The Minstrels offer workshops and tuition in dance, history and music.

The aim of our Primary School Workshop is to inspire children by taking them on a fascinating journey back in time. We combine an exciting array of period instruments, music from 12th to 18th centuries, courtly (and less courtly) period dances plus a sound historical knowledge to deliver an inspiring session that is both enjoyable and educational.

The session content is tailored as much as possible to the key stage and the requirements of the class teacher but in general we begin with background information and a demonstration of some of the instruments.

The children will be encouraged to ask questions and make comparisons with modern instruments. If appropriate, children will be enlisted as ensemble players.

Image result for hurdy gurdy Thomann               The children are then taught a dance as a series of simple movement patterns that are built up into a whole; they are encouraged to see that to create a performance they must work collaboratively both with the musicians and with each other.

Prior to the visit we liaise fully with school staff and, if required, build in a question and answer session relevant to a named period (eg: Tudors, Wars of the Roses, Robin Hood)

Children get a vivid sense of history from hearing the sounds of the day. They are put in touch with the technology of the time by learning how the instruments work and how they have been made. Music of a period strongly evokes the time in a way that inspires children, encouraging them to retain information and develop an interest in the subject.


Sample lesson plan:

Learning Objectives Teaching Activities Learning Outcomes
To understand the similarities and differences between modern and mediaeval instruments
  • Look at and listen to a selection of mediaeval instruments

In groups encourage the children to:

  • Discuss and explore the similarities and differences to modern instruments
  • Discuss the sounds the instruments make
  • Match pictures of ‘old’ and ‘new’ instruments
Showing some understanding of the development of instruments over time
To identify features of mediaeval music and relate this to movement
  • Listen to mediaeval music and discuss its features (eg; rhythm, dynamics). Discuss how it differs from to modern day music
  • Work with a leader to learn an appropriate dance
  • Encourage children to use percussion to develop the rhythm of the dance
Identifying features of a piece of mediaeval music and performing an appropriate dance to it
To learn and sing a simple mediaeval song
  • Learn a song such as ‘Greensleeves’ or ‘Sumer is Icumen In’
Performing a simple mediaeval song
To show some understanding of the culture of the past, and to be able to relate that to the present
  • Discuss whether people had the same kind of interests in the past (eg: singing; dancing; listening to music)
Understanding that, although elements of culture have changed over time, people on the whole enjoy the same things
To understand that music has been shaped by the wider world
  • Discuss the origins of the music they have heard. Do the children think it all originated in Britain? What about modern music?
Understanding that mediaeval music had many influences, as does modern music

Extracts from the DfE National Curriculum for History

Purpose of study:

A high-quality history education will help pupils gain a coherent knowledge and understanding of Britain’s past and that of the wider world. It should inspire pupils’ curiosity to know more about the past.

History helps pupils to understand the complexity of people’s lives, the process of change, the diversity of societies.


The national curriculum for history aims to ensure that all pupils:

  • know and understand how people’s lives have shaped this nation and how Britain has influenced and been influenced by the wider world.
  • gain historical perspective by placing their growing knowledge into different contexts, understanding the connections … between cultural, … religious and social history

Subject content KS1

Pupils should … identify similarities and differences between ways of life in different periods.

Subject content KS2

Pupils should be taught about … changes in an aspect of social history from the Anglo-Saxons to the present

Extracts from the DfE National Curriculum for PE

Purpose of study:

A high-quality physical education curriculum inspires all pupils to succeed and excel in … physically-demanding activities.


The national curriculum for PE aims to ensure that all pupils:

  • develop competence to excel in a broad range of physical activities
  • are physically active for sustained periods of time

Subject content KS1

Pupils should develop fundamental movement skills, become increasingly competent and confident and access a broad range of opportunities to extend their agility, balance and coordination, individually and with others.

Pupils should be taught to … perform dances using simple movement patterns.

Subject content KS2

Pupils should continue to apply and develop a broader range of skills, learning how to use them in different ways and to link them to make actions and sequences of movement.

Pupils should be taught to … perform dances using a range of movement patterns

Extracts from the DfE National Curriculum for Music

Purpose of study:

A high-quality music education should engage and inspire pupils to develop a love of music.


The national curriculum for music aims to ensure that all pupils:

  • perform, listen to, review and evaluate music across a range of historical periods, genres, styles and traditions.
  • understand and explore how music is created, produced and communicated.

Subject content KS1

Pupils should be taught to use their voices expressively and creatively by singing songs.

Pupils should be taught to listen with concentration and understanding to a range of high-quality live and recorded music

Subject content KS2

Pupils should be taught to appreciate and understand a wide range of high-quality live and recorded music drawn from different traditions.

Pupils should be taught to develop an understanding of the history of music.