The Great Fire of London

Author: Tim Taylor l Suitable for: Key Stage 1, Planning

The Theme

Great fire of London – Health and Safety – Learning about the Past – Learning from Artifacts left from the Past

For more information on this frame visit the blog:

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The Curriculum

Understanding – Recognise (in the past) why people did things, why events happened and what happened as a result. Identify differences between ways of life at different times.

Skills – Planning, working together, asking questions, applying imagination, find out about the past from a range a sources.

Knowledge – Find out about past events/people in Britain.

Values – That some people risk their lives to save others

Developing the Situation

Inquiry Questions

– What was life like at the time of the Great Fire of London?
– Why do some people risk their lives to save others?


The chief fire officer of a London based Fire Station has asked the fire-fighters to contribute to a fire safety education brochure for children. This will be used alongside a new purpose built education centre on the Fire Station site.
Whilst builders are digging the foundations for the education centre – a discovery is found – a box – which has lain in the earth for over 300 years! (Incidentally, the fire station is not far from Pudding Lane)

Designing the Expert Frame

The team of experts

The London based Fire-fighters


Initially – the Chief Fire Officer


1. To educate children in Fire Safety through the brochure & the education

Possible Steps in:

Step 1. Take your time drawing the box. It’s a story so your are drawing them in. Be relaxed, give details of the builder, why was he in the house. How far down was the box. Why was he digging there. What did he see first. What did he do. What does the box look like. Is the drawing life size. What’s it made of. What are the handles like. Was it locked….etc
This is all reported – an account of a person by another person in naturalistic fashion (convention 16).

If you have time take a look at the article I wrote on the website “The Tudor House” There is a bit more detail there.

Its worth looking at a real 17th safe box (find one on the net) & drawing some of detail, hinges etc. Also worth drawing it life size & saying so.

Step 2. “I wonder why someone might bury a box and then not come back to dig it up again? They can’t have come back. Its laid here for 300 years since the day it was buried.” You ask this & get some ideas from the class. Don’t answer just take what they give you. Nod & ponder.

Step 3. “We could have a look at what happened. I’m going to ask Mrs ….. if she could be in the person burying the box, just for a moment. Of cause it wasn’t Mrs …. Who buried the box, but someone else who lived 300 years ago. But we could see that person as if they were in a picture or a painting. Lets take a look…” (Convention 8 of course). perhaps bending of to pat down with a spade.

The class can stare & interpret: “What can see?” “What might be happening.”

Step 4. Talking to the person in the painting; (Convention 7) “We could ask the person a few questions. Would that be helpful? Excuse me. (person can now move, straighten up & answer. I always think of this convention as the “Windy Miller” convention!). This is very useful because the class can now learn a lot about the c17th without you having to teach them, they learn it all from the role.

– Now, it is getting difficult to plan the steps, because a lot might come out of the conversation with the role.
– Possible steps include: 1. Thought tracking the emotions of the role. 2. Bringing other people into the painting. 3. Hearing the ‘voices of the smoke’ as it creeps under the door. These could be written down around the picture. 4. Another painting – decided by the children – showing why the person never came back. 5. A letter written by the role (words suggested by the children) to family, put into an envelope with a key 7 then put somewhere safe from the fire (suggested by the children).

Step 5. Opening the box. “Now could we imagine the box has been cleaned up & taken to the museum to be opened by a team of experts. A team whose job it is to look at objects that have survived from the past, to preserve them & tell others? I wonder how they might open the box, if they don’t have the key & don’t want to damage it?”

Of course the conversation that follows will be shadowy role and you can modify your language to edge them in. “Yes, we might… I suppose we could…” When you settled on a solution then use convention 2 to watch the moment it was opened. Ask one of the children (perhaps a team) to show us the moment. You could make a lot of this if you wanted. Hear the thoughts or the voices of the team members etc.

Step 6. (Convention 16) “As the box opened the museum team saw the precious objects inside, objects which had laid in the box for 300 years, undisturbed….” “I wonder if we could imagine for a moment what the team found? What might be in a box like this? They would have to be very important and valuable, but perhaps not valuable like treasure. But valuable on to the person that buried them… You know family things. Things that would remind… (the role) of her children or family heirlooms, that is important to the family…”

– This is a tricky move because they might be a bit young to understand. If they get hung up on the idea of treasure (particularly pirate treasure) then you might want to bring the role back. Be careful to negotiate her back in. “Um I suppose there would be some treasure in the box, but I don’t know how much. She would have to have been very very rich to have all that treasure. We could bring her back again for a moment & ask her….” The role can then say something like: “Well we weren’t a rich family & all we had of value was my mothers silver necklace, A bag of gold coins and…”

Step 7: “Could we imagine, just for a short while, that we are the people opening the box, the museum team. If this happened in a real museum the people would be very careful to make sure everything was recorded, that is a careful picture was drawn of the object. Could you just imagine what you might find in the box, something of value, but only to the family, & think why it might be valuable to them? You might find the pictures & books etc I’ve out around the classroom useful for you to have a look at. Or you might have an idea in your head already…” (Get some feedback from one or two… they might be able to tell you why the object is important… or it might be too early.)

– You should have some resources available for them to look at. Pictures, books etc.

Step 8: Children draw the objects. Using the resources as guide.

– Again difficult to guide you beyond this point.

Step 9: Bring back the role and watch her putting the objects back in the box as if it were the day they were buried the children could come up & give them to her. The children might be able to tell you why they are significant. But you might need to hear the voice of the role, you could ritualise it. “I place this is in the box because…

– You could then look at the real objects. “I’ve brought in some real objects from the time the box was buried, would you be interested in seeing them?”

People at the time (TA’s) – ‘We don’t know if we will survive…’ Look at the TAs faces as they look at the box – read body language and expression. (Portrait family as they crouch around the box)

Hear the voices of the smoke.

In our time – What do you think will be in it? Of course the things in the box may be valuable/important….

Draw the things

Imagine over 300 years ago – what do you think the people would have? Clothes? Buckles? Watch?

Actually they didn’t have…. But they did have……

One Response to “The Great Fire of London”

  1. Paul Bevan Says:
    September 1st, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    How did it get the title of The Great Fire of London ?