Who’s Guy Fawkes and does it matter?

It is not every blog that you get to start with ‘does it matter’! As a teacher who wants to stoke curiosity, I would say yes, it always matters. So today, I am thinking about that historical figure whose name gets trotted out at this time of year. For many of us steeped in English folklore, the name Guy Fawkes brings visions of a man with a pointy beard and a barrel of gunpowder sitting underneath Parliament ready to blow it sky high. As with much of our history, some of the truth has rubbed off in light of the myth and the subsequent celebrations today.  

Remember, remember the Fifth of November

Guy Fawkes Night, observed on 5 November, began with the events on the same day in 1605. Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. The plot was a failed attempt to blow up England’s Protestant king. They wanted to end the persecution of Roman Catholics by the English government. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London. Bonfire night is a fun feast of affairs and for many parents an expensive event! Nevertheless, the joys of watching dazzling flashes of light and hearing riotous bangs ricochet across the sky are still pleasing.

By the Victorian era, much of the original celebrations and church services had moved to the margins of society. Gathering wood for the bonfire increasingly became the province of working-class children who would sing songs and ask for money, food and drink. Right up to the 1960s, stuffed effigies of a ‘guy’ would be pedalled around by children asking for a penny until Guy Fawkes Night, when it would be thrown on top of the bonfire. 

A metacognitive approach

Parents often ask, how do we do things differently at Meta Prep. To show that in action, we are considering the meta-learner. I thought it might be fun to think about some of the tasks you get given in school. For instance, with their Cognitive Coach, they might approach them by applying metacognitive tools.

Moreover, the first step of the meta-learner is in the planning process as they think, “how have we done these problems before and what’s the best strategy to choose.” In other words, they realise they are going to have to use a variety of approaches. A meta-learner would begin to think, “What do I know about myself and my approach to problems in Maths, History or English? What do I know about this type of problem and task?” and “What strategies or tools could I use to solve them?”

Levels of thinking

We get children to think about the different levels of thinking, using Anderson’s Taxonomy. Of course, knowledge sits at the bottom and might be classified as a lower level thinking skill. Wrong, it is super important and is the platform on which all thinking is built. You might want to remember this by thinking of a statue of a person with a head of gold but with feet made of clay. Therefore, if the clay isn’t strong enough then the whole statue will collapse. Before embarking on a task, we need to seek out the information and then check what actually happened and why. 

Let’s get thinking!

Using your knowledge of Guy Fawkes and bonfire night, here are a few activities to broaden and deepen understanding; ideal for developing curiosity! 

Maths: Felix and Samantha have £20 between them to spend on fireworks. They want to ensure that they get their money’s worth and have the loudest bangs possible. What should they do? Use a thinking frame to organise your ideas.

History: Why do we celebrate Bonfire Night? Use a thinking frame to organise your ideas.

English: How many adjectives can you use to describe fireworks? Pretend you are one of the soldiers that captured Guy Fawkes, how would you describe the scene in front of you? Use a thinking frame to organise your ideas.

Want to investigate the man behind the story? Read more about Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder plot on the Historic Royal Palaces website.

Mock Interviews: This term we are offering these online and our experienced interviewers structure the session to build familiarity with the interview process and give guidance and structured feedback. The aim is to create a low-stakes session to test out answers or think about the types of questions that will be posed in future. You would then receive the recording to download and watch back by yourself or if you thought it of benefit, share with your child. £75 for 30 minutes with recording and feedback.