'An Anglo Saxon Theme!
Oh no!' you cry!
Who were the Anglo Saxons anyway? Where did they live ? What did they wear? What was life like 1600 years ago in Britain? And what activities can I do to inspire my kids?
Panic not. Help is at hand!
Just scroll down and start planning!
There are lots of downloads, worksheets and recipes for you to use too!
The Anglo Saxons were a fierce bunch of warriors who invaded Britain about 1600 years ago.
They were made up of three tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes and came from Germany, Holland and Denmark. The largest of the tribes being the Angles and the Saxons,hence the name 'The Anglo Saxons.'
It is believed that their lands had suffered flooding. So, unable to grow crops or build new homes in their own countries, they were on the look out for somewhere new!
The Anglo Saxons sailed across the north sea in boats. These boats were made of wood and were fitted with oars along the entire length of both sides of the ship. Later versions had a sail made of woven cloth to take some of the strain off the oarsmen on longer journeys.
They were also double ended. This meant that they could reverse quickly without the need to turn the ship around
Begin your Anglo Saxon theme by challenging your kids to build a boat They can use books from the booklist below or look on the internet for ideas.
Ask them to draw a diagram of their boat before they start to make it and decide what materials they will need.
See if any of them think of putting shields along the hull.
Here are a few things you might like to have to hand!
Card [fairly stiff]
straws or matchsticks
white sheeting for the sail ----------- and more perhaps!
You might like to make a classroom display of the children's armada of Saxon ships! See picture above!
When the Anglo Saxons first arrived in Britain they found towns and cities left behind by the Romans. But they were not town dwelling people.They preferred a quieter rural life where they could grow crops and look after their animals.
West Stow in Suffolk is a great example of an Anglo Saxon village.
You can find loads of info about the early Anglo Saxons by visiting their site on www.weststow.org
Before you begin planning with the kids,where the Saxons might have built there settlement, you will need to draw and photocopy a map for the kids to work with. [You can download one here if you wish]
This can be very simple. For example,you might include a wood or forest, a hill or hills, a river and an area of flat land on either side of the river. You also might like to include different types of terrain, such as a rocky hillside or a marshy area. This will add another dimension to their planning!!
Next, discuss with the children what the Saxons would look for when deciding where to build their village.
For example they would need access to clean water for washing and drinking.
They would need wood for their fires and for building their dwellings.
They would need fertile land in order to grow their crops
They would somewhere safe to keep their animals.
All these things have to be taken into consideration when deciding where to build their village.
Discuss all these facts with the children. When you are happy they are confident to make their own decisions, send them off in pairs with a copy of the map you prepared.
Ask them to decide whereabouts on the map the Saxons would have chosen to built their settlement and why?
They can write their reasons for their decisions on the bottom of the map. Remember there are no right or wrong answers to this activity. All they need is a logical explanation for their decision!
To finish the lesson, choose several of the pairs to explain their decisions and get the rest of the class to challenge some of their ideas!
Ask the children to find out about Saxon houses.
Look in books and on the web and decide what they will need to make a model of one. If you're thinking of making a classroom display of a Saxon settlement then it might be a good idea to make sure all the houses are of a similar size.
You will need to provide:
1. cardboard boxes of similar sizes
3. glue and paint
4. corrugated card
5. lolly sticks or collect your own from the school grounds.
Make a list of the things they might find inside a Saxon house. Then draw a plan to show the positions of all those things.
What about the animals? Where would they live?
Anglo Saxon women wore long linen under dresses and on top of these, overdresses made of wool. They were held together with brooches at the shoulder. They wore leather belts round their waist from which they hung their pouch and knives.
The men wore a hip length tunic made of wool or linen and a pair of trousers also of wool. They had a belt too, so that they could carry their pouches and knives easily.
The kids wore very similar clothes to their parents with the boys in trousers and tunics and the girls in a long dress or tunic. All were made of linen or wool.
Now you have the facts its time to get the kids working!
You can't do an Anglo Saxon theme without learning about their crafts and skills.
They couldn't go to the shops and buy the latest fashion garment or ask their Nan to make them a tunic!
So they had to clothe themselves with what they could get hold of. Wool was readily available to them and was warm and waterproof so it was the obvious choice of material!.
So lets learn how to weave like the Anglo Saxons
Method 1 [ this is a simple method of weaving for younger children]
Here's what you will need:
1. A piece of card with 'teeth' cut out from the top and bottom and wool wound round the card and fixed at either end with tape. [ see picture above]
2. Wool in different colours.
3. Some blunt, thick sewing needles
Thread your needle with a long piece of wool and weave it in and out of the parallel strands.Keep going from left to right and then from right to left until you want to change colours or you run out of wool!
Using this method you won't be able to take the weaving off the card. Using method 2 you can.
1. Using a piece of card [any size] draw a border of about 1/2 inch all round the edge
2. Next using sharp scissors make a series of slits in the top edge of the card a 1/4 inch apart and down to the border that you have just drawn.
3. Now repeat this action on the bottom edge of the card.
4. Take a ball of wool or yarn and fasten it to the back of the card with a piece of tape. Then wedge your wool through the first slit and draw it across the card to insert it into the 1st slit on the opposite edge.
5. Now wrap the wool around the back of the second slit, pull it round to the front and stretch the yarn across the card again and into the 3rd slit.
6. Carry on doing this until all the slits are used up and the loom is full.
7. Now we're ready to weave!
Take about 48'' of yarn and thread your needle.Tie a knot if you're worried about loosing the end!!
Now off we go! Over and under all the way along the parallel strings and then back the other way making sure you leave a few inches of wool at the end of the first row of weaving.
8. Keep on going , changing colours if you want to, until you reach the bottom of the loom. Make sure you keep pushing the weaving up towards the top so it stays nice and compact.
9 When you're ready to take your weaving off the card. Bend the cardboard tabs forward and slip off the loops. Cut each loop and tie the ends in a double knot. Do the same with the bottom edge.
There you are! Your first bit of weaving. Just like the Anglo Saxons!
Create your own dyes and make your own material!
Making your own dyes is a great activity to do with your kids for your Anglo Saxon theme. All you need is a collection of 'past their best' fruits and veggies such as wilted spinach or ends of lemons or soft carrots. These can be boiled up to make cheap and eco friendly dyes to colour your cloth.
What you need:
What you do.
Gather together your fruits and vegetables for your dyes.You will need at least a cupful of each item, to make a strong enough colour. Things such as spinach and tomatoes should be chopped or torn into smallish pieces.
Put each cupful of chopped fruit or veg into a small saucepan and cover with about twice as much water. Leave to simmer for at least an hour.
Allow to cool to room temperature and then strain and pour into glass jars. You can use plastic ones but the dyes may stain them.
Now you are ready to dye your cloth!
Fixing the dye. [you don't have to do this]
To make a lasting job you will need to 'fix 'the colour. For fruit dyes, you put the fabric in a saucepan with 4 cups of water and 1/4 cup of salt and simmer for one hour
For vegetable dyes put the cloth in a saucepan with a cup of vinegar and 4 cups of water and as with the fruit dyes, boil for an hour.
Rinse the cloth well in cold water then immerse it in the dye until it reaches the right colour
Of course you don't have to do this unless the cloth you intend to dye is going to be kept or worn. For displaying in the classroom, as I did, I don't think you need to go to all that trouble. Boiling for one hour is bad enough!!
If you don't want to bother with the fixing process just soak your cloth in the dyes until you have the desired colour.
The kids will think its a little bit of magic.
You can use the dyed fabric to make clothes for your Saxon people!
See picture below!
The Anglo Saxons loved to eat! They often had feasts with all the members of the village gathering together in the great hall.They grew wheat to make their bread and barley to make their ale. They ate a mix of vegetables such as peas, parsnips, cabbage and onions. Their favourite meats were deer and wild boar which they roasted on an open fire in the middle of their houses.
Here are some recipes for you to try which the Saxons just might have cooked too! There are recipe downloads with instructions of how to make each food. So you can give a copy to the kids to take home and try out on their families! Or if you feel really brave try one in the class all together!
Just click on the recipe to see download
No. When the Saxons first came arrived in Britain they were Pagans which meant they didn't have one god but many gods. Each of their gods controlled a certain part of their lives. For example Saxnot was the god of the family. You can find a list of many of them if you click here.
Later on, the Pope sent a monk called Augustine to England to convert the population to Christianity. He landed in Kent and managed to convert the first King Ethelbert of Kent.
Augustine became a bishop and built the first cathedral in Britain at Canterbury.
Christianity soon spread all over Britain and the pagan churches were ordered to be taken down and replaced by Christian ones. There are still many Saxon churches in Britain today.See if you can find one near you.
Activity: Find a picture of a Saxon church. Draw and label how it was made. What shape were the towers? Why do you think they were built this shape? Find out more about Saxon churches.
Some of the days of the week are named after the Gods. Can you see the similarity between Saxon days of the week and ours today?
If you want a copy of the Saxon days of the week click here.
Most of the Anglo Saxons were farmers. They had to support themselves and their families but there were some that did other things . See if you can find out what other jobs the Saxons did. The women also worked hard. Find out what jobs they might have done.
Finish your Anglo Saxon theme by giving the kids a quiz to find out how much they have learnt about this important period of history. There is a worksheet for you to download
I hope you have found some useful info on this web page. Other pages that you might like to look at are:
Both have a historic theme to them!
Also I would like to thank my friend and colleague Linda Preston for giving me some of my ideas for this topic and allowing me to use some of her kids work as illustrations for my page.