Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela is one of my favourite ‘Important People’ to cover in History, as he is such an inspirational character and the kids are always in awe of him!

Below are some of the resources and activities I use while teaching about ‘Madiba’ and his incredible life.

Video: This video from ‘Biography’ does a great job of introducing the children to Mandela and his life, and is kid-friendly!

Timeline Activity: This is my go-to history activity to get the kids engaged. Find 5/6 pictures of defining moments in Mandela’s life, and type up some text to go with them. Distribute the pictures and text in packs to groups, and have them match them up. This won’t take them long, so you could get them to summarise the information in a timeline or fact file activity.

Download the images and text I use, as well as some handy vocab words for a display, here

Poetry: There are a couple of famous poems surrounding Mandela that you can bring in here. They are ‘Our Deepest Fear’ (Marianne Williamson), which was read at his inauguration as President of South Africa, and ‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Hanley, which was said to have helped Mandela survive his 27-year spell in prison.

Collaborative Poster: This collaborative art activity from Jenny K is always a great hit with my class. Students are given 1/2 pages each, and have to either colour in or draw and colour in the piece of the picture they are given, depending on the version you choose. The different pieces come together to make a MASSIVE poster of Mandela!

Image result for art with jenny k nelson mandela

Kahoot Quiz: This is a great way of assessing how much the kids have learned, and they absolutely love Kahoot quizzes. If you haven’t come across Kahoot, check it out (it’s pretty simple), and the link for my Mandela quiz is available here.

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There you have it – some of the ideas and resources I’ve used when teaching about Mandela. There are, of course, hundreds more – you could have the kids write a letter to Mandela in prison; write a diary entry from his point of view; incorporate some drama into the main events of his life, create an animated video using a website like Biteable – the list is endless!

I hope this has given you some inspiration and helps you in planning your Mandela lessons. As always, if you have any questions or comments, get in touch @irishguyteaching!

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World War 1

World War 1 is a unit I love covering with older classes. There’s so much you can delve into, and the kids generally don’t know as much about it as they do about World War II.

You can download free, editable plans (sorry, coming soon!) that I use to cover this topic here, and read on for loads of lesson ideas, videos and other resources.

One other thing to mention – I use this interactive booklet when covering WWI. It’s probably the best resource I’ve ever bought, and for $5, I can’t recommend it enough. There’s a lot of cutting involved at the start, but it’s very easy to complete after that, and the kids love both the novelty, of it, and the break from researching, designing and presenting projects.


  1. MAIN Causes & Assassination of Franz Ferdinand
  2. Opposing Sides and Key Political Figures
  3. A Timeline of Major Events and Battles
  4. Life as a Soldier in the Trenches
  5. The Role of Women during the War
  6. The Treaty of Versailles

MAIN Causes & the Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

It seems to make sense to start with the causes of the War. You can start by discrediting the idea that Franz Ferdinand being shot was the sole cause of the war. Write the MAIN causes (militarism, alliances, imperialism, nationalism) on the board and get the kids to discuss each word with a partner – what do you think they mean? You could type up a paragraph or two on each cause, and give them to small groups, to put into their own words, and present them to the class. Another nice idea I’ve seen is to draw a firework, sectioned off into M,A,I and N, and then add a picture of Franz Ferdinand as the ‘spark’ that set the firework off.

Opposing Sides and Key Political Figures

Explain that the War was essentially fought between two sides – the Allied Powers and the Central Powers. Do the kids know which countries fought together or against each other? Use two different coloured Post-it notes on a large map of the world to show the countries involved.

Who were the leaders of these countries at the time? You can fill in the fact file on Woodrow Wilson by watching and discussing the video online, and then have the kids, use the video to make a fact file on Woodrow Wilson, and then have the kids research one other key figure online, for homework or during computer time.

A Timeline of Major Events and Battles

  • For this activity, you will need six major events, and pictures to match them. Unfortunately I can’t put up the pictures I use for copyright reasons. Just Google and print the pictures to go with the text. I like to put the kids in groups to match up the pictures, and then have them create their own timeline using their interactive notebooks (or any timeline template). If you don’t have time for that, you can use this one from Twinkl instead.

Image result for timeline clipart world war 1

Life as a Soldier in the Trenches

Recreating life in a trench is one of those memorable moments for a kid that they will remember for the rest of the year. You can incorporate so much learning into this five minutes of madness by improvising with classroom objects – e.g. hats can become gas masks, the metre stick a rifle, rolled up balls of paper can be hand grenades, and over turned desks can become trenches. Set up a no-man’s land, shout ‘Over the Top’, have someone roll in in a tank – the sky’s the limit on this one!

Afterwards, you can make tea-stained letters from a soldier (write the letter, then ‘paint’ it with teabags that have soaked in hot water). If you’re musically inclined, consider singing ‘Silent Night’ in both German and English, which was supposedly (though perhaps rather romantically), supposed to have happened during the Christmas Day Truce of 1945.

The Role of Women during the War

The girls in the class love this one! Women played a much more active role in World War I then we credit them for, and the first half of this video does a good job of explaining how. You could have the kids role play some of the various tasks women undertook, and maybe even write a short script to go alongside them.

The Treaty of Versailles

This video does a great job of explaining what happened at the end of the War, and you can lead it into a really interesting discussion about the hard deal Germany was dealt, and how this lead to the rise of Hitler, the Nazi Party, and World War II. This would make for an interesting debate on how the Allied Powers should have acted after the War!

So there you go – a pretty detailed breakdown of how I approach teaching World War I to fifth or sixth class. There is quite a lot in it and it will take a full month of at least one hour lesson a week.

Please let me know if you enjoyed this longer post – I tried to include as many ideas and resources as possible. Finish off your unit with this Kahoot Quiz, or challenge your students with this WWI crossword.

I hope you got some value from this, and thanks for reading!

Tom Crean

Tom Crean is one of the most under-celebrated heroes in Irish history. He led a fascinating life, and I absolutely love introducing him to kids in the classroom.

You can download the free, editable planning to go with this post here, and keep reading to see how I go about teaching this unit to fifth or sixth class.


  1. Stimulus and Discussion
  2. Timeline Activity
  3. Drama Integration
  4. Integration & Additional Resources

You could start this topic with a picture of Tom Crean as a stimulus. Does anyone know who he is? It’s unlikely that the kids will know much about him, so I wouldn’t bother with a KWL Chart – simply explain that he is famous for exploring Antarctica, and for attempting to be one of the first people to reach the South Pole (I’m generally all for discovery learning, but sometimes a simple explanation can get kids interested, and prevent them being frustrated by ridiculous questions like ‘What do you think his job was?’

This is a fantastic video which is both funny and informative, and is brilliant for getting the kids engaged with the topic, and making them eager to learn more.

After watching this, you could get the kids to do a timeline activity – give each group a set of pictures and flashcards, and get them to match them up. Then they can create their own timelines using a template like this, and display them in the classroom.

If you read Michael Scott’s amazing biography (for adults) on Tom Crean, you’ll find loads of hilarious and exhilarating stories of things that happened to him along the way. I’ve made these drama flashcards from those stories, and you can use them to let the kids reenact some of the major and mad events of his life (joining the army at 15, being turned back and completed the Solo Walk’, finding Captain Scott, Albert Medal, lifeboats).

Integration & Additional Resources

  • Reading: ‘Tom Crean: The Ice Man’ book (for kids)
  • Computers: Kahoot Quiz
  • Crossword
  • Summary of Tom Crean’s life (PDF)