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Learning Activities for The Little Match Girl Short Story

Guest Author - Siobhain M Cullen


The first and most obvious and important of the Learning Activites for the Hans Christian Andersen Story “ The Little Match Girl” is in the area of Health and Safety/Science. To teach older, mature and responsible children successfully about the dangers of fire, and in particular House Fires (in which matches often play a causal role) it is first necessary to explain why fire is unpredictable and dangerous, and how matches work.

Scientific Principles (such as ignition, friction, flammability and the role of oxygen) can be learnt by children under close adult supervision in controlled learning situations. Visually exciting and age-appropriate Educational Resources and books should be laid out for children to access with ease in order to source the answers to their learning quest.

Learning Activities Springboard Questions:
1.Why did the Little Match Girl need to strike matches against a wall?
2.What was on the end of the matches to make them ignite in this way?
3.What would happen if the matches were struck in an airless environment?
4.Try placing a lit match under a glass jar. What happens to the lit match and why?
5.How are today’s matches different?
6.Estimate how long it would take a match to burn, then experiment and measure. Evaluate your estimate.
7.Try the experiment with a wet match. Give reasons for the difference in effectiveness.
8.Rub off and soften the friction pad of a matchbox. Outline suggestions as to the difference this will make. Try to strike a match and note down the differences.

Needless to say this topic should be rounded off with a reinforcement of all the dangers children have learned about Fire. Full-time Home-schoolers with extra time may even benefit from a pre-arranged visit to a local Fire Station.

Social History/Citizenship and Justice

Today’s children, some of whom have access to toys and technology such as Playstations, ipods and iphones, and access to centrally-heated homes, well-stocked fridges and fast-food outlets, may need help to understand the predicament of children like The Little Match Girl.

It may be beyond their comprehension that a family may have had no other choice than to send their children out begging or selling in order to stay alive. They may need educational resources to help them to understand the concept that in cold climes, whether families had access to a fire was a matter of life or death. Hence, the central role of the matches.

By providing the right age-appropriate resources and asking them the right questions, adults can set children off on the right track to find the answers by themselves at their own level and pace.

Prepare by providing a stimulating and bright selection of visually exciting, accurate and informative books about early Victorian history, particularly Denmark. Research and have ready, as favorites, a selection of similarly appropriate websites. A preparatory Library Visit will include the children in the educational skills of sourcing this information themselves.

Learning Activity Springboard Questions:

1.Choose an imagined character from the short story, rich or poor. Research, draw or write about this person’s outfit, detailing reasons for each choice of item.

2.Find out why matches were so important. Where were they made and what were they made from? Importantly, who do the children think may have made them? Why were they sold in bundles? What substances coated their tips and how was this done?

3.What was it like to live in Victorian Copenhagen? Research, draw, or write about a typical street scene. Why was there such a difference between rich and poor? What happened to mothers and children who had no-one to provide for them and why? Why was education so important to people then, and to Hans Christian Andersen? Read about his life to find the answer, or visit a virtual museum.

Parents will need to draw the activities together with a discussion about the information children have found out, in order to confirm the accuracy of their conclusions and to enhance their self-esteem in the achievements of their research.

Concluding Question:

What do children think can, and should, be done in today’s society to limit the chances of this injustice being repeated in the lives of our world’s children today?
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Content copyright © 2014 by Siobhain M Cullen. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Siobhain M Cullen. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.

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