Primary Primary Literacy

Baden Powell Anniversary

On the 8th January, 75 years ago, Robert Baden Powell died. Best known for starting the scout and inspiring the girl guides movement, he was also a successful military commander. Millions of girls and boys around the world will mark the day of the anniversary of his death and these activities will help your class understand a little about his inspiration and the expectations he had of young people.

Activity One – Signalling

Suitable for Years 3 to 6

Learning Objectives:

  • Be able to recognise that communication can be in various forms including signalling.
  • To be able to devise a means of communication using signals or sounds.

There are several ways in which we can communicate – ask the pupils to name some for you. They are likely to say speaking to each other, gestures, pictures and these days, perhaps email, messaging and Skype.

Ask them how they think people communicated over distances in the past.

One of the best known events from British history is the defeat of the Spanish Armada and communication played a key role in the events.

Tell the pupils about the sighting of the Armada in the English Channel and that it was desperate that the news reached London and the naval ports as soon as possible so that the navy could be ready to sail out and fight. What do the pupils think was the quickest way to get the message from Cornwall to London, over 200 miles away? (By beacons lit on the headlands along the coast, all the way to London.)

Ask the class how they think it worked.

This is a very visual form of communication and relies on the recipients knowing what the lit beacons mean.

This form of communication was limited in its usefulness and so, two centuries later, semaphore was introduced whereby messages could be communicated by the positioning of flags. What do the pupils think the limitations of this method might be?

Later still, with the invention of electricity, Morse code came to be used to relay signals over longer distances. See the video below for some of the history of Morse code.


Having talked about different forms of communication, ask the pupils to work in small groups to devise a communication system which can either be sound or visually based but not include actual words.

To test the efficacy of their method, go out onto the playground and ask them to pass a brief message or even a word to another group who, using the cipher for the code, has to translate it.

Activity Two – Observation

Suitable for Years 3 to 6

Learning Objective:

  • To be able to accurately observe and make notes on a scenario.
  • To be able to link a series of events to form a story using deduction.

One aspect of the training that Baden-Powell thought necessary for his scouts was observation and deduction, an element that was picked up by some British schools at the start of the 20th century.

Today, some schools use observation and deduction to provide a starter for creative writing and it’s this aspect that this activity focuses on.

Set up your classroom during a break time or before school starts. This can be done in many different ways depending on your theme for literacy this term but as an example, you can use this suggestion.

Leave a window wide open, place a plate with an unfinished snack on it, perhaps a part eaten apple together with a note on which you should write a time, say 2.30, and the name of a random object, say perhaps ‘alphabet’. Leave a radio playing and a coat slung over a chair.

Allow the pupils into the class and get them to look closely at the scene to identify what they see there. Ask them to write the name of each part of the scene on a piece of paper and then discuss in groups the relevance of each in relation to the whole scene, adding suggestions to a spider chart.

From this, each member of the group should be able to write their own account of what they think happened in the scene, using and linking each aspect of it together.


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