Remote learning Primary English ideas: reading, writing, thought and talk

    Published: 26 January 2021

    Love that Book Light Bites


    Sometimes it takes just one great book to inspire all kinds of learning. We’ve shared this resource once before, but some books demand to be revisited.  Carol Anne Duffy’s The Tear Thief is one such book.

    The Tear Thief

    By Carol Ann Duffy

    Illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli

    The Tear Thief is a modern classic offering up a winning combination of sparkling, poetic prose, and stunning illustrations.  Be warned: this book has led to real life tears when we have read it aloud during training sessions. The title gives a very good clue as to the nature of the story, but what kinds of tears, exactly, are most precious to our scavenging Tear Thief?



    We hope you will find this resource based on The Tear Thief helpful. It is packed with ideas that can be delivered in class or adapted for use in the home setting. Enjoy!


    Keeping Creative


    We have been busy conjuring up and collating a pool of creative ideas with which to support teachers and parents whilst many children are at home, or in mixed-age classes at school during, this difficult time. Here are some suggestions for engaging activities that children can enjoy, with some opportunities for speaking, reading and writing to be part of children’s imaginative play.

    Toy Diary

    Provide each child with a toy e.g. a vehicle or figure, and invite them to take it on an adventure using the environment that they have at their disposal.

    The toy might:

    • dive for sunken treasure in the sink,
    • get buried in a mountain of pencil shavings,
    • take a wild ride on a skateboard,
    • find themselves buried in mud!

    Invite the children to create a diary of the toy’s escapades.

    Younger children might record simple sentences written in the third person e.g. ‘The dolly got stuck in the mud’, whilst older children might enjoy the challenge of writing from the perspective of the toy: can you imagine how anxious the toy might feel about being stuck at home with their tormentor for weeks on end! Aaargh!


    Toy Diary


    For further inspiration, you may want to re-visit this older blog looking at Mini Grey’s dazzlingly inventive Traction man, a firm favourite in many of the schools that we support.  You’ll find further suggestions for writing a winning diary there.





    Cooking up a Spell

    Provide each child with a bucket or bowl filled with some water – this will become their cauldron! Invite the child/children to seek out 6 or more ingredients from the natural environment that could be added to the cauldron to make a spell. Before adding each ingredient to the pot, challenge the children to consider how the ingredient could be prepared e.g.

    • Could it be sliced into tiny pieces, or crushed into a powder (using a stone or stick maybe)?
    • Do you need to say anything special as it is added (special magical words, perhaps), or should it simply be dropped from a great height?

    When all the ingredients are ready, invite the children to get mixing! When their concoction is ready, ask them to explain the purpose of their mix e.g. is it designed to turn frogs into princesses, or is it an invisibility potion?




    After mixing, the potions could be bottled and the children could make labels. Finally, the children might enjoy recording their ingredients list and methods so that other wannabe magicians can recreate the magic.


    Really Saying Something


    It’s important that we continue to celebrate and 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.

    • Memory jar: Family discussions of any kind fuel children’s language development but this one will give children a positive glow inside. Jot down short prompts for happy or funny memories on strips of paper and every day pull one out of the jar to read. These could be memories of each other, things you did when you were little, events that happened recently at school or just something that someone often does that makes you smile. The listener has to fill in the details that relate to the prompt. Here is an example from my family from a prompt saying, Hide and Seek: “Once, when we were playing hide and seek, you hid in the under stair cupboard and no one found you. You fell asleep amongst the coats and ….”




    Try this variation on “Granny’s Basket” for vocabulary development. Players take turns to describe an agreed item, adding adjectives in strict alphabetical order. Each person adds a new adjective to the list whilst remembering everyone else’s contribution. For example:

    “I went to the shops and bought an appetising apple”

    “I went to the shops and bought an appetising, bitter apple…”

    “I went to the shops and bought an appetising, bitter, crunchy apple…” and so on.


    Whats in a Word


    Define in 6, 4, 2

    Use any one of the words below or think of some of your own.   Work with somebody else, without them seeing the list, and define the word for them.  Can they say which word you are defining?  First of all you could define it using up to 6 words, then if that is too easy, pick another word and define it in 4 words, then define in 2 words.  Of course, you cannot use the word or any parts of the word you are defining.

    Challenge level 1

    Carrot, teddy bear, lamp, tree, gorilla, bus, book, road, wall, firefighter, tissue, moon,

    Challenge level 2

    Silence, truth, memory, kindness, inspiration, eruption, laughter, science, fun, anger, happiness

    Squirming your way out of it

    Below are a list of things you could be asked to help with around the house.  Using as many different conjunctions and adverbials as possible, politely excuse yourself.

    Please could you:

    Lay the table for dinner.

    Make the beds.

    Help me with the weeding.

    Wash up.

    Water the plants.

    Dust your bedroom.

    Help prepare the dinner.

    Play with your baby sister/brother.

    Tidy your things from the living room.

    Unfortunately, because, if, while, as a result, even though, regrettably, although, unless, after that, as, but

    e.g. I am unable to lay the table as I have to finish drawing you a picture although I will help clear the table after dinner.

    Even though the plants need water, I have to save the world and fight off the dinosaurs.

    Building pyramids

    Add more and more detail to a word, building a triangular shape e.g.


    ash tree

    ash tree swaying

    elegant ash tree swaying

    elegant ash tree swaying in the wind

    majestic and elegant ash tree swaying in the wind

    majestic and elegant ash tree swaying in the wind and standing guard

    Our majestic and elegant ash tree swaying in the wind and standing guard.


    If you found any of these ideas helpful, and would like more, you may wish to revisit our Primary English Digest series of blogs from last summer. Plenty more ideas there based on great books, or simply providing fun, engaging and low maintenance ways by which to keep literacy development on the cards, wherever we may be.

    Primary English

    Herts for Learning Primary English team

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