Create your own cigarette card activity

One of my more hidden hobbies of the past was buying full sets of original cigarette cards which were ubiquitous in the first half of the twentieth century. Indeed, I have a framed full set of the cigarette card series, Kings and Queens of England, from 1936 hanging in my front room. As many of you will know there were cigarette card series on many subjects many of which related to the curriculum taught in schools, such as the First World War and literary figures.

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With this mind, I thought it would be a good idea for an activity in class, or set as a homework task, for students to create their own cigarette card on an aspect of their learning. The activity, like the cigarette card, would have two sides – both of which are important and tap into different skills. Students would have to produce a two sided cigarette card.

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One side would contain the visual representation of what the card is about. Here students would have to consider how they would visually represent the subject of their card. Would it be positive or a negative impression they would want to create? On the reverse side of the card would have a short description or history of the subject of the card. Here you could place a word limit because of the space limitations provided by the card. This would test students language and communication skills in trying to convey information with a message in a limited amount of words.

Here is a PowerPoint slide that illustrates the key features of a typical cigarette card which you could use with your students.

Create your own cigarette card

Variations in applying this activity could be –

– Giving each child a separate figure, aspect or item to design a cigarette card for so that the class create their own series of cards which could be then displayed.

– When setting the activity, give the students a viewpoint which they need to convey in their card. For example, show Charles I as a hero.

– Show students a genuine cigarette card and ask them to identify its message and opinion on the subject.

Of course, I should make it clear that with this activity I am not advocating smoking but rather using the popular hobby of the past – in this case, collecting cigarette cards rather than smoking – and this should be made clear when using this activity with your students.

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