Thursday, 25 September 2014

Our project on RMS Titanic


This week we started work on our project on the Titanic. Although this has taken up most of our time, Charlie has also continued with his daily cycling practice sessions. He is getting really good and is so proud of his new skill.

I have also made sure he continues with daily Maths. He is still doing ConquerMaths and enjoying winning his certificates as he progresses through the levels, but he has also returned to the MyMaths website, as he finds some of the games really fun.

All other subjects have been incorporated into our current topic work on the Titanic. During the summer holidays, Charlie learned about the Titanic story by reading the 'Magic Tree House' books on the subject. Tonight on the Titanic by Mary Pope Osborne is the story of how Jack and Annie end up on the Titanic on the night of the disaster. The accompanying book, Titanic: Fact Tracker by Will Osborne and Mary Pope Osborne, provides the factual background. Both books handle the tragic element with a sensitive touch, making them suitable for young children. Charlie, who is eight, found them interesting and easy to read.

During the holidays, we watched 'A Night to Remember', a British film adaptation of Walter Lord's book of the same title about the Titanic disaster. Made in 1958, this film is still held in high regard by Titanic historians. Several Titanic survivors acted as technical advisors. There are a few historical inaccuracies, such as the portrayal of the ship sinking in one piece (which contradicted the reports from some survivors), but, on the whole, the film is considered a faithful account of the event.  


Charlie enjoyed the film, but told us he didn't like "the sad bit" and left the room at this stage, only returning to see the ending.

We began our studies this week by looking, once again, at the Titanic pack I had ordered online. I would recommend this to anyone doing a project on this subject. It includes:  replicas of a distress telegram ('We have struck iceberg sinking fast come to our assistance'); posters by the White Star Line; a second-class menu; a letter written by a passenger, postcards, a passionate letter from a General Workers' Union protesting at the loss of life of third-class passengers and many more fascinating artefacts.

Charlie spent a long time poring over everything in the pack. I think the documents provided a sense of immediacy to an event that, until then, had seemed to be just an exciting story.

After this, we read 'Story of the Titanic' together. This book, published by Dorling Kindersley, provides an overview of the story from the construction of the ship to its sinking. The illustrations by Steve Noon provide cutaways that give glimpses of life on board the ship. Charlie particularly enjoyed finding the tiny vignettes that were hidden in the pictures.

Reading about how the ship was constructed with 16 watertight compartments inspired Charlie to have a go at testing the science behind it. He learned that the Titanic was designed to stay afloat if any two compartments, or the first four, were flooded. Unfortunately, the iceberg tore a hole in the first six compartments, making it impossible for the ship to stay afloat.

Charlie created a Lego version of the ship, complete with individual compartments under the floor. Obviously, Lego is not watertight, but testing it in the water gave him an idea of how his boat could stay afloat with one compartment flooded, but not with more than one.

At the start of each of our days studying the Titanic, Charlie worked on his handwriting. It was easy to find relevant worksheets. I downloaded these, for free, from ESL Writing Wizard, a website that provides free handwriting worksheets on a variety of topics.

Another worksheet incorporated blank clock faces, as well as words, so that Charlie had a chance to practise telling the time as well. This one came from Activity Village, which has a variety of free worksheets and colouring-in pages about the Titanic.

Yesterday, we looked at what life was like just over 100 years ago. We began by watching a video featuring songs and film from 1912.

Then Charlie cut out some paper dolls and dressed them in the upper-class fashions of the time. He very much enjoyed this. I found the dolls - Lady Beatrice and Lord Philip - on this blogsite.

I explained a little of what life was like in 1912 and then Charlie compiled a page filled with pictures and information snippets from the period. He made a cardboard pocket for the paper dolls, decorated it like a bedspread and put Lady Beatrice and Lord Philip to bed, with their costumes neatly tucked behind them.

I had found a useful mini history project on a website called historyonthenet. It featured lots of printables on the Titanic, including crosswords, word searches and quizzes, but I chose to explore the subject of why people thought the ship was unsinkable, which gave us a lot of sources to examine and looked at the importance of historical evidence. The link is here and you can find a printable PDF document by scrolling down the right hand side under 'Downloads'. 

Today we looked at the subject of emigration and why so many people on the Titanic had been leaving their homes to move abroad. 

I focused, in particular, on the story of the Addergoole Fourteen, who left a village in County Mayo, Ireland, to start new lives in America, travelling on the Titanic. Only three out of the fourteen survived. Their families were grief-stricken and also left in terrible poverty, as they had paid for the voyage, hoping that their relatives would send money back to them once they established themselves in America. The village still commemorates the loss of its inhabitants by ringing a bell at 2.20am on the morning of 15th April, the time when the Titanic sank. Many of its bell ringers are direct descendants of the Addergoole Fourteen.

Inspired by this story, Charlie thought about what he would take with him if he had to leave his home and drew the items in a suitcase (worksheet printed out from Activity Village, as above).

Later, whilst I was busy, Charlie designed a recreation of the Titanic disaster using bits and pieces from our art box. He stuck a lollypop stick to the ship so that it could sail along the sea and then sink. We filmed it and then photographed it and he was very proud of the result. As he should be.

The next project he has initiated is to recreate the Titanic on Minecraft. This is an ambitious project and is going to take him a very long time. 

Maybe I'll have time to put my feet up for a bit.


  1. What a fantastic study of the Titanic! I especially like the last project, i.e. the one where the disaster was recreated. It's very creative! Thanks for sharing the wonderful resources you've found. I'll have to refer to them when we come to do this topic. :-)

  2. Thanks for reading, Hwee. I'm glad you enjoyed it and found the resources useful. It is such a fascinating topic. We have just been to the Titanic Exhibition in Southampton and I'll be posting about that shortly.

  3. Oooh, this is brilliant! Can I come to your school ;)
    Thanks for the link to the film, I must share that with my girls.