Great lies to tell small children

 

“When I was young, Weetabix came in eight different shapes.”
“Before they can fight, superheroes have to pick out all the noises their punches and kicks will make.”
“One in ten fish are afraid of water.”

Andy Riley’s book, Great Lies to Tell Small Kids has long been a favourite of mine.  Now I know that lying to children is wrong, but sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes it’s rather productive!  However, it isn’t this book that inspired this post, but the answers to a question on our Facebook page, “What scenarios have you used to generate great enthusiasm and brilliant persuasive writing?”

And that’s where the lies, lies and damned lies began, all in the name of improving writing!  So thanks all for your suggestions and ideas, we’re sharing them here for everyone:

Great lies to tell children Persuasive writing prompts:

  • Bookworms – The Reading Shack  – Last year I “sent ” a memo to our year 6 classes saying that the governors had decided to introduce a tie and shirt to the school uniform instead of the polo shirts we currently have, effective for all pupils from the next half term. The memo said the “governors” believed that standards of attainment would improve if children were dressed more formally. It was printed out on headed paper. The children were indignant and off their own back wanted to reply to the governors which was really convenient because we just happened to be practising our persuasive letter writing ( what’s the chance of that, eh?) They wrote some very well thought out and persuasive letters. I was rumbled by a few pupils but managed to get the task done before confessing.

Clare Taylor –  We started by using Cinderella (as they all knew the story) so we could debate and persuade the stepmother to let Cinders go to the ball. From that we wrote a persuasive letter to the headteacher asking for a party as a reward for hard work – they were really good. We finished the unit of work with a link to our cross curriculuar topic of Coventry, by making persuasive leaflets.

Rémi Gonthier – Tell the class that an exciting forthcoming trip has been cancelled by the headteacher or somebody else and then encourage them to write a letter.

Jessica Owens – A ‘letter’ arrived from the council telling the children that the school field was about to have a by-pass built over it. Discussion and issues ranged from fears for wildlife to “where will we have sports day?!”

Louise Dobson – I saw one of the shopping channels recently and thought that they are a really good example of persuasive language. Children could watch some extracts and then create their own item to sell (a magnificent cleaning tool or jewellery, or whatever). Then they could demonstrate it and ‘sell’ it shopping channel style.  Also, I remember a course where they encouraged us to write persuasion creatively. I wrote as the sea tempting a child to paddle in it. Children could write in role as: the super sleek car trying to persuade the customer to buy it, or the sun trying to persuade the crocus to flower…’feel my warmth across your soft cheeks…’ cheesy but fun!

Paula Lathan –  I sent a letter to our head asking him to ban playtimes. Children had to write to him to persuade him to keep playtimes. We put them in envelopes and walked to the post box to post them. Our head then replied to each and every one.

Chloe Whittall  – I Wanna Iguana (also on you tube) is a great book for persuasive writing. My class read this then wrote letters to their parents requesting things like a holiday to the Bahamas. We also walked to the post box and sent the letters to their parents (year 6 class).

  • Bernadette O’Rourke  – Banning junk food – was great as the horse meat scandal was all over the media and we linked it with processed food

  • Clair Coupe – I once taught a lesson where I made a mock letter from the head. The letter said how he was going to have to cancel anything Christmas related due to us having so much to fit in during the last 2 weeks of term.  It worked really well and all the children got involved.

Please do add any other ideas you have in comments, with grateful thanks to those shared here by our Facebookers

Charlotte Reed – Primary English Consultant and teller of white lies to children

 

Let me take you by the hand…

 

This story, like some of the best in this blog, starts in the seventies. So let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London…..As a child my Dad would sing this song while playing the guitar until, before I could read words or music, I could sing it off by heart alongside him. Music is in my heart, it was planted there by Dad. And for me music is a story, because Dad is a folk loving, twelve bar blues playing man. The songs he sung told tales. Ok, so it put me right off London for a while, but the poetry of a folk song has always stayed with me.  The haunting lyrics (teaching metaphor, anyone?) of Annie’s Song:

You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean

Lyrics I know like the back of my hand, ingrained through years of singing with Dad.

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Write on! Using visual writing prompts

write on

With the half term holiday drawing to a close we know that teachers everywhere are reaching for their lesson planning materials and racking their brains for active and creative ways of teaching their classes. This blog post demonstrates the use of visual writing prompts and offers a few tips and ideas about how to get the most out of young writers.

I was recently asked to model some writing lessons in one of our local schools. Seizing the opportunity, I set to work planning lessons that the teachers would be able to replicate. Lessons in which the children would be actively writing from beginning to end. Here is a brief resume of one of those lessons.

I started with an image. Finding images can be time-consuming which is why we’ve been collating Visual Story Starters over on Pinterest. I asked the children to look at the image and write five things, on their mini-whiteboards, that they could see and they’d like to write about. I took suggestions from the children and recorded them on the flip chart. Once I had plenty of suggestions I chose five and wrote them as a vertical list in the middle of the flip chart.

e.g……………………lanterns………………………….

…………………….sea………………………………..

…………………….path……………………………….

…………………….mist……………………………….

…………………….sky…………………………………

Now, using some of the vocabulary suggested by the children I worked on the first line, making sure that I modelled putting vocabulary both before and after the word ‘lanterns’.

E.g. Golden, glowing lanterns lead the way.

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Voyage and Return: To boldly go and come back again

 

If I were to say that in my opinion Star Trek and Alice in Wonderland tell the same story, what would you say? Would you protest that with one being a mid 20th century science fiction T.V. serial and the other being a 19th century children’s fantasy novel I must have lost my marbles? To a point I would agree with you. They’re different genres and they use different media to tell their tales. However, the underlying structure of both stories is, in my opinion, the same. In both stories our heroes start in familiar settings, they take a voyage into an unknown world and then return.

Let’s start with Star Trek. Every week Captain Kirk and his intrepid crew course through one of the lesser-known galaxies of the universe from their inter-galactic home – the SS Enterprise. They come across a planet and, through the use of teleportation, make a journey across space to investigate this new land. Whilst there, they encounter other life-forms, make friends and enemies, face peril and in the nick of time transport back to the safety of their spaceship. Once back in the familiar setting of the SS Enterprise the episode ends, ready for a repeat-run next week.

The familiarity of this structure pervades many of the stories that we know. Christopher Booker calls it Voyage and Return. Its use in children’s stories is widespread and offers a useful base on which young writers can structure their own work. First though, they need a few examples from stories they may know…

Maurice Sedak’s picture book ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ is a modern classic which introduces the youngest of readers to the idea of Voyage and Return. The action begins at home, where naughty Max is sent to bed without any supper. Overnight his room transforms into a forest and Max makes a voyage across time to the land of the Wild Things. Here he tames the monsters, becomes their king and has lots of fun. He begins to miss home and smells some good food, so travels back home and eats his supper.

In a similar way the 1970’s children’s animated series Mr Benn (animated by David McKee) saw the eponymous Mr Benn take a weekly trip down Festive Road to the costume shop. Once there he would choose a costume, try it on in the fitting room and step into a fantasy world where he made friends, faced peril and was whisked back to the safety of the costume shop when ‘the shop keeper appeared’. Just like Captain Kirk, Mr Benn would return to the costume shop week after week for another journey from the familiar into the unknown.

In his book The Seven Basic Plots, Christopher Booker, lists the children’s classics of: The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe as examples of Voyage and Return stories. If we take Alice as an example, the story begins in the familiar setting of a family afternoon by the river. Alice then sees the White Rabbit and follows him down his burrow. At the bottom she opens a door which takes her on a voyage into the strange world of Wonderland. Here she makes friends and enemies and narrowly escapes peril – this time in the shape of the Queen of Hearts to return to the warmth of her family.

Familiarity with the structure of Voyage and Return provides comfort for young readers. If well-loved characters venture into dangerous new lands, somewhere at the back of the readers’ mind is the reassuring grain of knowledge that no matter what threat they face, they will overcome it to return to their original setting. Building on this familiarity to create their own stories though has potential for the development of their personal writing.

The great Pie Corbett urges teachers to teach their pupils to become literary magpies; collectors of literary features, vocabulary and ideas. By using his ‘boxing-up’ technique children can very easily create their own Voyage and Return stories where a character starts in a familiar setting, takes a voyage to a new world, encounters some people in the new place before returning to their own setting.

One final characteristic of many of these Voyage and Return stories is the role of a portal in shifting the narrative from the familiar world to the new setting. In Star Trek the new world is accessed via the Transporter; in The Wizard of Oz it is the tornado; Alice enters Wonderland through the door and the Pevensy children enter Narnia through a wardrobe. Doors are the most pervasive means of shifting the setting in a Voyage and Return story and so should be repeatedly explored as a narrative technique with children. Images of doors, supported by shared and modelled writing, provide children with experience of describing what may lie behind them and ultimately build their confidence in creating stories where characters voyage into a new world.

Other Voyage and Return Stories:

The Tunnel – Anthony Browne

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Subtle Knife –  Phillip Pullman

The Phoenix and the Carpet – E Nesbitt

The Polar Express – Chris Van Allsburg

Stargate

The Goonies

I’d have been unable to write this blog post without reading Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots and thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in stories and the role they play in our world.

KS3 and KS4 teachers interested in the application of Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots should visit Bill Boyd: The Literacy Adviser’s Blog

Rachel Clarke,  Director: Primary English Education Consultancy Limited

Rachel has written a further story structure post about Journeys and Quests, which can be found here.

Orginally published on LoveToReadToMyClass.Wordpress.Com 29th October, 2012.

 

Looking for a big resource in a small book…?

 

Hands up who remembers Child Ed. How about Junior Ed? You know, those magazines kept on the shelf in the staffroom, jealously guarded by the teacher in charge of resources, tea money and organising the Christmas do. If, after promising faithfully to put them back in the correct magazine file in strict month order, you were lucky enough to be able to read them, they were always full of good stuff – teaching ideas, posters, advice and resource suggestions. No doubt some of you still have a pile of them somewhere…

So good news! This month saw the launch of a new bi-monthly magazine, Springboard Stories, which aims to fill the gap where Child Ed was. We were asked to contribute to the first edition by suggesting some of our favourite and most useful resources, in less than 50 words. Cue lots of discussion. We came up with the following:

  • Looking for a big resource in a small book? Pie Corbett’s Jumpstart books for 7 – 11 years are essential for every teachers’ toolkit. Packed with ideas, they cover learning-led word, sentence and text activities; and can be used for warm-ups or main lessons, They’re interactive, fun and adaptable for FS and KS1.

  • Sue Palmer’s Skeleton’s for Writing are indispensable for non-fiction across the curriculum. Relevant from YR-Y6 these visual aids for writing support children in creating non-fiction texts which meet the needs of their audience.

  • Social bookmarking site Pinterest is a tool enabling teachers to curate their own online resource collections. Fast to create, these visual collections save web pages for sharing with others or for supporting children with topic research. Check out our collections on Pinterest.

  • Looking to add breadth to your Guided Reading resources?  Look no further than Collins Big Cat! These books are lovely – written by top authors, with attractive illustrations and photographs, suggestions for Guided Reading sessions and reader response activities. Ready book-banded, the range contains 50% non-fiction and 50% fiction.

  • The Harris Burdick Mysteries, an intriguing book with a mystery at the start. We won’t spoil it! The book contains 12 pictures, titles and captions which inspire children to write their own tales. Great for KS2. It’s interesting to see the different directions the same start can take when giving children choice within a structure.

What would your 50 word suggestion be? Let us know and we could add it to our Resources for Teachers Pinterest board.

Rachel Clarke – Director, Primary English Education Consultancy Limited

Originally published on LoveToReadToMyClass.Wordpress.Com 13th September 2012.

 

Video from Primary English

Clips from two guided reading sessions in John Shelton Primary School in Coventry. Rachel is using two of the titles from The Mini Tales Pack with a year 5 and year 6 group of children whilst addressing some key reading objectives.

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