Cecil Slack
The Great War 1914 - 1918

English Speaking and Listening Teaching Resources

This is the English resources section where you will find teaching activities for English - especially speaking and listening.

These are intended for use by teachers and pupils at KS2 and KS3 of the National Curriculum for England and Wales.

They may be helpful for teachers and students working at other levels.

Although this page concentrates on writing, most activities will require pupils to speak and listen and to read at different times.

If you are a pupil, you may be able to work on your own.

If this is too hard, your teacher will help you. Remember that this site is written for children and grown-ups, in primary, junior and secondary schools, as well as teachers and other visitors.

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What Do You Know About The Great War?

Work in groups.

One person is secretary, and writes things down on a big sheet of paper.

You can have more fun by changing the secretary every so often.

The rest shout out things they know about the First World War, and the secretary writes these things down.

You could do this without looking at any of the letters and again after you have done some reading tasks.

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Speaking About Letters

  • Do you receive letters? From whom, when and why? If not, why not?
  • Do people in your family receive letters? From whom? About what?
  • How else do you and your family communicate (keep in touch) with other people?
  • Are these other ways used more or less than writing letters? Give reasons for your answer.
  • When is it better to write a letter? When is a letter not the best way to communicate?
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Listening with Understanding

In this activity your teacher will read aloud one or more of the letters on this site.

As the teacher speaks, listen carefully to the letter.

When the teacher has finished, see how much you have understood and remembered.

You can do this in Group Discussion, or by writing a list.

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Group Discussion

Before doing this, you may need to do some of the reading activities, so you have something to talk about.

It is possible to make up your own questions or headings for a discussion.

If you need help, your teacher will suggest some.

Here are some ideas which may help you get started. You could discuss:

  • Whether life was hard or easy for soldiers in the Great War.
  • Whether life was easier for civilians at home.
  • Whether women had nothing much to do in the Great War.
  • Whether young people today are better off than in 1914.
  • What you would think if the UK declared war on another country.
  • Whether war is exciting.
  • What words you would use to describe War.
  • Whether children should have to learn about something so long ago.
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One very enjoyable way to respond to what you read, is to make it into drama.

There are lots of different ways to do this.

You may have a choice, or your teacher may direct you to the most suitable approach.

Here are some ideas:

  • Choose two or more (but not too many) of the letters on this site. Read them through a few times. Now take turns to read them aloud. For each writer of a letter (e.g. Cecil or Dora) you should have a different reader.
  • Using information from as many letters as you can manage, make a short play about life in the war. You may take little bits of information from many letters. It is quite acceptable for characters who are far apart to talk to each other (dramatic licence). You may write the play down as a script. If you do this try to make it a play for the theatre, radio or television.
  • Making a play for radio, TV or cinema. If you have more time, you could write one or more scenes or episodes for a screenplay, based on the letters. Some things (in the letters) which are written down after they have happened could be shown directly. You could change the order - use flashbacks. To do this well, you must find out from your teacher (or a suitable Website) how to set out a screenplay.
  • Make a short spoken documentary feature about one or more of the people in the letters. Do this in a way which would be suitable for a young audience.
  • Hot-seating: one or more of you study some of the letters closely. Then, you must "become" the writer of the letters. Other pupils ask you questions, and you must do your best to answer them. They should not use your real name, but that of the character you are playing.
  • A news broadcast: using information in any of the letters, you can make a news broadcast for radio or television (which of course was invented long after the Great War). It is best to use a modern style of speaking and reporting - at the time, reports on the radio would not have up-to-date information. Both radio and newspapers were heavily censored. (This means people back in Britain were not told what was really happening.)
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Language Study

These letters were written a long time ago.

Some things in the English language have changed since then, but a lot remains the same.

There are many ways in which you can study the language in the letters, but here are some ideas.

Your teacher may give you more detailed directions about how to do this.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Make a glossary for the letters. This means listing words or phrases which need explaining, together with a word or phrase of your own which shows the meaning for modern readers. Remember to list them alphabetically. This is also a writing task, but a group of you can prepare it as an oral activity.
  • Do this in groups. One of you chooses (from one of the letters) a strange word or phrase and calls it out. The others in your group try and explain what the word or phrase means.
  • In groups, go through one of the letters and pick out five (or more) unsual and interesting words. Find out what they mean (use a dictionary - an online one will do) and then ask people in other groups what the words mean.
  • Each group reads a different letter from the others. Choose one word in the letter which you think the other groups should learn. Now share your words, and try to learn them.
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Suggest an Activity

If you have an idea about how to study the Great War, or war in general, please let us know.

If there is something you think should be here but isn't (yet), tell us.

If you are a teacher, and you would like a particular exercise, so your class can use this site to study English and use Information and Communication Technology, let us know.

To make a suggestion, use the e-mail address at the bottom of the page.

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Except where otherwise stated, the copyright in all of the archives and letters on this site is held by Robert Slack (grandson) and the Slack family. Copyright in teaching resources and materials on this site belongs to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council. Please acknowledge intellectual property rights by giving the URL of any pages you use, and/or include the © copyright symbol. Thank you.

Robert Slack - "I am very happy for (the letters) to be used by others. If teachers ever wanted to see the original letters for teaching purposes etc, I would be very happy to loan them, or send good copies of the originals."

To contact Robert, or to comment on this site, please e-mail Chris.A.Brown@eastriding.gov.uk

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EAST RIDING of YORKSHIRE COUNCIL School Improvement Service, County Hall, Beverley, East Yorks. HU17 9BA.
Tel: +44(0)1482 887700   Fax: +44(0)1482 887700   Website: www.eastriding.gov.uk