Tudors, was as a historical and musical adventure for Key Stage 2 learners designed by the Youth and Community department at Welsh National Opera (WNO). The department worked with 8 primary schools over the course of a year. This case study focused on a two-day ‘creative adventure’ for 46 Year 6 pupils at Rumney Primary School.
The Tudors! Killing Cousins was devised as a cross-curricular interactive activity, linking the WNO Tudor season with the KS2 National Curriculum for History, Music and Literacy.
Teachers received a resource pack, music CD and a twilight preparatory session from WNO, introducing the material and style of the project.
The children were transported into a fictional world and were given ‘expert’ roles and tasks which involved collective enquiry and problem-solving. There were no observers or audience, and all adults present, including teachers and classroom assistants, were involved in the process.
The WNO’s creative team worked with the learners in their own school and then at the nearby National Trust property, Tredegar House, Newport.
The WNO singers and musicians performed arias and duets from operas, linking with the narrative of the adventure, with learners engaged in song-writing, singing and role-play.
The school used the workshop sessions as a basis for further work on the Tudors and as a focus for a literacy assessment. Learners developed their writing skills through individual blogs on the school website which, showcased their creative writing. There was also a facility for peers to comment and review each other’s work.
From the teachers’ perspective, the project was an ‘excellent example of how cross-curricular activities can work. It covered a wide array of subject disciplines and National Curriculum level descriptors.’
Impact on learners’ literacy skills
Teachers commented that the project had an immediate and inspirational impact as a result of the enthusiasm generated by the WNO team. ‘There was a great debate around the resolution of the story and many innovative ideas were sparked from this group discussion - individuals who usually refrained from putting their hands up were freely offering valid ideas…..’
Supporting learning across the curriculum
National Curriculum subjects covered included English, History, Music, ICT, PE, RE and PSE. ‘After the project, we highlighted the “skills-ladders” documents which demonstrate how learning has met statutory requirements in different subjects. The project exceeded expectations ….’
The WNO’s designed an imaginative follow-up booklet for individual student, to prompt them to reflect on the workshops.
In addition to the booklet, learner voice was also captured through group discussion amongst learners:
‘It has improved my writing skills and my confidence to have a go, even if it's hard. I used to just write the date and my name at the top of the page and nothing else, because I didn't know what else to write. Since the WNO visit, it has improved my confidence in writing. I felt like I could keep up with the rest of the class when writing the story…’
Writer and facilitator Martin Riley from the WNO observed that for pupils:
‘The writing within the project was totally contextualised. The storytelling and invention are for a purpose – they are for communication, for proving a point, for persuasion, for problem-solving. Suddenly the focus of the children is on the need to succeed… The work is cooperative – everyone had to help and everyone could be right…The most unlikely children, the shy, the self-conscious, the unruly, the learning-challenged are suddenly the most useful – the stars...’