I will be in costume and in character as Sif, a Viking trader's wife, and begin by introducing myself with a few words of old Norse, it’s not much, just “Hello, my name is…” I tell the class where to find my longship if they want to do some business later on and ask if they’d like me to teach them how to be Vikings.
I explain how much my clothing says about me as a Viking – knife for freedom, wealth, status etc – before teaching them how to dress properly by getting a girl and boy to come and dress up. This also shows the contrast between rich and poor.
Because the production of clothing was such an important part of the lives of women throughout history, we then go on to look at how clothing was made. The preparation of wool for spinning allows for a brief discussion of the importance of slave labour, then I do a little spinning (audience participation required), before asking for a couple of volunteers to demonstrate how my warp-weighted loom works. Food and cooking may also be discussed during this session.
As I am speaking I ask the children questions, firstly because this allows me to guage their level of knowledge and adjust my performance accordingly, and secondly because it gets them to make direct comparisons between their everyday lives and the equivalent aspect of Viking life. My performance is also interspersed with little anecdotes from history and mythology.
The second half is about wider aspects of Viking life.
In order to explain why the Vikings came to this country we would do some role-play.
Next we need a strong boy to come and be a soldier, demonstrating weapons, armour, and shield wall.
I usually pause for a while to allow an artefact handling session using the pieces we have been looking at so far – Thor’s hammer, drinking horn, armour etc. I prefer not to talk at this point because it’s nice to let the class discuss the objects for themselves.
Because the sagas are such a vital part of Viking culture we finish with a story – either Sigurd and the dragon or Beowulf.
Questions and answers to finish as time allows – I normally ask the teacher to choose who asks because that way you are in charge of when the session ends.
Time for each session is approximately two hours – however this is flexible to fit around your timetable for breaks, assemblies etc. Obviously for a half day some of the above might have to be omitted, so if there is a particular subject you want to focus on please let me know. Because the Saxons and the Vikings had so much culture in common these two subjects can be combined in one session if you so wish.