Lesson 1: Working at Home

This lesson introduces pupils to the cottage industry phase of linen production in eighteenth and early nineteenth century Ireland and to the language of one of the Ulster-Scots ‘rhyming weaver’ poets. Pupils are given an opportunity to carry out a Talking and Listening activity about the distribution of labour in a typical weaver’s cottage.

Main Areas of Curricular Focus

Lesson Plan


Learning Intentions

Learning Intentions

Pupils will:

  • know that in former times (the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) children from an early age were trained to work to contribute to the family income;
  • understand that in linen-making much of this work was done at home, and that parents gave the training; and
  • understand the different roles of children and of men and women in the cottage-based linen industry in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by reading the work of an Ulster-Scots ‘rhyming weaver’ poet.
  • weaver
  • loom
  • yarn
  • spinning
  • winding



Ask pupils the question: ‘Do we need to go to school?’ Give pupils a few minutes to think and respond. Introduce the idea of staying at home all day instead of going to school. Ask if pupils would like that. Expect ‘Yes!’ Then display a list of reasons, at random, Resource 2.1: Why Going to School can be Good for Us (IWB).

See Active Learning and Teaching Methods for Key Stages 1&2, page 22 for instructions on Diamond Ranking. (Pupils can work at a board or wall space. Alternatively, groups can work around a table.)

Prepare and distribute sets of cards from the template provided, Resource 2.2: Why Going to School can be Good for Us (Cards).

How does it work?
  • Pupils receive nine ideas about ‘Why Going to School can be Good for Us’.
  • They place their first priority card at the top, followed by two cards in second place, three in third place, a further two and then the card which represents the lowest priority at the bottom. This forms a diamond shape.
  • Before deciding the location of each card, pupils should try to agree among themselves. This may involve various discussions on the order of cards giving reasons why a card should be placed in a particular location.

Follow up with a whole class debrief. Encourage pupils to suggest further reasons why school is fun and useful. Remind pupils that today we have laws that say children must be educated and for most children this happens in school. Pupils could investigate the work of Margaret Byers and how she changed the face of education for girls in Ulster.

Using the information provided in Resource 2.3: Teacher Information Card, explain that children weren’t always required to go to school but that didn’t mean they were allowed to play all day. Usually they had to work very hard at home. In Ulster-Scots it could be said of a child who was proficient in reading and writing that he or she, ‘wuz aye a guid scholar’. The poet and weaver James Orr, 1770–1816 (a weaver from Ballycarry in Co. Antrim) was regarded as the best Ulster-Scots ‘rhyming weaver’ of his time. He wrote over 150 poems and one of them, a long poem entitled The Penitent, was about a tough but kind-hearted weaver called Christy Blair. The poem includes a few lines which describe a typical weaver’s family with everyone, even the children, all at work in the trade.

Display the first screen of Resource 2.4: Extract from The Penitent (IWB) and ask the pupils to have a go at saying it and trying to understand what it means before revealing the translation. The text is also provided below:

He weav’d himsel’, an keepet twathree gaun, Wha prais’d him ay for hale weel-handled yarn; His thrifty wife an’ wise wee lasses span, While warps and queels employ’d anither bairn.

However, because religion was very important to many of the people who worked in the linen industry, most communities had schools where the children were taught to read so that they could understand the Bible. However, the children still had to work when they went home, as well as going to lessons for part of the day.

Main Lesson

Main Lesson

Display Resource 2.5: Weaver’s Cottage (IWB) and distribute the image and description cards to pupils, Resource 2.6: What Stories do the Pictures Tell Us? (Cards).

  1. Ask pupils, in pairs, to match the image to the description giving reasons for their decisions;
  2. Discuss the pictures with pupils ensuring that they notice the children and the division of labour between male and female. For example, fathers taught sons to weave; mothers taught daughters to spin. Emphasise that the family also had to grow and make a lot of their own food, as there were only a few very small shops, and no supermarkets. See Resource 2.3: Teacher Information Card;
  3. Display the correct answers Resource 2.7: What Stories do the Pictures Tell Us? (IWB); and
  4. Distribute the pupil worksheet Resource 2.8: Home Responsibilities (Worksheet), and discuss the example in the top row. Ask pupils, in pairs, to complete the template and discuss the responsibilities children today may have at home.



Pupils may peer assess their discussion using Two Stars and a Wish strategy. They may ask the question, 'to what extent did we justify our opinions?' when talking in a group. This is also a useful assessment opportunity.

Assessment Opportunity

Assessment Opportunity

If you wish to assess pupils’ responses to this lesson, see the suggestion below.

Pupils may peer assess their discussion using Two Stars and a Wish strategy asking the question, ‘To what extent have we justified our opinions?’.

Other Activities

Additional Pupil Activity

Role Play: Travel Back in Time

Pupils are given an opportunity to participate in a role play which involves travelling back in time.

Distribute Resource 2.9: Scenario and Prompt Cards.

Source a recording of the Dr Who theme to introduce the ‘time traveller’ role play.

Pupils can perform their role plays for the whole class using some of the Ulster-Scots vocabulary which they have already learnt. Groups can comment positively on each other’s presentations and identify two things they really liked in each role play.

  • weaver
  • loom
  • yarn
  • spinning
  • winding


Resource 2.9: Scenario and Prompt Cards

Links to Curriculum

Cross-Curricular Skills

Cross-Curricular Skills: Communication

Children should be given opportunities to engage with and demonstrate the skill of communication and to transfer their knowledge about communication concepts and skills to real-life meaningful contexts across the curriculum. (Language and Literacy)

Talking and Listening
  • Listen to a range of fiction, poetry, drama and media texts through the use of traditional and digital resources;
  • Retell and interpret stories based on literature and the content of the curriculum;
  • Participate in group and class discussions about ‘going to school’ and about the life and work of a weaver using Ulster-Scots vocabulary;
  • Know and understand the conventions of group discussion; and
  • Identify and ask appropriate questions to seek information, views and feelings.


Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities

  • Thinking, Problem-Solving and Decision-Making (What Stories do the Pictures Tell Us?)
  • Working with Others (Role Play: Travel Back in Time and Diamond Ranking activity)

WAU: History

The World Around Us: History

  • Technological change and the impact of inventors and inventions over time which have impacted on the home weaving industry.
  • Places then and now and how our identity, way of life and culture has been shaped by influences from the local and wider world in relation to the home weaving industry in Ulster.


Personal Development & Mutual Understanding

Strand 2 (Mutual Understanding in the Local and Wider Community)
  • Knowing about aspects of Ulster-Scots cultural heritage which have contributed to society today.

Active Learning and Teaching Methods

Active Learning and Teaching Methods for Key Stage 2

These active teaching and learning approaches encourage active participation from pupils, making the learning a more relevant and enjoyable experience.

When carrying out a Diamond Ranking activity, pupils rank nine ‘Why Going to School can be Good for Us’ cards in order of priority. All pupils will be actively engaged in discussion during this activity.

Suggested Websites & Resources

The work of Margaret Byerswww.ourinnovators.com

Audio, The Weaver Poetswww.ourinnovators.com

Spinner’s and Weaver’s CottageVideo Resource

Basic ‘props’ for role playCaps, long skirts, sticks & big brush (for hackle)

some of the Ulster-Scots weavers were great poets? Another word for a poet is a ‘bard’.

In partnership with  Ulster Scots Agency