Herts Primary English teaching & learning resources for KS1 & KS2: weekly digest, vol 4

    Published: 13 May 2020
    boy readinig book


    Here we are again. Another week of somewhat blurry days. Another serving of ideas to help keep a handle on all things literacy. This series of weekly blogs is made up of contributions from across our team in an effort to share a selection of ideas and resources that have a degree of looseness, allowing for adaptation for the classroom or for use in home learning. We are keen to respect and acknowledge the critical, irreplaceable role of the teacher in selecting and shaping the content that is best placed to meet the particular needs of their children.  

    We would love to hear any feedback that might help us to develop or adapt our own output here. Please do feel free to send in your comments or suggestions – you can use the email at the bottom of this blog or via Twitter

    (@HertsEnglish). Happy reading!


    Love that Book


    This week’s whole school book recommendation is the winner of The Little Rebels Children's Book Awards 2017; the 2017 English 4-11 Picture Book Awards and the 2017 Teach Primary New Children's Fiction Awards :

    Ada Twist, Scientist

    Written by Andrea Beaty

    Illustrated by David Roberts

    2016, Abrams Books





    You can see a trailer and preview of Ada Twist, Scientist at the Abrams Books Website

    There is no better time than now to inspire our budding young engineers (model makers), scientists (inventors and discoverers), designers and inquisitive mathematicians. Let our children think about the next best thing, what could be, what could be found out and feel that ‘what next’ factor. Andrea Beaty’s wonderful collection of stories offer a host of creative ways to stimulate fun and creative learning opportunities. The illustrations by David Roberts will trigger young minds for sure.




    Theresa Clement’s, HfL Primary English Adviser explains this week’s choice of book:

    "I am going to kick off with ‘Ada Twist, Scientist’ as it sits rather comfortably with life in my home at the moment where two very different siblings (large age gap might I add) are learning how to understand each other in a way unlike anything they have ever experienced before. Every now and again when tensions rise, one of them cannot really comprehend that the pair of them are even related. Then, when things settle down, an acceptance of each other’s perceived odd ways and behaviours brings them closer together. At the moment, it is this level of family learning, that whilst sometimes challenging, can culminate into a deeper and richer appreciation of ourselves and those that we live with. For me, this theme is obvious in Andrea Beaty’s portrayal a family’s growing appreciation of the shining star that they have created that is….Ada Twist!"

    Almost every page of this wonderful story could prompt a thought, an idea, a question or offer a wider theme to explore.

    Let’s begin with the title…….

    Ada Twist, Scientist –  theme to explore:

    Perhaps some of our children and, upper KS2 in particular, are listening to the news or catching snippets of the latest updates from government scientists. This could provide a wider exploration of the scientists from which Andrea Beaty sought her inspiration. Connections could be drawn from other current favourite books for example ‘Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls’ by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo may well support links between Ada Twist and Ada Lovelace. Referring back to last week’s references to the late Margaret Meek, we can support children in forming connections, relating between texts, moving between fiction and non-fiction and seeing common ground and difference.  All this as we explore with the children books that will take them into new worlds.

     A thought:

    Encourage the children to recall their memories of being a baby, a toddler, or even being in a younger year group. What did they like to do? What did they like to play with? Can they recall any particular events or first time experiences? This could lead to some fact finding at home…..photos, objects or any keepsakes that help to rekindle such memories and create a personal catalogue using images/drawings etc. 

    An idea:

    Ada does not really speak much until the age of three when she feels that she has something to say. We all know of those children who are often reluctant to participate in conversations and then they surprise us by offering some really thought provoking comments or suggestions. Setting up a ‘Talking Chair’ in order for children to share anything that is important to them at the moment could provide a forum for new ideas to take further.


    Ada very quickly begins to ask Why? What? How? When? The illustrations (provided by David Roberts) offer a whole host of things that the children could begin to ask questions about. Collect a variety of items for children to ask further questions about. This could lead to further fact-based enquiry. Encourage the children to share their findings as creatively as possible. Chalk and black sugar paper can offer an alternative to pen and paper and will stimulate the writing of some very eye-catching reports, explanations and fact files.

    Alternatively, the children could be encouraged to take a fictional spin on an item/object of interest and create their own humorous version of how something came to be or why something exists.

    Theme to explore:

    Spring provides Ada with the ideal opportunity to take her interest outdoors and we find her curiosity extends to the sound of a mockingbird as well a strange smell. Are you noticing and hearing birds a lot more at the moment or is it just me? Is it because of the lack of outdoor human activity at the moment? Amongst our team, this change in what we perceive has sparked a completely new line of enquiry. Some have even taken up a new hobby, creating tallies of the birds that they see as well as sketching them.



    A further idea:

    Ada is fascinated by smells and the final illustrations show us Ada’s classmates with jars containing the worst stink that they could make. What a great idea! Clearly, a risk assessment would need to be conducted but this idea should appeal to children of all ages.

    To conclude, if the children enjoy ‘Ada Twist, Scientist, they will almost certainly devour Rosie Revere, Engineer. This book is an essential choice when embarking upon an inspirational context for explanation writing. The book recounts the extraordinary life of Rosie Revere who loves to invent things. Despite the occasional set back, she persists in her efforts to create some of the most unusual inventions known to human kind.

    Subscribers to PA Plus can follow the link below in order to access an  Explanation Model for Writing inspired by the pictures of Rosie’s inventions, many of which can be found within the last few pages of the book.


    Across this series, we aim to offer up a number of whole school reading and writing opportunities for you to use with the children currently at school, or to pass on for exploration at home. These ideas can be delivered in class or adapted for use in the home setting. Enjoy!


    Keeping creative


    The following offer a range of suggestions for engaging activities that children can enjoy, with some opportunities for speaking, reading and writing to be part of children’s imaginative play. Our intention is for these ideas to support teachers and parents whilst many children are at home or in mixed-age classes at school during this difficult time. We hope that these activities provide some much needed fun, as well as opportunities for speaking, reading and writing to be developed through children’s imaginative play.

    Two’s company in Toy Town

    Choose two toys (ideally small ones) and take them on a few adventures around the house or classroom. Two toys are essential.  They’re given to chat (dialogue/speech, anyone?)

    Here’s where our dinosaurs went. Look closely, they’re hiding in the third picture.




    Make up what they might be saying to one another. Maybe to start with …

    Archiback: Oh my goodness, that was a lot of work getting that box out of the cupboard. And now look – all over the floor! I knew balancing wasn’t a good idea.

    Stronglegs: You my friend, are always complaining. Look at it this way – all that stuff over the floor is now ready for us to eat. How shall we share it out?

    Archiback: …

    You could bring in a storyteller …

    In their haste to hoover up as many delicious choco pops as they could, as quickly as they could – the two friends hadn’t noticed that …

    Play the game; act the play. (Remember to do the dinosaur / toy voices.) Then maybe write the play down so that you can swap with somebody else who has written a play so that you can act each others. Consider different moods.  For older children, experiment with stress and emphasis.  Is one of your toys less than ideal company?  Is one just the sort of toy to put its foot in its mouth at the Weekly Gathering of the Toys?  Is one particularly careful with their words, polite and perhaps just a dash more formal? 

    Have fun experimenting with character through dialogue – and you might just learn some lessons about your own use of language in the process.

    Getting to Grips with the Tricky Bits




    Tired of trickier spellings for your year group getting the better of your students? Keen to supplement your carefully planned spelling lessons with a little something to keep the spelling home fires burning?  Simply download our guide to Getting to Grips with Tricky Bits and conquer those awkward irregularities, less usual pronunciations, and overly modest unstressed word parts.


    Really saying something


    Each week we will celebrate and support the power of the spoken word through carefully chosen prompts to support children’s language development through discussion – offering opportunities for listening, contemplation, turn-taking, forming thoughts and putting these into words, or simply having fun with language.




    Silly Sausage!

    Prepare a number of slips of paper and record an ‘adverb of manner’ (see explanation at the bottom of this section) on each. The adverbs must relate to the verb ‘said’.

    Suggestions might include: grumpily/gruffly, angrily, haughtily/pompously, shyly/timidly, boldly, sarcastically, excitedly, ecstatically/joyfully, reluctantly/unwillingly, miserably/sadly, sensibly, wisely, nonchalantly/casually.

    Place the slips in a pile or in a jar and invite one participant to select a slip and read it to themselves. The challenge is for the player to say the word ‘sausages’ in the manner of the word on the slip. The participant who correctly guesses the adverb wins a point. The winner then selects the next slip of paper and the game continues.


    • If participants are struggling to guess the adverb, the player in charge can provide the first letter (and the second letter, if necessary) as a clue.
    • If participants are still struggling, the player in charge can create a blank word board to indicate the number of letters in the word e.g. h a _ _ _ _ _ _ _  (haughtily). After each incorrect guess, the play can provide an additional letter until the word is revealed, or it is correctly guessed.

    An adverb of manner tells the listening/reader more about how an action (the verb in the sentence) is being performed. Adverbs of manner often end with the suffix ‘ly’, but not always.

    Examples of adverbs of manner (adverbs in italics):

    Little Billy ate hungrily.

    The paint spread pleasingly across the paper.

    He ran fast.


    What's in a word


    This week’s suggestions to power up our ways with words.

    Just a minute:

    This popular BBC Radio 4 game is brilliantly transferred to the classroom or living room. Introduce children to a topic or a picture – possibly an illustration from a picture book. In pairs or small groups, or playing against an adult, contestants should try to speak for one minute without stopping, on the given subject. There are 3 rules, however. No hesitation, no repetition and no deviation. In other words, if they veer away from the subject-matter, if they pause or ‘erm…’, or if they repeat a word, their opponent should ‘buzz’ and take over. Whoever is still speaking at the end of the minute wins the round. Give it a go – it’s harder than it sounds and it’s great fun.

    Mind Boggler:

    A return for an old favourite – simple to set up and as easy to adapt as it is to find 9 letter words (Hint: Google is your friend here, but think about how the word will lend itself to generating smaller words). 

    How many words can you make from this 9 letter word?




    Did you manage to find the 9 letter word?  What helped you to find it?  What strategies did you use?


    Food for thought


    The Megabook of Fluency – Timothy V Rasinski & Melissa Cheesman Smith


    Megabook of Fluency cover


    We are always interested in all things reading fluency here on the English team at Herts for Learning. This Megabook (it really is huge!) is packed with useful, practical activities which complement the strategies of the KS1 / KS2 Reading Fluency Projects beautifully. Timothy Rasinski is well-regarded in this aspect of reading instruction and has published a significant body of research, articles, and other publications on the topic. This particular book is a brilliantly digestible mixture of theory and practice, with the emphasis on practice.

    The introductory pages offer useful subject knowledge, clearly explaining the link between fluency and reading success. Fluency is often misrepresented as reading speed and the emphasis in the book on word automaticity and expressive, rhythmic reading is –literally- music to our ears. We have long-believed that children who sound good to listen to are more likely to be comprehensive readers, and that this skill can be taught.

    The activities offered in the book aim to support children from EY all the way to UKS2. Texts and resources are all included which make this resource quick and easy to use. There is a checklist alongside each activity which indicates to the teacher which of the fluency skills are being practised: expression, automatic word recognition, rhythm and phrasing, or smoothness. Activities include singing, poetry reading, drama and games. This is highly recommended for teachers who have participated in HfL’s Reading Fluency Project and wish to sustain the impact for participating children, along with teachers who are looking to grow and maintain fluent readers in class. We can see the strategies suggested in the resource being used in whole class reading lessons, as well as small group sessions.


    in other news header


    We often say “so many books; so little time” but of late we could easily change this to any number of variants: ”so much news…”; “so much guidance…”; “so many provocative statements…”  Here we are strictly concerned with news related to our chosen field, a sample of the latest news relating to English, children’s literature and such like.

    Hay Festival Online

    Have you ever wanted to attend the Hay Festival but been unable to attend? The organisers recently made the following announcement:

    ‘We are delighted to announce Hay Festival Digital #Imaginetheworld which will be free to view and runs 18–31 May 2020. We have worked hard to ensure our virtual Festival doors are wide open and look forward to sharing Hay Festival Digital with you.’ You can find out more here: www.hayfestival.com/home.  For more details relating to the programme for children, head here: www.hayfestival.com/c-209-archive-hay-player.aspx?skinid=16&ManufacturerFilterID=0&VectorFilterID=0&GenreFilterID=58

    Firm favourite authors such as Chitra Soundar, Kate DiCamillo, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, and Eoin Colfer, as well as poets like Michael Rosen and Joe Coelho are just some of the many contributing writers.  Plenty to enjoy and explore.  We’ll just take this moment to send our best wishes, thoughts and more to Michael Rosen and family, and wish him well in his recovery.

    Noticing Nature

    We’ve lost count of the anecdotal exchanges within our circles of friends and families, from colleagues elsewhere, and online relating to a heightened sense or awareness of the natural world.  Birdsong seems to be especially evident.  Now seems to be the perfect time to harness this interest, and build on the success of books by the likes of Nicola Davies and Owen Davey, not to mention the awe and wonder inspired by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’s The Lost Words.  BBC Wildlife have gathered together this list of recent books that provide a rich seam of reading that may well further develop children’s knowledge, understanding and love for the natural world around them.  Follow the link to explore some very impressive titles: www.discoverwildlife.com/people/nature-books-for-children/


    And here we are, another week done.  More next week.

    Thank you for reading.  Keep safe; stay well read.

    Primary English

    Herts for Learning Primary English team


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