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Curriculum Making Artefact - Migration

Irish emigrants fleeing Ireland because of potato famine
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A sample curriculum artefact

This curriculum artefact is an Irish folk song which provides an unusual means to analyse the causes, impacts and side effects of international migration. The song can be played on its own but is best played with the printed lyrics available to read at the same time.

It is based on Irish migration to the UK and USA during the nineteenth century. It will be helpful to prepare some contextual information on Ireland, the potato famine (and the controversy over its causes and consequences) and population change to the present day.

How to use the song

To use the artefact to the full, students need a map on which to record their 'data'. You need to provide a simple outline map, probably not drawn to scale, to show the British Isles, the Atlantic Ocean and part of North America. If you're using a schematic map it should be used in conjunction with an atlas.

Students should record the story onto the map as it unfolds through the song. They should use symbols only and no written words, e.g. money = £ or $ Michael = M home = |^| etc.
It may be appropriate to do this in pairs.

An alternative video with lyrics is also available on YouTube.

Killkelly song lyrics (7k)

note: this file requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader.

If you do not have this you can get it free from the Adobe website.


After the activity

It is the debrief which yields the learning, perhaps in the context of building, or refining, a simple 'push-pull' model. This can be done in a plenary or in smaller groups.

Among the main points to emerge are:

  • The potato failure over successive years was a main push factor.
  • Michael went to England and got into trouble - not difficult for outsiders in (possibly) an unwelcoming new country.
  • He made money though (not sure how)!
  • He returned and with his money prospered.
  • John was never seen again (crossing the Atlantic then was an enormous step to take).
  • He was sadly missed - but he sent money home.
  • There was great anxiety at home as to the kind of job he would get - the railways were very dangerous. Literally thousands of workers lost their lives building the railways across North America. John never divulged his work.
  • Brigitte, the sister, did not leave home - the migration opportunities were not shared equally by gender (or age of course).

It would be possible to then make connections with contemporary international migration, for example possibly focussing on the importance of remittances in the global economy.


Curriculum making glossary >>>

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1 Comment

David Lambert

David Lambert

GA Member

17:29 - 18/11/12

It is perhaps worth adding a quick note. What makes this a "curriculum artefact" (rather than just a nice teaching resource)? I answer this question bt referring to the curriculum thinking that goes with it.
First,using this resource requires specialist subject knowledge to realise the educational benefits of using it. Second, it requires the teacher to decide on a sound way to use the resource - in this case 'mapping the data, and then interpreting this data. Third, it requires the teacher to able to 'place' the resource really effectively - thinking about what prior knowledge would be helpful and how to follow it through and build on the understanding gained through its use.
Curriculum thinking is about having clear purposes and goals.

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