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Activity 1.2: Make your own news ballad

Write your own broadside ballad
You can do this activity in groups, or as individuals.

  1. Look at verse two of the hail ballad:
Upon the eighteenth of this present May,
A tempest strange, pray mind me what I say.
So strange, I think the like was never known,
As I can hear of yet by anyone.

First, count the syllables in each line.  You should find that each line has ten syllables.

Now look at which lines rhyme.  You should find that the rhyme scheme is a a b b (lines one and two rhyme and lines three and four rhyme).

  1. Choose a topic that you would like to turn into a ballad.  It could be something in the national news, or something that happened in school.  Have a go at writing the story in rhyming verses, making sure that you have ten syllables in each line.  Here is an example to help you:
On Monday afternoon at two o'clock,
After PE, poor James had lost his sock.
Later he saw it hanging from the light,
To fetch it down he stretched with all his might.

Stretch though he did, he simply could not reach.
All of his classmates joked and jeered and screeched.
James placed a chair upon the teacher's desk,
And climbed upon it, while we held our breath.

James grabbed the sock and everybody cheered.
Just at that moment, Mr Jakes appeared.
James has detention, what a dreadful shock,
All for the sake of one lost, lousy sock!

  1. Once you have composed one or two verses, have a go at singing your ballad; use the backing track if you need to.
Ballad backing track:

Download music as a PDF file: M1 Hail Ballad music.pdf

Download words as a PDF file: W1 Hail Ballad words.pdf

Illustrate your ballad
Children could draw a picture to illustrate the ballad's story.  To make it look like pictures on seventeenth-century broadside ballads, you should keep the illustration to black and white.  If you want to be even more 'authentic', you could make this into a printmaking project.  Lino printing is a good substitute for woodblock printing (this involves sharp tools, so should not be attempted with very young children), or you can use polystyrene sheets, cutting into them with a ballpoint pen.  Make sure you have practised these printmaking techniques yourself before doing them with children.

Create your own broadside ballad sheet
Once you have written your ballad, type it on a computer, using a gothic font like 'Old English'.  Think of a good title for your ballad, using the hail ballad as an example.  You can either scan your illustration and then print a ballad sheet complete with title, illustration and verses, or print the title and verses, cut them out, together with the illustration, and stick all the separate elements of your ballad sheet onto another piece of paper.  Look at the original hail ballad to give you ideas for presentation. (This links to an external site)

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