Preparing a stimulating transition project based on book trailers and quality children’s literature.
The idea for this blog post has been in my head for a while but I was struggling to write it as I couldn’t find a suitable hook on which to hang my ideas. That was until yesterday when I had one of those over the garden fence exchanges with my next door neighbour Derek. For the past few days I’ve been renovating our garden furniture. It’s been quite a job. I’ve sanded it back to the bare wood. Treated it with wood renovator to remove that nasty grey hue that older wooded furniture acquires, and now I’ve begun to stain and seal the furniture. I’m not finished yet but it’s looking fabulous. Dare I say it: as good as new. Now Derek had been watching this labour of furniture love unfurl and during our garden fence conference said (with just the tiniest hint of irony) that I should write a blog about my efforts. Voila! There it was, the hook I’d been looking for. My renovation project has been a success due to the simple act of good preparation.
Transition day has a habit of creeping up on us and catching us unawares. All of a sudden we’re waving this year’s class off for a morning with Mrs So-and-So and ferreting around for something suitable to do with the new recruits who don’t yet understand the golden rules of not fiddling with the table trays, not swinging on their chairs or uttering the mildly irritating, “But our teacher always says/does/has/let’s us do that.” Ah the joy.
Finding out about your new class by asking them to create “All About Me” bunting or a “Family Coat of Arms” is fine but it’s not the most stimulating way to spend a morning with your new class, the potential for good-quality display is limited and it does seem to stand alone. Transition is about movement, passage or change from one position to another. So when we embark on a transition project with children we should really be looking for something that spans the ‘moving up day’ and the beginning of the new academic year. Doing this well requires a little bit of preparation but the results are so much more rewarding for all involved.
I’ve often encouraged schools to ‘Take One Book’ at the beginning of the academic year and to create a few days of text-based learning. In the schools I’ve worked with this has sometimes been the same book across the whole school and sometimes separate books for each year group. It’s a lovely way to welcome the new year and to create a stimulating curriculum that is more than a diary entry about ‘My Summer Holiday’. It also provides everyone with a few days in which to wind-up the cogs before throwing themselves back into the rigours of the national curriculum. Particularly when fuelled by picture fiction, this approach ensures that classrooms and corridors are quickly filled with beautiful artwork and purposeful writing which also deals with the age-old issue of creating quality displays at the beginning of term.
So back to the idea of good preparation. If you’re thinking of starting the new academic year with a picture book inspired mini-project, how can you unite transition day and the beginning of the autumn term? By seeing the ‘moving up day’ as part of the preparation for the new term by sharing the beautiful book that you’re planning to use in the autumn. There’s nothing like sharing a book for the simple enjoyment of reading and it is a great way to introduce yourself to your new class. Alternatively, you could share the book trailer (if there is one) like this one for Lemony Snicket’s The Dark.
By igniting the interest of your prospective class with a book trailer you could ask them to predict what might happen, who could be involved, where the action takes place, what type of story they think it is etc… By capturing their thoughts on small pieces of paper or post-it notes you could make a quick ‘What we think…’display using the children’s comments and images from the text. If you’re worried that this will fade over the summer months then just prepare the display, store it in zip-top wallets and put it up on the September training day. Now that’s being prepared!
There are as many ideas for cross-curricular activities to do with quality picture fiction as there are teachers. It’s always worth having a look online to see what other practitioners have done with good books and the Primary English blog and Pinterest boards are good sources of ideas too. If you’ve launched your transition project with a book trailer then ending it with some pupil-made book trailers is a nice touch of symmetry. I’m not the most technologically minded teacher but I have used Photostory to some success and think it’s a particularly manageable and effective way for children to make their own book trailers. I recommend taking a look at this website for some examples of pupil-made book trailers and a simple tutorial for technologically nervous practitioners.
So, what will you do for transition day this year? Have I tempted you to think of it as your preparation for a book inspired mini-project and will you explore the use of book trailers with your new class? I’d love to know. In the meantime I have a set of garden furniture that needs a final coat of stain and a next door neighbour to thank for helping me bring this blogpost to publication. Perhaps I should invite him round for a cup of tea, on the newly renovated garden furniture of course.
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Rachel Clarke: Director – Primary English
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