Active Learning on

Kings of Football:
an unlikely research task!


I’ve grown somewhat tired of people who claim to know the ‘best way’ to teach history. There is probably a ‘best way’ for some people but not for everyone and in addition students of all ages benefit from variety, from encountering a variety of ways to learn. Classes also contain students who benefit from different kinds of teaching. ‘Active’ learning and reading and writing are not irreconcilable opposites but mutually supportive activities. So here’s something that isn’t ‘the best way’ to learn the names of the kings of England – but may help a few children have fun and do more than learn the names. They may even develop research skills and find out something about each king who reigned between 1066 and 1547. It won’t interest some, possibly many – but if it helps half-a-dozen ….

The basic idea – starting with King Harold I’ve split the kings up into two football teams. No choosing sides, they’re simply in chronological order which by chance and very helpfully gives us, as you can see below, a Norman back-four and an Angevin midfield in one team and a Yorkist midfield and Tudor attack in the other.

The idea is simply to get students finding out about the kings by asking football-style research questions – I’ve listed some for each team but I’m sure you can come up with more and better questions yourself. Some questions are ‘find the right answer’ questions (e.g. which dynasty makes up the midfield) but most are ‘drawing parallels’ questions and meant to be fun e.g. a red card equals deposition, Edward I would make a good striker because he was always attacking other nations, mostly successfully, and was tall and strong – think Alan Shearer or Andy Carroll in a crown. Students could find the answers by using the internet or the Top Trumps cards on this site will answer most questions [ here ].

So over to you – is it interesting, useful, motivating? What can students learn (not all of them, just some)? And at the end you’ll find a historical team of all the talents I came up with a few years ago – just for fun but maybe KS3 students could be asked to explain the selections of everyone from goalkeeper to crèche-keeper? And if it’s not for your students it might educate the PE department.

PS: changing to a different sport I do wonder if Kevin Pietersen is the sporting Richard III. Not because of his way with nephews but because his defenders completely ignore the evidence.


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The Teams

Kings United


William I         William II        Henry I            Stephen

Henry II          Richard I         John

Henry III         Edward I         Edward II

Coronation Rovers

Edward III

Richard II       Henry IV         Henry V          Henry VI

Edward IV      Edward V       Richard III

Henry VII       Henry VIII      Edward VI


Kings United - possible research questions

1. Why might the goalkeeper have difficulty communicating with his back-four?

2. Why might the goalkeeper be weak on high balls?

3. Which red haired defender should avoid training runs in forests?

4. Where’s the weak spot in the back-four?

5. A chronicler said that ‘Henry II wore out all his courtiers with his restless energy.’ How would you translate that into ‘football-speak’?

6. Why is the central midfielder always asking for a transfer to a club in Israel?

7. Critics say John can’t burst the net from five yards out. Which nickname was he given that reminds you of this?

8. Why would Edward I make a good striker?

9. Why would you leave Edward II on the bench if you’re drawn against a Scottish team?

10. Which player is most likely to break his contract?

11. Which player was the youngest to make his debut but never got any better?

12. Which is the only player to get a red card?

13. Which dynasty makes up a) the back-four b) the midfield?

14. Which side of this team – left or right – needs most strengthening? Why?

you don’t need them but just in case a deputy head stands in for you

1. They spoke different languages  

2. Harold – arrows at Hastings

3. William II

4. Stephen (by some way)

5. ‘has a good engine’

6. Richard I – Crusading

7. Softsword

8. Tall, always attacking other nations

9. Beaten at Bannockburn

10. John (Magna Carta)

11. Henry III – king at 9

12. Edward II – deposed

13. a) Normans  b) Angevins

14. Left side very weak – Stephen, John, Edward II.           


Coronation Rovers - possible research questions

1. Why do you think the goalkeeper will do well against French team in the Champions League?

2. Which of your defenders is most likely to move up in attack?

3. Which of your defenders are likely to start fighting each other?

4. Which defender is hardly ever fit?

5. Would you attack this back-four down the wings or through the centre?

6. Which of your midfielders is very popular with female fans?

7. Who is the weak-point in midfield?

8. Why will the midfield struggle to play well together?

9. How many of this team have received red cards?

10. Which three players were promising juniors but their careers soon faded?

11. Which two players should avoid training in The Tower?

12. Which dynasty makes up a) the midfield b) the attack?

13. Which striker was slim and quick in his youth but is looking very overweight these days?

14. Which Welsh striker was a really surprise signing – nobody at the club knew him til he turned up near Leicester one day?


1. Crecy, Poitiers – good at beating French

2. Henry V

3. Richard II deposed by Henry IV

4. Henry VI

5. Wings – both full-backs feeble

6. Edward IV – tall, handsome etc

7. Edward V – young, inexperienced

8. Richard III deposed Edward V – no love lost!

9. Three – Richard II, Henry VI, Richard III all deposed.

10. Henry VI. Edward V, Edward VI

11. Henry VI, Edward V

12. a) Yorkists b) Tudors

13. Henry VIII

14. Henry VII.

And finally – who do you think would win and why?


My All-Time England XI

Picking football teams is a very old pastime, traditionally undertaken in the middle of the night when sleep refuses to come. This England team was selected at 5.30 am for reasons that now escape me but there may be a research activity here – maybe for Y9 at the end of the summer term. Can they work out who all these people were and explain all the references, using the clues in the descriptions? It could be a team research game with points for the most correct identifications. This could be a good way of looking back over KS3.

T. Becket  (great handling crosses)

Full backs – excellent defenders who know exactly when to join the attack
D. of Wellington (right back)
O. Cromwell (left back)

Central defence – inspirational defenders
H. Godwinson (despite weakness in the air)
W. Churchill (responsible for half-time talk)

Midfield – good mix of skills
J. Watt  (great little engine so can run all day)
Henry VIII  (ruthless in tackling opponents)
W. Shakespeare  (playmaker supreme)
S. Pankhurst  (left wing, should combine well with Cromwell)

Attack – classic mix of short and tall strikers
H. Nelson  (will die for the team)
Henry V  (arrow-like speed; at best on heavy ground)

Boudicca – fierce attacker though doesn’t last 90 minutes
Edward I – tall and strong in attack and defence, use in Home Internationals
I. K. Brunel – bridges the gap between attack and defence
F. Drake – give him the ball and he’ll keep going, round and round and round
W. Tyler – reserve left-winger; strong starter but weak finisher

R. Lionheart omitted because of doubts over nationality.

Manager – E. Tudor
Chief Scout – J. Cook
Security – R. Peel
Team kit – R. Arkwright
Team picture – J.M.W. Turner
Club photographer – Julia M. Cameron
Programme printed – W. Caxton
Programme notes – V. Bede, S. Pepys, C. Dickens
TV coverage – J. L. Baird
Catering – Alf’s Great Cakes
Pre-match fireworks – G. Fawkes
Half-time entertainment – C. Chaplin, J. Lennon
Team doctor – J. Lister
Nursing – M. Seacole, F. Nightingale
Creche facilities – Richard III



Constructive feedback is always welcome, particularly anything that will help other teachers.

This Page



The Teams

Research 1

Research 2

All-Time Team