Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

History - Has Jack Returned?: Resources

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

History - Has Jack Returned?: Resources

Article excerpt

Investigating a grisly murder immerses children in history.

There is nothing like the mention of blood, guts and murder to turn children's heads. And this lesson on Jack the Ripper - arguably London's most infamous murderer - will immerse pupils in a historical fantasy that requires a range of enquiry skills.

The build-up to the lesson focuses on Victorian London, looking at social conditions including housing, public health and immigration. Pupils should get a good grasp of the differences in living standards in the capital. They also need to know the racial make-up of areas such as Whitechapel and the effect this had on public opinion. Finally, knowledge of Victorian policing techniques will help them to appreciate the difficulties the Metropolitan police force endured in its relative infancy.

When the pupils enter the classroom, they should be captured by a sense of urgency. On the whiteboard are instructions to study the background information on their desks. The teacher reveals that a series of murders has taken place in the school and that they bear the hallmarks of Jack the Ripper. In pairs, pupils have 30-40 minutes to visit as many locations as they can and find out whether a copycat serial killer is on the loose.

Dotted around the school site are professional actors, drama students or willing volunteers who have been briefed to perform short role-plays about the murder. There should be sketches involving an eyewitness, the first person on the scene and a body that is being inspected by crime scene investigators. …

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