Explorers in primary literacy

Robert Falcon Scott left behind many items from his epic and fateful journey to the South Pole. Most of them can still be seen if you visit the wooden hut in Antarctica which was his base camp but others are more easily encountered. Probably the most poignant are his letters home; to his wife, his son, his mother and his benefactors. In them he displayed a stoic attitude in the face of certain death.

Activity One – Recognising Emotions

LO: Reading for understanding – recognising emotions in writing and developing empathy

Compare and contrast the emotions of two characters within a piece of writing

The letter to his wife, which can be read at http://www.mytimemachine.co.uk/scott.htm, is a great way to practise the use of empathy with the class.

Tell the story of Scott from the Big Cat book and ask the children the questions at the end to reinforce their understanding. In the book it talks about Scott’s diary writing but he was also writing letters home to his family and friends. Tell the children you are going to read his last letter home to his wife. Read it in an appropriate tone and you will begin to get the children to pick up the emotion of the letter.

Follow it up with questions that will direct the children towards understanding his feelings at the time he wrote it.

Now, rather than continue work on the letter from Scott’s point of view, ask the children to consider it from his wife’s point of view.

You’ll need to tell them that she already knew that he was dead when she received the letter but that gives you a good extension activity which will test their empathetic skills by asking them if she would feel any different if she hadn’t known he was dead.

Ask the children to imagine her reading the letter. They should highlight and number the parts they feel are important and on a separate piece of paper, write down what they think she would be feeling at that point.

At the conclusion of the exercise the children will have a list of emotion statements. If they give each a number from one to ten they can plot the emotions on a graph where 10 is happy, 0 is total misery and 5 neither unhappy nor happy. Plotting the parts of the letter gives an ‘emotions graph’ which will help visual learners to understand the changes in emotions as she reads through the letter.

At Home: Scott was beaten to the South Pole by the Norwegian Roald Amundsen. Read his story and if you have time, write a short piece explaining how he felt from getting their first to finding out that his rival had died.

Activity Two – Diary Writing

LO: To be able to write for different purposes
To use appropriate grammatical rules for chronological writing
Show the children examples of diary writing. You could use part of Anne Franks’ diary or Captain Scott’s. Ask them to compare the two.

Talking Point: What similarities do they show in layout and in the style of writing used?

The children should pick up that they are chronological accounts, ‘chapter headings’ are the days and dates and that they are narrative accounts of that day’s events written in the first person and mostly in the past tense.

Now, use copies of the Big Cat book on Captain Scott and ask the children to identify key points of the expedition and try to work out which date or month they were. They should find at least eight. For each of them, ask them to write a diary entry from Captain Scott including a comment on how they were feeling at each point.

At Home: Ask your parents if they keep a diary. What do they use it for? Perhaps start a diary of your own.

Activity Three – Writing Non-Fiction

LO: Identify the similarities and differences between non-fiction and fiction writing
To be able to use diagrams, charts and illustrations appropriately and effectively in a piece of non-fiction writing

The Big Cat book on Scott is an example of non-fiction writing. Ask the children to get out their reading books and to compare the way their books are written and laid out compared to the Big Cat book on Scott. They should notice that the non-fiction book has less dialogue, more pictures, charts, diagrams and facts and is written to inform the reader whilst their reading book is written to entertain them.

Choose another of the 19th and 20th century explorers such as Amundsen, Livingstone, Stanley or Burton and ask the children to research information about them before creating a double page spread on their adventures using the same format as the Big Cat book. Pages 4 and 5 or 14 and 15 are good ones to use. They can either do the work on the computer using text and picture boxes in Word or Publisher or by writing it on a sheet of A3 paper. Ask them to decide what they’re going to include on the page and to get pictures from the internet to copy and paste onto it or to cut and stick if they’re writing it. They should do the writing separately to begin with so it can be reviewed and edited if necessary. Encourage them to use maps or to label pictures as diagrams to enhance their work.

Finally, compare their adventure biography with the Big Cat book on Scott.
At Home: Can you find out why these explorers set off on dangerous missions? Write a paragraph detailing the reasons at least one of the explorers had for going.

Activity Four – Discoveries and Achievements
LO: To be able to understand cause and effect in the actions of others

To effectively research, identifying appropriate information for the task and write it in your own words

In Victorian times and in the early part of the 20th century many explorers set off to dangerous countries where no foreigner had ventured before. Many were successful, some were not.

This activity looks at the achievements of the explorers and how their efforts changed the world.

The website http://www.unlockingthearchives.rgs.org/themes/encounters/ will prove very helpful in delivering the lesson.

Compile a list of explorers from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries for the children to research.  You can use Livingstone, Stanley, Burton, Scott, Amundsen and others.

The activity doesn’t seek to compare the explorers and the hardships they encountered but looks at what they achieved and how it helped scientific, geographical, religious and economic progress.

At Home: Not everything the explorers did was positive. Some exploration led to the development of the slave trade whilst others led to the transmission of fatal diseases that wiped out civilisations or spread invasive plants and animals.  Ask the children to find one negative aspect about one of the discoveries made by an explorer from the chart.

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