Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
Cross-curricular KS3 Teaching Notes
By Helen Backhouse, KS3 English Teacher, Dorset
This is the story of the experiences of two brothers growing up at the turn of the twentieth century and of the tumultuous events of the First World War. It is a powerful account, stimulating both an emotional and intellectual response, which transcends the boundaries of the National Curriculum and embraces many different subject areas. The text inspires a range of responses - artistic, musical and historical, as well as providing a wealth of linguistic and literary features for study.
Michael Morpurgo presents contrasts between the natural, timeless environment of a Devon childhood and the violent realities of war, through the eyes of a young, sympathetic narrator, Tommo Peaceful. His choice to portray the experience of training, fighting and dying in war time so sensitively ensures that the text makes difficult and challenging ideas particularly accessible for KS3 pupils.
The text is rich in material for study in English, Art, Citizenship, Drama, History, ICT and Music. Below is a selection of suggested activities, aimed at providing teachers with ideas for cross-curricular work in schools. Some are very short term, taking up perhaps just one lesson; others are much longer projects, offering teachers some flexibility in their planning.
• Examine sections of the text where the author uses the present tense for Tommo's narrative, e.g. page 21-23 where Tommo has his first fight. Discuss why Morpurgo has chosen to change tense here and what effect it creates. Pupils write their own account of an important experience, either autobiographical or fictional, using first person narrative and the present tense to create a dramatic effect of their own.
• Consider the character of Charlie as seen through Tommo's eyes. What are his key characteristics? What episodes in his life reflect those characteristics? Does he...