.
• Samuel Pepys (PDF 55kb)
• King Charles II (PDF 55kb)
• Sir Christopher Wren (PDF 54kb)
• Elizabeth Pepys (PDF 55kb)
- The character of Tom is fictional, but his last name and his father’s job are taken from a period document, the 1666 Hearth Tax. Ask pupils to find other names and occupations on the document to help them understand what life on Pudding Lane might have been like. You can use the transcript (PDF 47kb) if it is too difficult for pupils to read.
- Invite your local fire brigade to come to your school to talk about their jobs and health and safety issues. Talk about differences between fire-fighting today and in the past. Ask children to list fire hazards now and then.
- Use the ‘How do we know?’ activity in future lessons by using online resources from museums and archives. Select four objects, documents or paintings and ask pupils to tell you how these help us know about the past. Try this as an introductory activity at the beginning of a unit to give them an overview of the topic.