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Responding to Famine: History & Citizenship
Last famine in Western Europe
In the mid-1840s, the potato crop failed in Ireland and the consequent 'Great Hunger' spread hunger and disease throughout the island. As a result, some 1 million died of disease or starvation and about another 1 million left Ireland to settle abroad.
The range of responses to the Irish Famine offer not only hope for the future but also a stark warning of the difficulties facing organisers of relief today.
Study units for Key Stages 2 & 3
Two new depth studies explore contemporary responses to the the Irish Famine as a way of
  a. exploring the history of Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations and
  b. addressing responses to famine in the world today.
Key question
‘How should we respond to Famine: Ireland in the 1840s?’
Using a variety of stimulus material, particulary visual sources, the unit encourages pupils to explore the past by examining sources relating to the Irish Famine and the context in which they arose.
The key question leads pupils to consider
a. the causes of the Famine (KS3 unit only)
b. ways in which the Famine affected people
c. how they responded to the crisis, and
d. how famine is treated today.


The key question also
  a. leads to a better understanding of the complexities of the impact of, and responses to, famine generally and makes explicit links to Citizenship
  b. offers scope for work in Literacy and Music.

Contents of study units
About this unit/lesson plans
Lessons, sources & worksheets
  1. What questions arise from looking at a picture of an eviction during the Irish Famine?
  2. How can we explain what was happening in this picture?
  3. Why did the Famine happen? (Key Stage 3 only)
  4. How far was eviction the main experience of the Famine?
  5. What can we do about famine?
  1. Famine in Ireland
  2. What happened to the potato crop in the 1840s? (Key Stage 3 only)
  3. Evictions during the Famine
  4. Commentaries on some sources
  5. Every Child Matters
Key Stage 2
Study unit (pdf)   Powerpoint of visual sources used
Key Stage 3
Study unit (pdf)   Powerpoint of visual sources used
Common resources
a. PowerPoint overview of the Famine, with songs and music:|_Secondary.ppt?wa=wsignin1.0
b. Flash presentation using mouseover to identify main figures and action in ‘The Ejectment’ (Lesson 1, source 1A):

More resources on the Famine
Why study the Irish Famine? 
For Key Stage 2
For Key Stage 3

Lesson 1
Source 1A: 'The Ejectment', The Illustrated London News, 16 December 1848
Key Question
What questions arise from looking at a picture of an eviction during the Irish Famine?
1. Starter. Show eviction, source 1A (See Note 2).
a. Teacher introduction: Briefly explain the context of the picture.
b. Ask children what is going on in the picture and who are the people in it.
2. a. Generate words on a wordwall - nouns, adjectives or verbs - to show observations, feeling and impressions from the picture.
b. Children match the cards to the picture.
3. Working in groups. Look at the picture. You have to become the main people in the picture.
a. Freeze frame.
b. Judging everyone’s freeze-frame.
Give it a mark from 1 (not like the picture) - 5 (exactly like the picture).
c. Optional extension activity: make a 3 second movie with soundscape to suggest what happened next in the picture.
4. Plenary. Asking questions (Role on the wall.)
Pin two characters on board - bailiff and tenant (or tenant’s wife) - and children generate questions on post-it notes and stick on characters.
Key Stage 2 unit:National Curriculum History
2a; 4a, b*; 5c
Key Stage 3 unit: History Programme of Study
1.2a; 2.1b*; 2.2b*; 2.3b

Lesson 4/5 (KS2/3)
What can we do about famine?
1. Starter. How do we respond to crises, such as famine and war, today?
2. Divide class into groups to discuss the question ‘How do you think you would have responded to the potato Famine?’
3. Using sugar paper, marker pens, ideas from the wordwall and any other material from the preceding 3 lessons, produce a visual aid (poster, badge, sticker, logo, etc.) and letter to persuade people to support your response.
4. Present your campaign to the class and ask them to vote on it.
5. Plenary. How far has your work on the Irish Famine helped you to understand why famines occur today and how people respond to them?
Option: Could run a campaign to raise awareness and support for people experiencing famine today.
Key Stage 2 unit: National Curriculum
History:2a; 4a, b*; 5c
Citizenship: 2d*; 5a, c
Key Stage 3 unit:
History Programme of Study: 1.3a; 2.3a*, b*; 3c; 4e
Citizenship: 1.1a, b; 1.2b; 1.3a, b, c; 2.1a; 2.2 a-d; 2.3a, b; 3e, h