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Famous Britons of the 20th century

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By David Clayton — author

Read biographies about the 10 famous faces in this interactive resource and discuss them with the class, then place them on the timeline in the decade they were most famous

This interactive, on-screen resource challenges children to place ten British faces on a timeline, considering in which decade they were most famous with short biographies providing further information. This resource is designed to promote discussion – there may be more than one right answer!

Key learning outcomes:

  • To present a spoken argument, defending views with evidence;
  • To experiment with the order of paragraphs;
  • To change the order of material within a paragraph, moving the topic sentence;
  • To establish, balance and maintain viewpoints in non-narrative;
  • To use ICT programs
  • To present text and communicate information.

Further resources

TimeLinerTM 5.0 Book and CD-ROM for sequencing information, pictures, sounds and movie clips on a time or number line. Results can be printed as banners, handouts, a slideshow or posted on the internet. Telephone 0845 603 9091or visit the scholastic website

Previous learning

Children need to be familiar with: timelines; terminology relating to time – eg, decades, centuries; the features of biographical writing; and be able to understand what it means to place items in order.

Shared learning and teaching

Before using the resource

  • Organise the children into groups then distribute whiteboards and pens, or large sheets of paper and marker pens, to each group. Give them 2 minutes to write down as many famous names as they can. When the time is up, feed back the names then ask the children to circle people who are British. Discuss, then ask them to underline the names of people who are still alive. This will help put the children in the right mindset.
  • Talk about timelines. How often are they used? Elicit the associated vocabulary and incorporate some cross-curricular maths when talking about decades and centuries.

Sharing the resource

  • Share read the introduction – How to play. Discuss the presentation, the use of the imperative and the hyperlinks.
  • Play the game. It is best played in a whole class or group to encourage discussion about where to place each famous face. Ensure that the children give reasons to back up their views.


  • How many of the faces did the children know?
  • What knowledge did they draw upon to decide where on the timeline they should be placed?
  • Was it possible to order the people just by looking at the clothes they were wearing or their hairstyles?
  • Look at the information about John Lennon. Elicit the text type – biography. Discuss the paragraph structure and decide upon a key word or phrase to summarise the subject of each paragraph. Note these down. Could the topic sentence be written in a different place within the paragraph? Would the paragraphs make sense if they were structured in a different order?
  • Look at another biography. Does the structure and subject of each paragraph follow the same pattern?
  • Which Briton deserves to be most famous? Ask the children to rank them, giving reasons for their choices.

Group and individual work

  • Try ordering the personalities in other ways – eg, popularity, most talented.
  • Use the activity sheet to structure and assess a successful group discussion on which Briton has done the most for Britain. The children should use evidence from the text to support their opinion.
  • Use the internet or resource books to find the names of ten famous Britons who lived in the 19th Century. Each child or pair could choose a name, make notes then write a brief biography. Compile the information to make a class timeline, together with pictures and biographies. This could be presented as a multi-model text.


  • Hold a class vote on who is the ‘Best Briton’ from the resource. Groups could present their arguments using evidence from the texts or from further research. Encourage questions before voting. Ask those who changed their opinions to state why. Evaluate the effectiveness of each presentation.
  • Feedback information found about famous Britons of the 19th century. Multi-model texts could be presented to the class.
  • Talk about what is needed to be able to work in a group and achieve success. Did the activity sheet help the children to work well with their group?
  • Elicit and consolidate the features of biographical writing.

For more information about David Clayton, check out our author profiles