Songs of the First World War

Teachers' notes, activities and linked resources

This resource is part of a collection of cross-curricular resources intended to promote archival material relating to the First World War for use in Arts activities and as part of Arts Award.

Curriculum links:

KS2-3 Music – Perform, listen to, review and evaluate music across a range of historical periods, genres, styles and traditions
KS2-3 Arts Award - Identify and experience a range of art forms

Aim of resource:

To encourage the use of First World War archival material in Arts and Arts Award activities.

Learning objectives:

Knowledge of popular music during the First World War
Understanding of the different functions of music in popular culture
Skills to analyse artistic material as a historical source

Discussion ideas:

  • What do you think of the two songs on the previous page?
  • Why do you think they were written?
  • Who might have sung them?
  • How do you think they might be different from songs sung by soldiers (see links below for examples)?
  • Do you think that there were very famous musicians like modern popstars in the 1900s?
  • How do you think songs from the First World War might have been different from modern popular songs?
  • Have you heard of any songs that were popular in the First or Second World Wars?
  • What instruments might have been used in Edwardian music?
  • Where do you think people listened to music in the 1900s?

Activity ideas:

Download a worksheet of the lyrics for 'Won't You Join the Army' (including glossary and linked questions)
  • Create a playlist of Edwardian/First World War music for the class

  • Create a mood board with songs that reflect different emotions. Perhaps these could be used to tell a personal story – perhaps of one of the real individuals from the First World War whose story is featured in our WW1 resources suite

  • Conduct further research into songs from the First World War, using the links below as starting points. Look at the lyrics of these songs
    - Do they talk about home life or life as a soldier?
    - How do they present the war?
    - Who do you think they were written for and why?
    - What do you think of the song and why?

  • Ideas for Arts activities:

    Sculpture – use old second-hand LPs to create sculptures inspired by FWW – LPs could be softened with heat and moulded into new forms –LPS could be shattered and used to create mobile-hanging art pieces

    Song-writing – groups could write and perform their own song inspired by music from the First World War. Discover the 'top ten' songs of the First World War (see the Guardian link below) or listen to 'God Keep You is my Prayer' (via the YouTube link below).

    Musical performance - Each class member could act as a musical note/noise and perform a song together.

    Design imagery for a music video: Watch the YouTube video of the song 'God Keep You is My Prayer' (see link below). Think about how you might change the imagery in the video and how this could alter the meaning of the song. Design a storyboard for your own music video for this or another First World War song.

View other relevant My Learning resources or scroll down for a list of links and resources on this topic.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Leeds Museum Discovery Centre |  Arts Award Supporter | 
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