It’s almost June. Time, however blurrily, is ticking on. Welcome to the 6th edition of our weekly roundup of primary English teaching and learning suggestions. 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!
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!
This week’s whole school book recommendation is deceptively playful, provides plenty of food for thought, and offers up vivid illustrations based on a theme that few young readers will be able to resist…
The Pirates Next Door
By Jonny Duddle
Templar Publishing, 2012
You can see the book’s teaser trailer here:
You can find out more about The Pirates Next Door, its creator, and his other books on his website.
It seems that we are getting to know our neighbours even better these days. Some people are meeting for the first time, perhaps on the Thursday night ‘Clap for Carers’. The importance of having good neighbours is something you might take for granted until you have neighbours who are not so welcome. This is what happens in Dull-on-Sea when pirates – yes, pirates, move into Mathilda’s road. But are the newcomers bad neighbours or have they been judged before anyone had a chance to get to know them? Jonny Duddle of The Pirate Cruncher fame tells a wonderful tale of neighbourly misconceptions in a picture book primed to get conversations started: The Pirates Next Door.
Read and enjoy this vibrant book. Allow time to enjoy the vivid illustrations. Consider the clever word play and rhythmic language. This is a book that cries out for some exploration of the sorts of voices that might just do justice to such wildly contrasting characters. Having enojoed the book, learning activities you could link to this book and indeed Jonny Duddle’s other pirate books.
- First, why not get into a piratey mood? There is the notorious ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day’ and you might like to try getting into character using one of the many tutorials online. Ask the children to tell you about pirates. They usually have quite a lot to say. The ideas may be based on The Pirates of the Caribbean and that’s a good start. Perhaps they will tell you that they have a wooden leg and a parrot; they are always hunting for treasure; not very nice people; they will steal from your ship / island if they can. They might steal from one another. They drink rum and sing songs. They say Arrrghh and travel the world in large ships with big sails. But was there more to pirates? Were all pirates bad? Did they have a good side? Did all pirates look roughly the same? Fostering curiosity can be a great springboard into further research. There’s far more to the world of pirating than meets the eyes. A careful eye and oversight will be needed for any research carried out online.
- Children could make treasure maps by dipping paper into water containing a teabag. Once it has a light brown stain, leave it to dry and then perhaps an adult could singe the edges to further ‘age’ the paper. Next, draw the treasure map. Perhaps the map could be based on the local area. Where would be the best place to hide treasure? Could you hide it in more than one place as the pirates did? Make sure to mark the spot(s) with X. Can you write cryptic clues – just clever enough to be truthful about the treasure’s location, but not give away where you have stashed your precious loot.
- If you were to find treasure, what treasure would you like to find? Why? What would you do with your treasure? Can you think of different types of treasure – perhaps you would have a garden full of dogs; a basket full of hugs; a box full of art materials or a seashell full of stories? A list poem might be the ideal way to gather all the possibilities. Perhaps you could save the very best treasure till last.
- If the house next door to you was for sale who would you absolutely love to move in? Could you write an advertisement for that house that would entice your dream neighbour to move in? How specific can you be so that they will find it impossible to resist?
- Why not discuss the term ‘Don’t’ judge a book by it’s cover’. What does that mean? Can we think of times we may have done that? Children have been challenged in the past to re-think their first impressions when shown pictures of people and asked to pick out who is the scientist, doctor, and firefighter. The pictures would have been chosen to confront their stereotypical choices. Characters in well-known books can be used to discuss our impressions of people based on what we have seen or heard about them. A hilarious illustration of confronting our thoughts about storybook characters is The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka. He also plays with our conceptions of frogs and princesses in The Frog Prince Continued.
As previously mentioned, Jonny Duddle also wrote The Pirate Cruncher. Generally, the ending of that firm favourite comes as a surprise. But if you pay careful attention to the pictures throughout you might just see the ending coming at least halfway through the book. You can read more about The Pirate Cruncher in this earlier blog of ours.
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.
Letters and postcards
In these days of social media and enhanced technology, the art of letter writing is fast disappearing. Why not resurrect this skill, by supporting children to send a postcard or letter that can be treasured long after a video link has ended. Everyone loves to get real post! Children could write to classmates, filling them in on what they have been doing lately, or perhaps they could write to a relative or friend that they cannot visit. Prompt the children to ask their recipient plenty of questions about how they are getting on too. Maybe they could draw a picture or put a photo on the front of the card too.
KS1: Remind children to start any sentence with a capital letter and end with a full stop; questions need to end with a question mark. Show them that each place name in an address needs a capital letter to start and support them to lay out the address correctly.
KS2: Encourage children to set the letter out in paragraphs e.g.
- An introduction to say why they are writing
- Some information on what they are doing and how they have been feeling
- Some questions asking the reading how they are getting on
- A final brief paragraph to say what might happen next such as, “I do hope to hear back from you soon. Luke would love a photo of your new puppy.”
- Sign off with an appropriate ending
- Don’t forget to pop a stamp on the postcard or envelope!
- Read Meerkat Mail by Emily Gravett; The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg; Jasper Space Dog and Jasper Viking Dog by Hilary Robinson; Dear Greenpeace by Simon James. You might also want to revisit our Year 1 Detailed English Plan based on Here Comes Mr. Postmouse by Marianne Dubuc.
Mix and match story starts
Looking for a fun way to develop both awareness of sentence structure and story? Look no more. Simply download this user-friendly resource and have fun experimenting with all manner of wordy combinations.
All of this and Lego to boot. What more could you want?
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.
A BIG question
Sometimes, one of the best ways to open up a discussion, debate, or even an argument, is a big question. Something broad and general where the discussion could be taken in many different ways, but which sparks the interest of the children and fires up the imagination.
Once the discussion has been opened up, probe deeper into their thinking by asking questions like:
Why do you think that?
What evidence do you have to support that?
Perhaps also play devil’s advocate to challenge their thinking and that will force them to articulate their beliefs and reasoning further.
Big questions could include:
- How should we treat animals? A discussion could take place on whether animals should be treated the same as us. Are some animals more intelligent than others? Do you think some animals, for example dolphins are able to communicate with each other? Does that affect how we should treat them? How do you feel about eating meat? Is that fair to animals, or is it part of the food chain?
- Can one person change the world? This activity could be used to do some research on important individuals like Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Theresa and many others. Have any of these individuals changed the world? If so, how? Can Kings, Queens and politicians change the world? Can an ordinary person change the world?
- What is fairness? A discussion could begin on how a child is treated with their friends or siblings. What would fairness look like there – is it everyone being treated the same? Would that work in all situations? How about if a teacher thought that everyone in the class had worked really hard, so gave them all the same mark? How about if the government decided that everyone who worked should be paid the same wage? Is that fairness? Is treating everyone the same always fair? Why? Why not?
- What is kindness? Can kindness take different forms? How can you show kindness? Can you be kind to yourself as well as others? Do you think we live in a kind world? Why/why not? How could we be more kind?
You may wish to look further into developing this sort of approach. There are some very helpful books available to support you in developing high quality discussion around such big topics.
Sara Stanley’s Why Think? (Bloomsbury, 2012) provides a range of guidance, learning opportunities, and case studies to support the development of thought, challenge, and reasoning within the classroom and beyond.
For an alternative route into talk with a sense of real purpose, and hopefully individual perspective, Quentin Blake’s Tell me a Picture (Frances Lincoln, 2015) offers plenty of food for thought.
In the course of encouraging the reader to think deeply about the stories behind key artworks, Blake offers a series of probing questions that are sure to get the thinking and talking going.
This week’s suggestion to power up our ways with words is to take a visit to this page of the Grammarly blog. Here you will find a range of simple games that can be played at school or at home without too much preparation.
You will know from previous editions that we like a good game of Boggle. Here Scrabble Scramble suggests a variant on Boggle that younger children can enjoy.
Speaking of boggle…
How many words can you make from this 9 letter grid?
Did you manage to find a 9 letter word? What helped you to find it? What strategies did you use?
How about this for an extra challenge, perhaps for the grown-ups: can you find all three 9 letter words that can be made up using just these letters? Tricky stuff!
This week’s focus for CPD is a site that offers an extensive range of resources, reviews, case studies and more that support schools and other settings in developing communities of readers. Situated within the Open University’s Research Rich Pedagogies site, you will find three main project strands.
Here, we are focusing on the Reading for Pleasure strand – as pictured in the central box in the photo below. Once you enter the Reading for Pleasure strand, you will find a range of further options.
- You may wish to explore the area devoted to whole school approaches to developing the reading culture in your setting. Based upon the OU/UKLA Teachers as Readers research project, the site offers findings from research ‘undertaken in 5 Local Authorities across England, [that} influenced both policy and practice and revealed key elements which enable teachers to build interactive reading communities.’ Here you will find resources to support staff development sessions, and we highly recommend the case studies from participating schools. Accessible and practical, they demonstrate a firm grounding in real world research.
- Perhaps you would like to take a more active approach. Why not consider joining a Teacher’s Reading Group? There are over a hundred of these groups now in action across the UK, providing ‘free evidence–based CPD for teachers, teaching assistants, early years professionals, librarians, reading volunteers and others to enrich their understanding of reading for pleasure (RfP) and how to support it.’ For our more local readers in Hertfordshire, here is the list of current groups covering the East of England:
- Finally, a third area provides yet further evidence of the brilliance of so many authors and books. Author spotlights provide insights into the world of some of the very best contemporary authors, poets, and illustrators working in the realm of children’s literature. Top Texts is a monthly set of recommendations that will help you to supplement your book provision with some high quality choices. There are plenty of recommendations to work through if you are new to the site. One of our own advisors made these recommendations all the way back in July 2018, and still stands by them. There have been plenty more since. Registering on the site will provide you with access to a monthly newsletter so that you need never miss another set of top-of-the-tree choices.
It’s a truly substantial site, with so many avenues to explore. If you haven’t been there yet, perhaps half term is just the right time for some summer ‘reading about reading’.
Rarely has the phrase ‘in other news’ carried quite so much weight. Things get stranger and stranger. We’ll stick with English, and refrain from commenting on wider current affairs.
Though we must urge you that if you have any trouble reading this blog, please refrain from taking a drive in order to check your vision. Safety first.
So, in less contentious news…
This blog from The Poetry Society opens with the following words: It’s a strange time to be in Year 6’. This is quite something of an understatement. With recent talk and oh-so-much guidance relating to relaxing the current lockdown restrictions applied to school attendance, Year 6 are very much in mind. They are certainly in Jame’s Carter’s mind and here he offers up a wonderful approach to helping Year 6 capture some of the precious memories that they will have accumulated along the way of their primary journey. James walks us through the approach in simple and direct language. Well worth a visit to see if this might be something that you would like to carry out with your Year 6 in those fading moments of the school year. We will be sharing more of our own ideas along these lines with our schools in the very, very near future.
2020 Klaus Flugge Prize shortlist announced
Celebrating the ‘strength and vibrancy of contemporary illustration for children’ the shortlist for the 2020 Klaus Flugge Prize provides a comprehensive selection of some very fine picturebooks released in the past year. There are some firm favourites of ours in this list, and one or two titles that we now need to explore.
First Chapter Books
We’ve shared something for our oldest Primary learners, now here is a very useful blog that addresses the often tricky task of finding books that are just right for young readers ready to make the transition to early chapter books. This can sometimes be challenging. Worry not, the very friendly book blogger Jo has provided a blog that offers a range of choices that fit the bill. In fact, if you visit the blog, you will see this is a sequel. Look out for the link to Jo’s earlier selections near the top of the blog. Ready and willing Year 2 readers should be spoilt for choice.
That’s all for this week. For those of you on half term, and hopefully having some sort of break, happy reading at leisure. For those in school, we hope you have found something of use in amongst this week’s choices and suggestions. Our very best wishes to you.
Thank you for reading. Keep safe; stay well read.