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Teaching about WW2 at KS2

(3 Posts)
BoattoBolivia Fri 21-Sep-12 19:53:51

just looking for thoughts really. Both the school I am PPA teacher in and my daughter's school are teaching about ww2 in Year 6. I am feeling more and more uncomfortable with Allies = good, Germans= bad attitude that the children seem to be picking up. I'm sure there is a better way of teaching this, but I'm not sure how to articulate it?

I am extra sensitive on the issue as I lived in Germany for some years as a child and have remained a keen 'Germanophile'. As a family we have spent many holidays in Germany and Austria. As a teenager in London, I had a lot of comments about Nazis from my peers and don't want to see my daughter going through the same.

Are year 6 children too young to understand the complexities of this or is it just sloppy teaching?

partystress Fri 21-Sep-12 22:06:06

Know exactly what you mean OP. Taught it 2 years ago, and will be doing it again this year. Children do naturally want to divide the players into goodies and baddies.

I think in teaching the rise of Hitler, you can emphasise that part of the reason that he was able to command support was because of the way Germany had been humiliated and treated after WW1, which meant that the German people were struggling even more than others in the late 20s and 30s and so more desperate to find a figure they could believe in and who could restore national pride. You could point to the rise of fascism here and in Italy and Spain - look at what drives extremism. I think the other thing that it is really important to stress is that Hitler had built his power base before the genocide began, and so he had a huge fear making machine. Children can understand that individuals put family first and might have gone along with things that they absolutely hated because they did not want to risk their children's lives or did not want to leave their families unprotected. The story of Ann Frank helps illustrate this. At first children are appalled at the way they are betrayed, but when you explore why the other family might have made their choice, they see it is complex.

I didn't study it myself until I was about 13, so I was worried before teaching it to Y6, but I have to say it has been the most rewarding 'topic' I have taught. I hope your DD gets a lot from it.

VioletStar Sun 23-Sep-12 05:33:35

As a secondary school History teacher, and Mum of Y4 and Y5 DC, I can see your dilemma, even Year 8s want to see goodies and baddies. In secondary though I use pictures eg of Dresden, to get students to discuss the horrors of war and do not mention until much later who did what. What I appreciate is when kids come up to secondary having an overview of the human stories, the dilemmas of choosing to support the Nazis to protect your family, the choices some made to stand up to them, etc. That, selfishly, makes my life so much easier when teaching the politics of it all, as kids tend to forget that people in the past were human beings and not just characters in a made up story.

With my own DC I emphasise the human choices made and ask what they think people could and then should have done. It helps them to talk through decision making and they are getting there understanding choices aren't always black and white, bad and good.

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