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Activity pack 1: Musical news

Detail from Arthur O'Bradley's Wedding, Anonymous, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Harding B2(3)
During the seventeenth century, songs were not only sung for entertainment.  They could also be used to spread the news across the country.  This activity pack explores why 'singing the news' was so popular, and looks at one particular song, or 'broadside ballad', which tells the news of a severe hailstorm in London.

This 'resource pack' consists of a number of activities designed for children in Key Stage 2 (aged 7 to 11).  They are presented in the form of guidelines and ideas to help teachers lead the activities with their classes.
Through these activities, children will:
  • Learn about ways in which people heard the news in the seventeenth century.
  • Learn to sing a ballad about a hailstorm in London in 1680.
  • Look at an original printed ballad and discover what we can learn about the past from broadside ballad sheets.
  • Create words for their own ballad and sing it.
  • Illustrate their ballad, if possible using printing techniques similar to those used in the seventeenth century.
  • Print their own broadside ballad for display.
Follow the links to explore the resources

  • Activity 1.1: The Hail Ballad
    This activity looks at how people heard the news in Restoration England. They look at the role of songs, known as broadside ballads, in communicating the news, focusing on a ballad from 1680 about a hailstorm in London.
  • Activity 1.2: Make your own news ballad
    Using the information learned in Activity 1.1, children have the chance to compose their own broadside ballad, as well as illustrate it, print it and perform it.