I’m currently big on Graphic Organisers. It’s the way that graphic organisers make it easier for children to articulate their understanding that I particularly like. But also, it’s the way that a really good graphic organiser lends itself to a multitude of educational requirements. The Freyer model (sometimes called the Freyer diagram) is one such graphic organiser.
It’s that time of the year. You’ve looked at the children’s writing, checked your assessment grids and have established that there are a few gaps in learning.
We’ve all been there. But me saying so, doesn’t necessarily make you feel better. The children need to demonstrate that they can use the desired features and you need to find yet another way for them to do so. It’s not easy.
Not so long ago, I was asked to write a set of teaching materials that teach the key grammatical elements required by the national curriculum. Not, as is often the case, in the form of short stand-alone grammar activities. But by starting with a quality text that exemplifies a National Curriculum objective and culminates with children writing their own authentic text to exemplify their proficiency with the specified aspect of the curriculum.
So how, can Writing Mechanics help you close the writing gaps? Well simply, by allowing you to focus on one specific grammatical element with the confidence that at the end of the teaching sequence, your children will be able to demonstrate their understanding of grammatical features to write authentic texts for specific purposes and audiences. Perfect for this time of the year when you need to close the writing gaps.
To find out more about Writing Mechanics click here.
Rachel Clarke – Director, Primary English Education
Progression in narrative texts
Not so long ago, I shared a post about my Progression in non-fiction texts document. It proved pretty popular and I know many of my readers downloaded the resource and started using it to inform their planning and subject knowledge. This is great news. It really is rewarding to produce a resource with the aim of helping others, and then hear that it’s been positively received.
Drawing children’s attention to beautiful books is all part of promoting a love of reading and is essential if you’re aiming to create a reading school. In this blog post we take some of those beautiful books and consider how to use some of the quotations within them to inspire children to read.
Use quotations as advertising soundbites
Consider collecting quotations that you love and display them in the classroom or library. Display the books from which the quotations come side-by-side. This way the quotations work as short adverts for the books.
Set a challenge and develop home-school links
Create a collection of great quotations by working as a staff team. You could also consider asking the children and their parents to offer their favourite book quotations. Set it as a challenge with book related prizes for the most quotations, or a particularly funny or poignant quotation.
Get visual with a rolling Powerpoint of beautiful book quotes
Create a rolling Powerpoint presentation of book quotes (or ask some children to make one). This can then be displayed in the library, as children enter the hall for assembly, or in classrooms as children arrive in the morning. You could share this one that I made if you’re able to access YouTube in your school.
Build vocabulary by collecting great words from great literature
Encourage children to collect interesting words that they find in book quotes. Provide them with notebooks to record the words they find and then ensure that they have time to use dictionaries to research the words so that they can go on to use them in their own writing.
Get grammatical by spotting grammar in practice
Look for examples of grammatical forms in different quotations. The Charlotte’s Web quotation in my video uses the perfect form. Other examples in my video make good use of question marks, inverted commas and apostrophes for contraction and possession.
Don’t forget poetry
There are many, many well-known and well-loved poetic quotes. Why not create a collection of poetic quotes to promote a love of poetry in your school?
These are just a few thoughts about how to use book quotes in your school. Let me know how you use book quotes in your school
Rachel Clarke – Director: Primary English
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Help! I’m addicted to hacking my teacher-life.
My name is Rachel and I am addicted to hacking my teacher-life.
For as long as I can recall I’ve been saving the pedagogical pennies in the belief that the pounds will save themselves; I’ve attempted to draw other people into my world with my time-saving blog-posts; and now I’ve even started pushing my time saving highs with a Pinterest board dedicated to my pedagogical obsession.
I’ve noticed something though. I’m not alone. As I travel from school to school, I’ve realised that other teachers are also afflicted by an overwhelming need to hack. This blog post is dedicated to those teachers who no longer see ordinary everyday items for what they are, but for what they could become, and their potential pedagogical uses. And if you know a teacher hacker, you’ll know that if there’s one thing that both feeds and calms our addiction it’s the pleasure of sharing our hacks with anyone who will listen to us.
In this blog post I focus on the humble washing peg. Laundry-day essential it may be; but to teacher hackers it is a pedagogical philosopher’s stone.
Most schools have a long term plan of how the national curriculum will be delivered for each subject and in each year group. This could be cross-curricular topics, discrete subject teaching, specific teaching of specialised objectives in grammar and phonics or any combination of the above. When it comes to the unit of work, or weekly lesson planning stage, there is often less strategic direction; and with a new curriculum teachers can find themselves wondering how best to meet the needs of the children in their class.
When planning units of work for children it’s all too easy to lose focus on the purpose of the learning and slip into a planning frenzy led by fabulous activities and inspirational resources that you’ve found in a book/online/had in your cupboards for years. We’ve all done it, but does it really work? Grabbing the children’s attention is important, but when time is scarce and pressure is on us to reach attainment and progress targets we need to think carefully about the purposefulness of what we plan. This is where planning through the metaphor of a journey can help focus our minds on the learning taking place and how each lesson works as a tiny step towards a final destination.
Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are is a modern classic. Much loved in KS1 classrooms, this text is also a great model of a voyage and return story, which could be used alongside a longer text such as The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in KS2. There is also now a film version available but as it is quite dark (and younger children may find it frightening) think very carefully before using this is KS1.
Here are 10 teaching ideas for using Where the Wild Things Are in the classroom:
Start with a triggerbefore reading the text“If you were sent to bed with no dinner, what would you do?” or “What might you have done to get sent to bed with no dinner?”
Make an emotions chart or graph of Max’s feeling throughout the story.
Look carefully at the pictures – what happens as you move through the book? They start small and they grow to become full page before reducing again. Does this signify Max’s world experience getting bigger?
Due to the predominance of the illustrations the descriptive text in the book could be further enhanced; socan the children describe the Wild Things, or the setting?
Speech punctuation features quite heavily at the start of the book. Use this as a model forteaching speech conventions. Then with the later pictures write what characters may be saying to each other .
Use the pattern of ‘they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth etc’ as a model and rewrite the phrase using different words to create alternate effects…‘they whispered their twinkly squeals and licked their luscious lips’…
Challenge children to write a ‘Quick Write’ poem about Max: 1 Noun, 2 Verbs, 3 Adjectives/Adverbs, e.g
Once upon an ordinary a day an ordinary teacher was looking for an ordinary book to read with her ordinary children during their ordinary guided reading lesson, when..she stumbled across a quite extraordinary book indeed: Once Upon an Ordinary School Day by Colin McNaughton and Satoshi Kitamura.
The ordinary teacher sat down in her ordinary chair, put on her ordinary glasses and started to read the book. She liked it. In fact she loved it and she realised that it would make a perfect text for guided reading with Y2 children..
The first thing that the ordinary teacher did was to make a word cloud using the text from the book. As she expected the largest word was ordinary; and school was quite large too. She knew that this word cloud would make a really extraordinary pre-reading activity for her children and that it would allow them to make predictions about the text that they were going to explore.
The next thing that the ordinary teacher did was to find a way of turning her ordinary children into detectives. Like every good teacher she delved into her ‘bag of magic’, rummaged around for a while and pulled out her very ordinary looking ball of elastic bands. She peeled off elastic bands and wrapped them around her copies of Once Upon an Ordinary Boy so that the children would be unable to open them past the phrase,
“Then, something quite out of the ordinary happened…”.
Here at Primary English HQ we LOVE guided reading and if you read our posts regularly you’ll know that we write about it frequently.
What the national curriculum says
We’ve just finished a round of training and conference workshops where we looked at the place of guided reading in the new national curriculum. Yes, we know guided reading’s not a statutory requirement but when the national curriculum document itself recognises how ‘reading opens up a treasure-house of wonder and joy for young minds’ we know that guided reading needs to be central to your school provision. (Our blog post Guided Reading discusses the importance of quality and enjoyable texts for guided reading.)
Our literary heritage
In our recent work we’ve taken a particular look at the Y5 ad Y6 requirement for children to‘read books from our literary heritage’. You may currently be reading books by significant children’s authors and older children’s literature with your children; and this new objective is not really so different – so long as you remember that it is about older children’s literature. We emphasis the children’s bit of that statement as on our travels we’ve unearthed a few ‘grown-up’ classic texts with some rather ‘adult‘ content finding their way into primary classrooms. By all means use the classics with children, but do make sure you know the texts well enough to avoid unsuitable themes. Even better still, use some of the fabulous abridged versions available from many of the educational publishers.
The Selfish Giant
By keeping one eye on accessibility and the other on engagement, the text that we’ve been using in our workshops is The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde – written in 1888. If you’re unfamiliar with this text it is a rich and evocative story of selfishness and rebirth. It is packed with figurative language and has sufficient challenge to engage the most demanding of Y6s. The version we’ve been using is the Puffin Picture version (illustrated by Michael Foreman and Freire Wright) as the illustrations add a useful scaffold for children who may otherwise struggle to access the syntactical and linguistic challenges of an older text.
Guided reading activities
Our conference delegates have enjoyed working on reading activities including: making predictions about the text from a word cloud; analysing the text using Aiden Chambers’ Tell me’ structure; and thinking about giants in a variety of children’s literature using our ‘same but different’ thinking frames. We linked each of these activities to the aims statements from the new national curriculum as a way of ensuring that not only were aims met, but they were done so in an engaging and creative manner.
The Selfish Giant is a wonderful text from our literary heritage that we’re certain your children will love reading as a guided group text. Our Selfish Giant – Guided Reading Resource CD is now available to buy. It features all of the activities described above and much more besides. The resource is priced at £6.00 (inc. VAT) + £2.00 postage and packaging in the UK and ROI. If you would like to order a copy please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rachel Clarke – Director, Primary English Education Consultancy Limited
Halloween Teaching Resources
Looking for Halloween teaching resources?
Look no further…love it or hate it, Halloween is nearly here and these days it’s becoming big business. Go to any supermarket and you will find all manner of spooky props, costumes and sweets! Actually, pop in just after Halloween and you can pick up some great thrifty props or Halloween teaching resources when they reduce them – great for that spooky story writing unit you have coming up!
How can we help you?
Last year I wrote a blog post about some of my most favourite spooky stories which are just great books, great story telling and great for all year round thrills and chills.
This year we have re-developed our spooky stories Pinterest board to become the ‘Spooky Stories and Resources’ board so that as well as spooky books you will now also find spooky images, art and craft ideas too.
If you don’t observe Halloween as a school, worry not. Our Halloween teacher resources are still for you as they fit into adventure stories, spooky stories and stories with a twist in the tale.