Using Primary Sources in the Classroom when Exploring Anzac Day

As we explore Anzac Day in the classroom each year, we might seek new ways of presenting familiar events and stories. One way to take a closer look at the history of Anzac Day is through presenting and exploring primary sources. But where can we find primary sources around Anzac Day and how can we use them in the classroom.

 
Using Primary Sources in the Classroom When Exploring Anzac Day. A look at what primary sources are, where to find Anzac Day primary sources and exploring 3 particular primary sources. A Galarious Good blog post
 

What is a primary source?

Primary sources are documents, images or artefacts from the time period in question. They provide ‘on the spot’ information about the events and the people involved.

Primary sources can include photos, diary entries, newspaper reports, physical objects, government documents, advertising and interviews.

Where to find primary sources for Anzac Day

When exploring Anzac Day, most attention turns to World War One, particularly the events at Gallipoli. However, students can also explore the Second World War and other military involvements, including in Korea, Vietnam and modern peacekeeping and conflicts.

One of the easiest ways to access primary materials - especially news reports and photographs - is online. Many state libraries and museums have online collections, as well as organisations like the Australian Army. These documents can be displayed with projectors, used on tablets (especially the PDF booklets) or printed out for students to explore.

As well as the big museums in Australia, smaller local museums and historical societies may have primary sources for exploration. These collections might not be as big as the larger institutions, but might have connections with the local area of your students.

Libraries are other good sources of local history material. They may have photographs, newspaper articles or documents to explore, but may also have books which have collected photographs or documents together.

Finally, it’s worth seeing if the families of your students have any primary source material they can bring in to explore. Families may hold onto medals or photos of family members, or have letters or postcards or other primary source material like service records which they have collected over the years.

 
Using Primary Sources in the Classroom When Exploring Anzac Day. A look at what primary sources are, where to find Anzac Day primary sources and exploring 3 particular primary sources. A Galarious Good blog post
 

How to Use Primary Sources - Three Examples

Below I’ve chosen three World War One primary sources to take a closer look at, including some discussion and response ideas. These sources are all available online as of March 2019.

Recruiting Posters

You can find these resources at the Australian Army website

This collection of 10 recruiting posters gives students an insight into how the government and the army went about recruiting men to volunteer for World War One. The tone of the posters ranges from ‘come along and help out some friends’ to ‘you are pretty horrible if you don’t come and fight’, as well as asking young men to be proud of being Australian and of being part of the British Empire.

Students can explore the different images and words used on the posters and consider why those images and words might have been chosen. They can also explore what the reactions might have been to these posters. Students can also compare these posters to more recent armed forces recruiting posters - what’s the same between now and then? What’s different?

Students might like to use these posters to formulate questions about the war. Why did most of them say ‘God Save the King’? Why is the date for Australia Day so different? Who is this Earl Kitchener who is often quoted on the back? What are some of the items shown in the illustrations?

Students can also engage in research related to these posters. Why was so much recruiting required? What happened to men who didn’t volunteer to go to war? Did the Army use similar techniques in World War Two?

The John Lord Collection

You can find these resources through the Museum Victoria website

This is an extraordinary collection of primary sources - from war diaries to leave passes and many photographs. John Lord was 19 years old when he enlisted to serve in World War One and he served from June 1915 until after the end of the war. He took or collected a number of photographs and souvenirs which he brought back to Australia. You can read more about him at the Museum Victoria website.

Students might like to browse through the entire collection to get a better overall picture of the experiences of John Lord, or they could focus on one image like Extreme Right of Anzac which shows Australian soldiers standing on the edge of a cliff at Gallipoli. Students examining the photo will get a good understanding of how steep the cliffs were at Gallipoli and why it was so difficult to move around. They can also see the different types of clothing which was worn by the soldiers and make inferences about what they were doing at the time.

 
Museums Victoria: Extreme Right of Anzac Using Primary Sources in the Classroom When Exploring Anzac Day

Museums Victoria: Extreme Right of Anzac
Using Primary Sources in the Classroom When Exploring Anzac Day

 

Students can use the collection to create a page which tells a story of World War one, using a range of photographs to illustrate it. They can also choose a photo or two to write about or they can create pieces of artwork inspired by the photographs. Students might also like to explore the war diaries to create a short piece of writing about what it was like to be in World War One.

Newspaper Article - Rejoicings in Australia

You can find this article and the transcription on the Trove website

This news article from The Age in November 1918 demonstrates how the people of Melbourne celebrated the end of World War One. It’s a particularly descriptive piece of writing, allowing the reader to get a good idea of what it might have been like to be there.

Students might discuss why the celebrations were so joyous and what some of the issues were around the celebration. They might also like to rewrite the article in the style of a modern newspaper or search for images which might accompany the article. Students can also write a short piece from the point of view of a young person who might have been there during the celebrations or a time traveller from today who went back in time and got caught up in the celebrating.

This primary source is also a good example of some of the difficulties with using Primary Sources. The original newspaper can be difficult to read and the transcription has some errors. Students can talk about how mistakes might be made when using primary sources or how primary sources may be shaped by the people involved with them and their biases.

Whether it’s posters, photographs or articles - or journals, artefacts or official papers - there’s a wealth of primary source material related to Anzac Day, allowing teachers and students to take a deeper look at an important commemoration in our country.

5 ANZAC Day Picture Books to Use in Your Classroom

ANZAC Day is an important date in the Australian calendar, but it can be a complex occasion to discuss with students. Much of ANZAC Day and its place in the Australian story is based in the actions of countries and individuals more than 100 years ago. How can we explain that to students in the often short time we have? How can we show them what it was like and how that echoes into our world today.

One way to bring ANZAC Day to our students is through some of the fabulous picture books which have been written and released to bring stories and reflections to young people. Here I look at five of them and suggest some ways they can be used in the classroom.

 
5 ANZAC Day Picture Books to Use in Your Classroom. A look at picture books and suitable activities for students in your classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

The Beach They Called Gallipoli by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

This book, which is probably best suited to upper primary and beyond, is more of an overview of the Gallipoli campaign than a narrative. Like French and Whatley's natural disaster books, it takes us through a timeline, using highly descriptive phrases and effective images to give us a glimpse into what it would have been like. We start before the landing, seeing calmness, work through the Gallipoli campaign with short pieces of text and photos, drawings and primary source ephemera giving us more information, then see how people came to remember the campaign 100 years later.

Exploring this book in the classroom:

  • Students can discuss the use of real images in the book. What do they tell the reader? How do we react to real images rather than drawings or paintings? How are they manipulated and what effect does that have?

  • -Students can examine the descriptive words and phrases used and what feeling they add to the book.

ANZAC Biscuits by Phil Cummings and Owen Swan

This book is suitable for younger and older students. It tells two parallel stories - the story of a young girl and her mother making ANZAC biscuits for her father, and the story of the father - away from home at the war front. It's a story of love and family, but also a story of the fear and harsh conditions at war. Keen readers will want to flip back and forward between pages, looking for the similarities and connections the author and illustrator have included and some of the differences between now and the world of the story (I love the wood stove which reminds me of the one my great-grandmother had). 

Exploring this book in the classroom:

  • Students can research ANZAC biscuits and how they came to be called that. If you have access to a kitchen, this could be a good time to bake ANZAC biscuits and look at procedure writing and reading

  • Students can create a chart of the connections, similarities and differences shown in the book

The Little Stowaway by Vicki Bennett and Tull Suwannakit

This book is suitable for younger and older students. It is a relatively simple tale of a French orphan adopted by an Australian airman who has to take significant measures to bring him home after World War One. In some ways, though, it is the details which aren't provided which allow for greater exploration. What happened to other French orphans? What were the Australian air men doing? What was it like being an air man in World War One? 

Exploring this book in the classroom:

  • Students can use this book as inspiration to brainstorm questions about World War One and what it was like for soldiers

  • Was it right to smuggle Honoré home? Students can discuss whether he should have been left in France or whether bringing him back to Australia was the right thing to do

 
5 ANZAC Day Picture Books to Use in Your Classroom. A look at picture books and suitable activities for students in your classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Lone Pine by Susie Brown and Margaret Warner (Illustrated by Sebastian Ciaffaglione)

Suited to middle primary and older, this book tells the story of the Lone Pine and how trees were grown in Australia from a pine cone sent home. As these trees - and later trees - grew, they have been planted around Australia as memorials to World War One. As well as telling the story of trees, this tells the story of a family looking for and coming to terms with losing a brother and son. A particularly strong symbolic moment comes when only two of the three saplings survive to grow into strong trees.

Exploring this book in the classroom:

  • Lone Pine uses very strong, bold lines in the illustration. Students can experiment with their own bold line artwork using paint or oil pastels

  • Students can research more about the battle of Lone Pine and why it is still remembered today

Memorial by Gary Crew and Shaun Tan

Suited to middle primary and older, this book is the story of a family who have experienced war across three generations, a World War One memorial and the tree which was planted at the first memorial service. It deals with memories and how we make sure things are remembered after we are gone and what happens when part of a memorial is removed. This is a particularly good book to read alongside Lone Pine, since both books deal with some similar themes and ideas.

Exploring this book in the classroom:

  • Students can visit a local memorial or even one of the bigger memorials in their state. They may draw it, discuss its features and talk about how we preserve those memorials and why its important to preserve them.

  • Students can discuss the rituals and symbols used at their school or local community ANZAC Day services. They might like to discuss the words which are used and the different elements which are included and how they are memorials as well.