Looking for inspiration for this year?? Teaching needs to be fun, for both teachers and pupils. An excited teacher excites the children and it makes the job so much more enjoyable. Looking for inspiration? Here are some of the most exciting and successful themes, topics and hooks I have used….
Space – it really is endless…!!
Aliens are endlessly fascinating from a friendly ‘Alien’s Love Underpants’ to the beautiful and thought-provoking video on the planet Pandora (taken from ‘Avatar’).
There are opportunities for journalistic writing with UFO sightings in newspapers and hundreds of documentaries on YouTube…
A word of caution when setting up a UFO crash sight in the playground…my previous school’s Year 6 staff were so believable a pupil (male) cried.
In an effort to try to prepare my Year 6 pupils for the high level text in the Reading SAT I have used H.G. Wells extracts from ‘The War of the Worlds’ and ‘The First Men in the Moon’ in guided reading time. Surprisingly, both were thoroughly enjoyed (I will be explaining more about the mastery approach to reading in a blog coming soon!)!
Cryptids and other mysteries….
And if you are not sure what a cryptid is think Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot…Children love monsters and mysteries. It is possible to write information texts on these weird and wonderful creatures, a bit like Pie Corbett’s Talk for Writing ‘dragons’, simply substitute one for the other.
My absolute favourite book of all time is ‘The Graveyard Book’ by Neil Gaiman.
‘When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing the entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him – after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod’s life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?’
My older pupils have always loved ghosts and vampires, witches and wizards. This book contains them all plus skillful storytelling that hooks the reader from the very first line. I generally use this with ‘The Night of the Gargoyles’ black and white picture book and give the children chance to make their own clay gargoyles.
The picture is great to use for activating schema before introducing spine-chilling books. It reminds me of the Stephen King book ‘It’ where the clown lures the children into the drains with balloons….I detest clowns!
A spooky, creepy animation which can inspire stories is ‘Alma’…
This topic also gives great opportunities for using the brilliantly tense and shadowy ‘Francis’…
If you are looking for a class novel for Year 4 or 5 and you are just about to go on residential the look no further than ‘Room 13’ by Robert Swindells….this is fabulous for ensuring that the children stay in bed at night…mwah ha ha!!
Any of this author / illustrator’s books will whisk you away to another world and inspire you to create wonderful things…
We all want somewhere to escape to where anything is possible. My favourite world to inhabit is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, but for younger pupils Narnia is a great place to start, followed by Hogworts and Middle Earth…
The Legend of King Arthur…
I have always been fascinated by the legend of King Arthur and love the Kevin Crossley-Holland books based on the life of the young king…
My son and I also enjoyed the recent BBC series ‘Merlin’ where John Hurt is the voice of the enslaved dragon. Merlin is a fascinating character who is the inspiration for many famous literary wizards e.g. Dumbledore, Gandalf and can inspire pupils to create powerful magical characters of their own.
Some of the best books to share with children ….
Hopefully there are some ideas to light your fire and keep you on your toes!!
When I return to school in September we start the year with the best topic ever – Heroes and Monsters! It is loosely based on the history objectives of Ancient Greece. We use lots of myths and legends in literacy sessions such as Anthony Horowitz’s ‘The Gorgon’s Head’.
And moved swiftly on to modern day monsters….cryptids!
We began with my absolute favourites…Dragons (see previous blog post). We read non-fiction texts on The Frost Dragon and using Talk 4 Writing approaches we trapped dragons (instructional text) and wrote information texts (using various ‘Dragonology’ books as our model texts), we used documentaries, poems…the list is endless.
The children were excited and engaged…but it was about to get better.
As a school we decided to use Twitter and blogging to encourage children to write for a bigger audience, so each class set up their own twitter account. I then decided that the next cryptid to be investigated by us would be Bigfoot! I had been inspired by a (crazy) TV programme I had caught a glimpse of called ‘Finding Bigfoot’…people go ‘squatching’ and refer to themselves as ‘squatchers’. It is true! I then used twitter to search for ‘squatchers’ and sent them messages from the children.
One morning we had a tweet alert. On opening it we saw we had received a message from the States…from a Bigfoot hunter! The children were on the edge of their seats. It simply said ‘All you need to know is he is real’ (I still shiver when I read it!). It was like setting light to the touchpaper! Boys chose to stay in at playtime and research Bigfoot, home-learning came alive with children researching and blogging their findings. We used google-earth street view to look at the areas where there had been reported Bigfoot encounters. I even purchased a map.
We watched documentaries, wrote information texts (using T4W approaches), trapped Bigfoot, made models, wrote persuasive and balanced arguments. The children could look at a world map and locate California, Washington…and of course Bluff Creek!!! Here are some of the resources I used below –
As a teacher of many years it is still important for me to be excited and engaged with what I am teaching. I love those topic with broad headings and following the interests of the children, even in Year 6.