Many teachers around the country are using the Sainsbury's Christmas Truce advert as a learning resource for WW1 commemorations.
The supermarket's emotive campaign 'Christmas is for sharing' has had adults questioning brand integrity across swathes of social media. Yet an advert which has children asking what a trench is, what 'schön' means and whether this event really happened, deserves some clemency. The advert has given a visual quality to, what is for children, an elusive event which happened 100 years ago.
Schools are also using the advert in partnership with other resources, such as Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey's book The Christmas Truce, which recounts the miraculous event through illustration and verse. Between the two resources, different aspects of the truce are explored. Robinson and Impey's book also depicts the Christmas dinners which reportedly happened in derelict buildings on the Western Front, whilst the advert focuses solely on what happened near the trenches.
Sainsbury's haven't commented whether they intended for the advert to be used in this way. However the supermarket's partnership with the British Legion and historians for the making of the film, suggests that they wanted to make it as authentic as possible.
The ad has flown the flag for interactive learning in many ways;
Lesson plans. Learning resource website Think, Educate, Share includes the supermarket's advert in an online pack for teachers, which currently has 5* ratings.
Assemblies. The ad has been projected in copious assemblies, not least the one where historian Ringan Ledwidge, visited his old school to talk about the truce.
The advert also features in a Christmas Truce presentation plan by assemblies.org.uk.
Visuals. Rebecca Picarelli teaches a class of speech and language impaired children in Coventry. Rebecca uses Robinson and Impey's book The Christmas Truce alongside the Sainsbury's ad, commenting 'this helps the children to visualise the situation.'
The children are currently writing a diary from the point of view of the German and British characters from The Christmas Truce. With WW1 beyond the realms of living memory, literature and film are invaluable resources to these students, whose imaginations fuel their ability to remember.
Enthusiasm. The advert has helped to create a buzz for commemorative events in schools. Glenalmond College in Perthshire shared a link on their website to 'the story behind the TV ad' demonstrating the identifying power of a three minute film.
Music. Ollie Heath, who runs music themed sessions for children in schools, has featured the advert on his homepage to promote his 'Christmas Truce' workshop, as well as writing his own song about the event to inspire students' learning.
In regards to Robinson and Impey's The Christmas Truce, Ollie commented 'I haven't seen the book before, but it looks beautiful. I'm definitely going to incorporate it with my workshop introduction.'
Re-enactments. The parallel with the Sainsbury's advert earned Barr Beacon School in Aldridge coverage from their local press, when they re-enacted the Christmas truce.
Blogs. Perceptive Year 6 student, Matty, posted the advert on Glebe Primary School in Hillingdon's blog after noticing its connection with his class' discussions about the First World War.
Matty commented 'I think the theme is, even in dark times like war, people can still rejoice and celebrate Christmas.'
Social Media. Loretto School in Edinburgh endorsed the advert on their Facebook page, commenting under the link 'Sainsbury's we salute you!'
Meanwhile, Mildenhall Humanities Department in Suffolk tweeted Sainsbury's saying 'We like your Christmas advert, I hope you like the memorial we have built with our partner German school'.
DramLit. Former Headteacher and DramLit founder Philip Ball fuses drama and literacy to 'get into kids minds' and used the advert as an opener in his workshops. Phil also found that Robinson and Impey's The Christmas Truce 'added a poignant and practical element.'
I'm looking forward to Flo of the Somme (the book's sequel) so I can introduce dramatic exploration of animals' said Phil 'I just wish I'd met Hilary and Martin's work earlier'.
The advert and book have evidently been some children's first taste of war studies.
The Sainsbury's advert has offered a complementary resource to literature, drama, and even music surrounding the magnanimous Christmas truce, but most of all it has enthused people to commemorate.
In order for future generations to remember, children especially need to hear about the truce. If they hear about it through the mouth of Sainsbury's, it's still a story shared.