Resources needed:

  • Lots of small pieces of red, orange and yellow tissue paper.


  1. Sit the children in 4 or 5 rows, with about 5 or 6 children in each row (depending on the size of the class). Ensure that each child is far enough away from the next child that their fingertips can barely touch if they stretch out their arms. Even better still, a slightly larger gap between children.
  2. Put a basket full of the tissue paper pieces at one end of each of the rows, and an empty basket at the other end. Explain to the children that they will have one minute to pass as many pieces of tissue paper as possible along the row to the empty basket. They must reach out to the child next to them to pass each piece (one at a time), but they cannot slide or otherwise move closer.
  3. Complete the minute and note the number of pieces of tissue paper in each basket. Now allow the children to shuffle closer to each other, in order to make passing the tissue paper far easier. Give the teams a second minute – there should be much more tissue paper in each basket this time!
  4. Now tell the children the real story of the Great Fire of London. Use a book or your own words, or find a video online (there are plenty!)
  5. Ask the children one of the factors which helped the fire spread so quickly. They may make the connection between the proximity of the houses and the rate at which the fire was able to spread, perfectly illustrated by the activity at the beginning of the session.
  6. Discuss some aspects of the fire. How did it begin? What would have happened if a fire like that started today? What factors made managing the fire’s spread so difficult? What were the resulting benefits of the fire? How would you have felt if you were caught up in that situation?
  7. Use the discussion as a starting point for cross-curricular work: diary entries, model building, artwork, reading comprehensions, timelines and newspaper design.


Further Activities:

Build replica houses using lolly sticks and cardboard. Arrange them in a street scene typical of the time (remembering how close the houses were to each other!)

Compare and contrast the London of 1666 and the London of today.

Look at enlarged maps of the area of London and plot the spread of the fire.

Curriculum Areas covered:

Pupils should be taught about:

  • events beyond living memory that are significant nationally or globally [for example, the Great Fire of London