Classroom Activities 1


  • Collect old photographs from home and discuss:
  • Who are these people?
  •  Where are they in the picture?
  • What is their story?
  • What are they thinking?
  • What would they say if they spoke?
  • What would they say to help us?
  • What would we say to help them?

Take a photograph of yourself showing how you would like people to think of you in the future, what would you try to communicate with them? How would you stand/ sit? What would you wear? Print out the picture, draw or stick things or pictures from magazines on it to show how you imagine yourself in the future – this could be realistic or fantastical.


Use a range of art materials for children to decorate a square of cloth/ paper that includes their initials. Assemble the squares and fix them to the wall or hang them like a quilt.

Five-word story:

A story about you or your family told in five still frames each comprising an action or gesture and sound. Take a photo of each still image and put them in a word document. Using simple software, add speech or thought bubbles. Then adjust the size and lay them out like a comic. It may help if the story follows the format of introduction, development, conflict, climax and resolution.

Talk to your folks:

Interview the people you live with about how and why they came to live where they do now.  Where are they from? When did they come here and why? What about their parents and grandparents. Collect as much Information as you can from the class and plot points of family origin on a large world, national or regional map.

Can we deduce anything from this map about Britain or its colonies? Can we show some of this information as a pie chart or graph?

You could record the interviews on a phone or Dictaphone and arrange an audio gallery where people can listen to the stories. Do the stories have any common themes?  Perhaps you could write out the most interesting bits to make a class scrap book.


You will need a set of blank post cards for this activity. (Here is one you can download).

Imagine you have just moved to where you live now.  Write a postcard home explaining what life is like, How would you feel? What things do you notice that are strange or interesting? How do the people dress and behave?  Make a picture for the other side of the card to show them what it is like.

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Classroom Activities 2

Journey journal:

Write the events of a journey, any journey, the shorter the journey the more detailed it should be. It could be from home to school, from the bedroom to bathroom, crossing the road or from your seat in the classroom to the teacher’s desk. Don’t forget to include sights, sounds, smells and feelings.

Time capsule:

Ask everyone in the class to choose an object to place in a time capsule for the future that tells the future who we were and how we lived.  Collect all the objects from the class together (real or as pictures) invite another class to examine them and talk about the people that left them behind as if they lived long ago or lived in a strange and unfamiliar place.


Get parents/children to cook national dishes bring them into school to share, which are your favourites? Make: THE GREAT BRUMMIE COOK BOOK (or rename it for your school or class), by asking for the children to write the recipes down. Arrange a tasting and hold a survey of the class favourite (maybe present the results on a pie chart!)


Bring in and try on national costumes. Why do you think these clothes have been adopted in their places of origin? Stage a class fashion show!


We wrote haikus to distil the essence of our characters. Try writing them about your friends or yourself.

Haiku is a Japanese three-line poem with five syllables in the first and last line and  seven in the middle. They don’t rhyme.

Secret Treasure of Brum

What is your favourite place in Birmingham? What makes it special? Perhaps it is somewhere not many people know about? Take a photo and use it to build a map of the special secret places that make Birmingham brilliant.

Some of our favourites are: Milan’s sweet centre on Stoney lane, Express Polythene in Digbeth, Manjit’s builders merchant in Moseley, Latif’s and Barry’s fabrics in Digbeth.

Family tree:

Create a family tree.

  • Each child writes their name at the bottom of the log or on the tree trunk.
  • On the lowest branches they write their parents’ names
  • On the next pair of branches up they write their grandparents names

Who else can be added to the list? Maybe you could use photographs instead of writing their names.

Click image for downloadable version


Look at an image and describe it, starting with the smallest detail you can find and gradually “zoom out” until you are describing the whole piece. You might want to use a magnifying glass. Consider the feelings of the people in the picture. How does the picture make you feel? What does it make you think of? What is about to happen, happening or just happened? Think of the 5 senses and how they apply to this image.

What is a “Brummie?”

Collect objects, pictures and snippets of overheard conversations, local phrases or sayings. Make recordings or take photos of things that you think are typically Brummie. It could be anything that you think belongs to, comes from, and is only found or happens in Birmingham. It could be the Central Library or a Balti bowl; the bull statue or the phrase ‘Ta ra a bit’. Assemble them to make a multimedia/multi-sensory exhibition to communicate what it is to live in Birmingham. Invite other classes to take part in it. Do they agree with you?

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Moments in migration history

Birmingham has always been a City that has been leading innovations and ideas about how we live. The lunar society that met at Soho house were instrumental in the campaign to abolish slavery. Birmingham as a very diverse city has always tried to accommodate new ideas and people but that has not always been easy. Immigration continues to be a contentious political issue.

After the Second World War Britain needed to rebuild and repair and so needed people to do that. People were invited from the former British Empire to help restore the Mother Land specifically from the Caribbean to work in public transport and the newly formed NHS. The British Nationality Act was passed to make it easier for people to travel

However many people feared that this would mean there would not be jobs and particularly houses for the people already here. The tension grew and some political parties used this to stir up and exploit racial hatred with several significant racially motivated attacks including five days of rioting in August/September 1958. By 1962 a law was passed to only allow migrants that had pre-issued work vouchers into the country it was updated in 1968, prompting Enoch Powell to make his “Rivers of Blood Speech”. Enoch Powell delivered this infamous speech at the Midland Hotel in Birmingham on April 20th 1968 for a Conservative Association meeting. We have used an extract from the speech in the programme. The full text of the speech can be read here

Enoch Powell was Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West. His speech warns of being overpowered by immigrants and led to his being sacked. He was expressing the specific views of one of his constituents and he was reflecting widely held feelings and is seen as an important defining moment in Race Relations.

Enoch Powell.
Author & Copyright holder: Allan Warren.

In Smethwick during the 1964 General Election a slogan which said “If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour” was used. It was suggested that the Conservative party used the slogan but the British movement, an extremist right wing organisation, claimed that is was them who put posters and stickers up.  However Peter Griffiths, the conservative politician that won the seat, did not condemn the phrase and was quoted as saying “I should think that is a manifestation of popular feeling. I would not condemn anyone who said that. Malcolm X visited Smethwick to show solidarity with Black and Asian people who had come to live there. Houses were bought by the White City Council to prevent immigrants moving in and only white people could rent houses in Marshall Street.

The BBC made a documentary called “Smethwick: A Straw in the Wind” about the 1964 General election in Smethwick and you can find out more about it here

Some Boarding houses had signs in the window saying No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs. Refusing to let rooms to people that were Irish, Black or had dogs. There is some discussion as to whether these really existed but some very similar appear in BBC footage from the 1960’s and many people claim to have seen them.



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Famous Faces

Below is a list of some well-known Brummies with Black or Asian Heritage.
Do you recognise any of them?

Joan Armatrading (the first British black woman to have international music success).


Jaki Graham (most successful black British female artist of all time).


Apache Indian (the first Bhangra artist to cross over into the Pop charts.

His single Boom Shack-A-Lak reached No 5 in the UK in 1993).

Other musicians include Laura Mvula, Jamelia, UB40, Steel Pulse, Musical Youth, The Beat. Can you think of any more?

Other well known people in other fields of work include:

Benjamin Zephaniah (Poet)


David Harewood (Actor)

  • Adil Ray (Actor – Citizen Khan)
  • Lorna Laidlaw (Actor, writer and theatre director)
  • Gabriel Imuetinyan Agbonlahor (Footballer)
  • Stilyan Pavel (Footballer)
  • Moeen Ali (Cricketer)
  • Alison Hammond (TV presenter and former teacher/actor at The Play House)
  • Adrian Lester (Actor)
  • Shazia Mirza (Comedian)
  • Rustie Lee (TV Chef)
  • Denise Lewis (Athlete, TV sports presenter)
  • Meera Syal (Comedian, Writer, Actor)

Why do you think they have done well in these fields? Who else should be on this list?


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Below are some of the festivals celebrated in Birmingham by different cultural groups.

Do you take part in any of them? If so how?

Perhaps children could describe the festivals to other children who may not have experienced them. What makes them special? What does your school do to mark some of these occasions?

  • Vaisakhi (end of April)
  • Diwali (Autumn)
  • Holi (the arrival of spring in March)
  • Mela (July/August – celebrates diverse south Asian culture as part of Eid but has become a more secular)
  • St Patricks day parade (end of March)

Can you think of any others?


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