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In Drake's Wake

Drake on the National Curriculum

Susan Jackson BEd/BA
and Michael Turner

The majority of members are not teachers and may therefore be interested to learn how Drake is and can be taught in British schools. The following information details the minimum to the maximum amount of time which Drake appears within pupils' timetables throughout their school lives. No other teacher could possibly teach more about Drake than Susan Jackson. She has quoted from the National Curriculum official programmes of study.

Key Stage 2

This refers to children in Year 6 when they are 10 years old.

Study Unit 2 Life in Tudor Times

Drake is important to this unit because he is a key figure in both parts (a) and (b) of section 1.

Section 1

Major Events and Personalities.

An Example of Teaching

The Drake section would last for four lessons. The first two lessons would be dedicated to Drake's guerrilla activities in Panama and the remaining lessons would detail the world voyage.

Drake in Panama
  1. The teacher could be dressed in Elizabethan costume. The story would be told in dramatic and factual form, in our case, slides taken in the field would be used to illustrate the story. The story would stop as Drake prepares to ambush the treasure laden mule train.
  2. The narration would generate class discussion, questions and answers.
  3. The children could reconstruct this second and successful mule train robbery. Each group would be given a map of the jungle Royal Road (Camino Real) leading to Nombre de Dios. Pupils must decide where they would attack the mule train by marking the spot on the map. The teacher would reveal the answer. The group with the correct or closest answer would explain their thinking to the class. They would field questions.
  4. The teacher resumes the story until Drake and his weary, treasure laden men reach the river bank with the pinnaces - which were in-shore sailing boats nowhere to be seen but a Spanish sail in sight.
  5. Each group of children is given a sheet listing possible courses of action open to Drake. The pupils must make their decision and explain it to the class.
  6. A cross-curricular link with drama is possible by groups acting out the mule train robbery and getting the treasure aboard the ship.

Written work: Two years later in 1575, John Smith, who was on the raft with Drake, meets Thomas Moone from the voyage. They reminisce and in particular describe their feelings. Smith speaks about his experience on the raft and Moone when he was guarding the treasure on the river bank.

The World Voyage
  1. The pupils could visit the model of Drake's Golden Hind in London.
  2. Use the school hall and chalk out the shape of the ship's deck, within which the pupils sit to watch a video of the voyage or our narrated slide show.
  3. Pupil and teacher discussions with questions and answers.
  4. Each small group to create Drake's lost ship's log by paintings, staining or burning the edge of pages and pencil sketching. This cross-curricular approach with art could be extended to maths and science.
  5. We can compare the dimensions of the Golden Hind with those of the Victory, the Great Eastern and the QE2. The class would learn about size, shape, percentages and graphs. In science the children can extract fresh water from salt water. They can make their navigational aids, such as the cross-staff, back-staff and astrolabe.
The Armada

Several lessons would now study and explore Tudor life in general. After about three weeks the Armada is studied.

  1. The class watch one of the several excellent Armada videos.
  2. Pupils to compile an imaginary "newspaper" report written by an on-board journalist. Modern newspapers would be used to stimulate dramatic headlines, page layouts and front page exclusives.
Name of Paper
Account of the events picture
exclusive interview with
Drake or another

Michael Turner has produced a brief outline of Drake's life which is followed by graduated questions to suit a range of student ability. For lesson 2, on his map of Costa Rica, pupils have to plot where Drake anchored, cleaned the ship and stored the treasure during the world voyage. They write an empathetic account of their week's sojourn as a sailor.

Key Stage 3

This refers to children in Years 7 - 9 when they are 11 - 14 years old.

Study Unit 2 The Making of the United Kingdom 1500 -1700

Drake is not officially cited in this unit. However, the Spanish Armada forms part of the religious tensions section of the Religious Changes unit. Since Drake was the key figure in the defeat of the Armada and the sailor with whom the pupils will associate, he appears again. With Year 9 pupils, the 13-14 year olds, the following approaches can be employed depending upon individual ability. Hence, students could chose their task.

  1. The pupils read a variety of primary and secondary sources followed by a class discussion and questions and answers. This will reinforce a sense of chronology.
  2. Students watch "John Craven's Armada Newsround".
  3. In groups, pupils produce their "Newsroom" scenario. For example, Kate Adie on the deck of the Revenge. There are interviews with: Queen Elizabeth; King Philip; Drake; Duke Medinia Sidonia; the Duke of Parma; the commander of the Rosario, Don Pedro de Valdés; Sir Francis Walsingham and Lord Howard; a member of the public in London, Plymouth and Madrid and the beacon watcher on the south coast of England.
  4. An assessment of the value and reliability of the sources: both primary and secondary.
  5. An account of the events from the point of view of Drake's cabin boy aboard the Revenge.

Key Stage 4

This refers to children in Years 10 - 11 when they are 15 - 16 years old. The material depends upon (a) what examination board you choose (b) what option you select from those presented on your chosen Board's papers. The Midland Examining Group (MEG) offers Elizabethan England as one of its studies in depth and "The Activities And Achievements of Sir Francis Drake" is specified content for section 4 - "Was England A Great Power During Elizabeth's Reign?" with the question, "Was Drake A Pirate Or A Great Seaman?" posed as a point of focus.

My GCSE group examine Drake's life in general using a variety of primary and secondary sources. We study the: Panama guerrilla campaign, world voyage, West Indies voyage; Cadiz raid and the Armada. We examine various contemporary and modern views on Drake's character and achievements. The latter views include our personal opinions. The group have to write two inter-related extended essays titled, "What motivated Drake to undertake his voyages?" and "Was Drake a pirate or a great Seaman?" They conduct a class debate about the latter.

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