Escape from the fire
31 January 2017Add to My Folder
Original article published on 29th October 2009
This simple play tells the story of a shoemaker’s family’s flight from London at the onset of the Great Fire in 1666. With four main speaking parts, a narrator and a selection of stage directions it provides scope for drama and role play as well as guided reading.
To help with comprehension, the children will need to understand something about London at the time, such as the proximity of the houses and transport, and how these differ from the modern day. The play script has some vocabulary which is likely to be new but most words will be decodable for children with an age-appropriate knowledge of phonics.
- If the children have not encountered play scripts before, explain their function and format.
- Consider using the leaflet over two sessions. During the first, each child could read the whole script individually to ensure they can decode the text and understand the story. During the second, allocate each child an individual part to develop fluency and expression in a group reading of the play.
- Make links to On-screen resource 2, and any other topic-related resources. Think about what it might have been like to have lived in London at the time of the fire.
- Point out the setting and the context for the story. Look through the leaflet together, pointing out key aspects – such as the cast list, the stage directions, the layout and organisation.
- Depending on the group’s ability, decide which new words to explain prior to reading and which to allow the children to try to work out using the context. New vocabulary could include: apprentice, ‘Bother me not’, panicking, barge, fleeing, stubborn and wagon.
The Great Fire of London Stewart Ross (Evans Start-up History series, 978 02375 26511). Also available as an interactive whiteboard CD-ROM as part of the Screentakes: Start-up History series. The Great Fire of London Deborah Fox (Heinemann Library, How do we know about? series, 978 04311 23370).
- Recap key aspects of blending – blending phonemes in order, how to look for digraphs and trigraphs rather than just single letters, recognition of common suffixes – and contextual clues the children have been taught to apply. Ask the children to read everything but, to help them understand, suggest they use a different voice for the actual speech or to whisper the stage directions. Model this with Mary’s opening to the play.
- Support the children individually to apply their decoding skills, encouraging them to use the punctuation to help with understanding. Be precise and specific with praise related to accurate reading.
- Ask the children to think about how each of the characters feels throughout the story.
- Recap the story from the first reading. Ensure the children know which bits to read to themselves (stage directions and names) and which to read aloud. Explain they must try to follow each other’s parts so they know when to read their own parts.
- Model how to read a play script, being explicit about what you are thinking – for example, ‘It says Mary, so that’s how I know who is talking but I don’t need to say that aloud.’
- Support the children to work as a group to produce a coherent reading. Focus praise on success with expression and fluency.
- Discuss any new words the children found, encouraging them to explain how they worked them out.
- Discuss how each character felt about the fire. Fill in the Emotions Chart (downloadable below) as a group or individual activity. The children could complete the charts in two ways:
- Add a scale down the left-hand side (the vertical axis) describing different emotions. Then shade the columns to plot each character’s emotions on that scale at different times. Mother’s scale could range from not worried to very anxious. Mary’s scale could range from interested to frightened.
- Write words in each column to describe the characters’ emotions, placing them at different heights. Words and phrases could include: not worried, unconcerned, interested, worried, curious, relieved, excited, frightened, terrified, panicking, anxious, fretting.
- Use the questions on the question sheet below to support the children’s understanding of the story.
Follow-up to guided reading
- Provide some props to support acting out some or all of the play.
- Encourage the children to generate their own role play about other families who might have been involved in the fire. Some children may want to write their own simple play scripts.