Sunday, 27 January, 2013

This lesson, and subsequent movement sequence is based around the famous poem by John Donne.  Through the use of jigsaw puzzles it encourages students to realise that we are all connected, and that when we are so connected we form something greater than the sum of our parts.  The lesson builds on students’ existing incidental learning and is an opportunity to work together, perhaps with new or different people, and celebrate ourselves and our communities.

This understanding of connectedness is built upon in the Miep Gies lesson.  Doing both lessons will enable students to consolidate their learning.

Aimed at Primary age students (but can be used in Secondary setting, if appropriate for your students).

You can download a printable version of the lesson plan here.

Purpose: Learning activity / Assembly performance piece
Target AudienceStudents achieving at P levels 1-8
Approximate duration: Learning activity – 50 mins & assembly performance - 5mins

Communities Together - No Man is an Island
This lesson uses John Donne’s famous poem No Man is an Island as a cue for thinking about the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2013 Communities Together: Build a Bridge.


  • No Man is an Island poem (you can read this, or invite someone in to read it - there is a recording of Joan Baez reading the poem on Youtube)
  • Jigsaws, and craft materials for creating individual jigsaw pieces
  • A bell, or glockenspiel note in a minor key

You might also need

  • A hand held mirror
  • Symbols to represent basic emotions: happy, sad, angry etc.
  • Access to the internet or library books for students doing research
  • Newspapers

If possible, invite people from another community to come and work alongside students during this lesson.  This could be another class community, or people from a community outside of school.

This lesson starts with circle time, then a short movement activity is provided to give students a chance to be active prior to the focus activity. The session concludes with circle time.


  • To identify our connectedness with others
  • To begin to recognise how our actions affect one another

Differentiated objectives
Pupils operating at P1-3 will be looking to encounter and respond to stimuli provided by this lesson.  They may communicate with peers or adults, eg by reaching to hold hands, or by requesting a jigsaw piece using their voice.

Pupils operating at P4-6 will be looking to express their likes and dislikes when working in small groups.  They may be able to say who they like to work with, or that they don't like being on their own.

Pupils operating at P7-8 will be looking to communicate their feelings and ideas about connectedness.  They may be able to identify right and wrong actions when interacting with others, and give reasons about how people feel, eg it is wrong to hurt others because it makes them sad.

Lesson cue
Read, or listen to No Man is an Island, play a solitary bell, or glockenspiel note at the end of the reading, to represent the tolling of the bell.  Make sure you choose a minor key.

‘Today is Holocaust Memorial Day.  During the Holocaust communities, neighbours, even friends, turned against each other, this allowed some very bad things to happen.’

Show your students two jigsaw pieces, connect them together
'Today we are going to think about how things are better when they are connected.’

Have two students come to the front, ask them to hold hands.

'We are better: safer and stronger, when we connect with other people.’

Share individual objectives

Circle activity
Give each child a piece of a jigsaw and work together taking turns to build the jigsaw.
`We work well together.’
If you have time, extend so that other people are included and given jigsaw pieces, eg support staff, or people from elsewhere in school (secretaries, dinner staff).

Moving activity
Talk with the class about jobs/activities they do together (choose examples that require more than one person) and act these out.  What would happen without the other person?

Give one child a game to play that cannot be played alone (eg snakes and ladders, or tennis) and ask them if the game would be better with other people.  As you help the other students to join in, highlight that in order for the game to be fun we have to follow certain rules.

Remind children that there are rules about being good in class, in school, at home and in their wider communities.

At the end of the game, pause with students to reflect:

Was the game fun with no one else to play it with?  No

Would the game have been fun if you hadn’t played by the rules?  No

Life is like this.  It is better, we are stronger and safer, when we are connected to others and do the right thing.  Tell the children that during the Holocaust some people forgot this, and that allowed many terrible things to happen.  But we are not going to forget, we are going to remember. 

Life is better, we are safer and stronger if we work together and do the right thing.

(This is a message you can reinforce throughout the focus activity).

Focus activity
In groups, or as a class, make or complete a jigsaw to explore the theme of connectedness – you can provide students with the following options

  • explore/experience putting a jigsaw together ( Jigsaws can be of anything, but it is possible to have jigsaws made from photographs, and a class puzzle could be a lovely thing to own)
  • stick a photo showing  you with your friends onto card, then cut it up to make your own jigsaw
  • work with a friend to put together the Miep jigsaw
  • create a jigsaw piece representing you.  This will form part of a class jigsaw (and part of the performance) .  You may ask your students to work individually on their drawings, or to create a collective collage.
  • draw the faces of people you are connected to on the blank pieces of a jigsaw (You can download a blank version of the bridge puzzle, other blank puzzles can be printed off the internet - search for ‘jigsaw templates’).   Extend this activity to show links to people not in your immediate circle of friends.
  • recognise pictures of yourself as they are stuck to a jigsaw piece representing you – extend to recognise pictures of your family and other people in your life, eg teachers, bus drivers.

Notes on ways to support/develop/extend this activity
You may choose to use some of these activities to support the lesson prior to delivery, for example, by having jigsaws available to students during choosing time during the run-up to the lesson.  You can also use these activities to provide opportunities for students to reflect on what they've learned after the lesson.

Further extend learning by ‘losing’ a piece of a jigsaw.  Students can hunt for the missing piece around the classroom.  If you have a class jigsaw you can make this activity more personal by hunting for a piece representing a particular child.  Maybe take it in turns throughout the week, ‘if you were missing we would look for you, if you were gone we would be sad.’  Games of a hide and seek nature would also convey the same learning.

Circle Time
`We are all connected.’
(If you have made a class jigsaw, collaboratively, or by having a photo jigsaw made, share it now).

What happens to one person effects everyone else.  Choose a child to come to the front.

`If ___ is angry’ (encourage the child to demonstrate an angry face), `that makes us feel sad’ (encourage the class to show sad faces).  You may wish to use a mirror to support students with their expressions.

`If _____ is happy, we are happy’.  Encourage everyone to make happy faces.

If someone who is important to you was missing, how would you feel?  What if your teacher wasn’t here today?  Your support assistant?  What if your friend wasn’t here?

Look at the feelings of other people in the students’ lives – eg what if the Headteacher was happy?  What if someone in the local news was sad?

Show images from recent news stories and ask the students how they felt in response to them.  Reflect on this – for example, if one of the students were hurt and someone far away knew about it, they might feel sad for them.

Thank the students for helping.  When everyone is seated and calm, share No Man is an Island again.  Tell the students that the man who wrote this poem was trying to tell people exactly what they have learned today -  that people are better if they are together, and if they are good to one another.

Show a jigsaw with a piece missing and agree with the class that this is a sad thing.  Agree with them that they would be sad if one of them went missing.

If you plan to use this learning in an assembly you may wish to get the class to practice the simple movements they will do as the poem is read in the assembly.

  This is how they will share what they have learned with everyone else.   If you are going to have someone from another community come into school to read the poem for your performance talk to the class about who this is will be.

Finally remind everyone that in the Holocaust communities turned against each other, and that meant that bad things were able to happen.  Ask the students to remember that we are better: safer and stronger, when we are connected to other people and when we do the right thing.  Let them know that by doing this they will be helping to make the world a better place.

Assembly movement
Students begin in a line and form a circle.  One student is connected into this circle, whilst the poem is being read and one student is ejected from it.

  • the movements have been kept simple so that students of all mobilities can be included.  You may choose to embellish them if you wish
  • students are linked by putting one hand on the shoulder of the person next to them.  Leave one hand free for holding jigsaw pieces, or gesturing, or to operate electric wheel chairs should this be necessary.  If there is a student for whom making contact in this way isn’t possible, give them a position in the centre of the line and use a piece of ribbon to join them to the student in front of them, and in this way show their connectednes
  • you can use blue streamers to indicate the washing away

For a more detail explanation of the movement sequence please download the full lesson plan.

Notes for assembly
You could have t-shirts made for your students with their jigsaw piece designs printed on the front.

If you have large foam floor jigsaws use these as a template for cutting out a paper jigsaw.  The paper pieces can then be blue tacked to the floor pieces to make them easier to handle when performing.

Youtube has a reading of the poem by Joan Baez.



  • SEN


The Holocaust