I have started collecting together some of my absolutely favourite books for children and young adults. I admit I am obsessed and so I imagine this collection will continue to grow and grow…
I have found that most of these books are brilliant at inspiring creative writing, but also (and more importantly in my opinion) as an introduction to damn good stories and fabulous authors.
Feel free to add to the padlet page as I am always looking for new books to add to my overflowing bookshelf!
Inspired by the creative potential of the new BFG film (I will let you in to a secret…I could not stand the animated version, his voice grated…!) I have put together a Key Stage 2 topic ‘Fi Fi Fo Fum’ ready to use when we return to school for a new term.
I have used some of these stories already in a ‘Heroes and Monsters’ topic in Year 5/6 and it went down a storm. I have even used some texts with KS1 and EYFS because there are giants everywhere in literature – ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, ‘The Selfish Giant’ and ‘Harry Potter’ – and across all cultures so they are a concept all children very easily relate to no matter what their age or background.
These are just some of the books that I used. My absolute favourite has to be ‘The Giant book of Giants’ which is a beautiful collection of giant stories from around the world, but the very, very best bit is the enormous 3D poster of a giant that comes with it.
The children love interacting with it…particularly looking up his kilt!!! I have him as a stimulus for writing character descriptions in Year 2 and as a story stimulus for KS2. Children have drawn and labelled their own giant and created stories for the strange objects he carries.
I have used picture like these above, which have led to fantastic discussions on the existence of giants. This can be the stimulus needed for a newspaper article or a persuasive argument.
It also reminded me of an old unit of work from the original Literacy Strategy based around the story ‘The Giant’s Necklace’. It had some super ideas for teaching a full unit of work, which over time I had forgotten about. I discovered the originals on-line the other day…well worth taking a look at!
Put Thursday 4th February in your diary because it is Harry Potter Night and in our school it is HARRY POTTER DAY!!!
We are ridiculously giddy about it.
Every member of staff has chosen a character to dress as / become for the day, golden snitches are being cunningly crafted, wands ordered and wigs tried on. Each child will have their house selected by the sorting hat and will stay in their house for the day. However, the most fantastic thing is we have owls!!!!!! Real owls!!! Hagrid (a specially selected bearded TA) will run ‘Care of Magical Creatures’ sessions with a falconry centre….I CAN’T WAIT!!!
If you are interested in having a special Harry Potter day then take a look at Bloomsbury’s website..
There will be potions lessons, quiditch sessions (using foil covered hoola-hoops), golden snitch hunts, Petrified Potters (musical statues), wizard duels and quizzes.
Each classroom will be decorated as one of the four Hogwarts’ houses and each house will be led by one teacher. I am Professor McGonagall. I have practised the arched eyebrow and accent, ’10 points to Gryfindor!’.
At the end of the day we will have a feast. Most of the goodies will be made throughout the day. I have spent hours researching recipes for Butterbeer (think I might try making Butterbeer fudge..), pumpkin pasties and Mandrake cakes. I will insist that all teachers take part in the Bertie Botts Every Flavour Bean challenge…!
Children and staff will have their photo taken as a prisoner from Azkaban using a cardboard cut-out frame..
School will become Hogwarts. We will have signs and banners and pictures and ghosts and dementors and spell books and potions….phew….we have lots to do, but it will be totally worth it!
I have started to collect together ideas on pinterest:
One of the most effective strategies we have taken on as a school is to have the most amazingly fantastic book corners ever! In fact our book corners are so brilliant we run a yearly competition with a panel of esteemed judges from a variety of educational establishments. The winning class receives book vouchers to keep their shelves stocked up.
There are lots of reasons we create these masterpieces…one of the most important is that school is an oasis, a beautiful, awe-inspiring, exciting and stimulating place to be. We also want he children to have as many experiences of reading real books (not scheme) as possible, we want them to have views on authors and genres. Our children love to curl up in the corners and read or share books.
We keep the areas stocked up by using our SLS (School Library Services) and changing the books on a termly basis – it is a lot cheaper and easier than using huge amounts of budget, plus the books look like new and are age-appropriate.
The corners are normally changed termly and develop throughout a topic – it is really important that there is pupil’s work in there and that they feel a sense of ownership.
Some of our classrooms are really small so we use baskets filled with material and labelled (‘Books of the week’ ‘Do you dare read a spooky story?’ etc..). Lack of space isn’t a good enough reason to not make whatever books you have look beautiful and tempting. I hate walking into classrooms to see shelves piled haphazardly with tatty covers…it feels like the children are being cheated (many of our children live in homes without books) where else are they going to experience those stories that live within us forever?
I was lucky enough to attend Pie Corbett training recently and he talked at length about how important it is for children to have a cosy nook to curl up and read in, somewhere safe and quiet and comfortable. In fact he felt that there needed to be lots of different spaces around the classroom for children to withdraw into, especially in Early Years.
They don’t need to be beautifully decorated corners, they can be boxes, washing baskets, underneath tables or blankets with torches…
As promised on my Facebook page I wanted to share with you some teaching ideas for using the fantastic picture book ‘The Night of the Gargoyles’ written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by David Weisner. It is a real favourite of mine and my best teaching buddy Fiona. As it is quite dark and brooding in places it is only suitable for use with KS2 pupils, but it is packed full of imagery and figurative language that can be played with.
Isn’t he handsome?! Our children really enjoyed making clay gargoyles too – based on the work of The Gargoyle Guy (see Youtube). I have selected below some snippets of notebook files that we used over a few weeks…enjoy!
One of the best author / illustrators ever is Oliver Jeffers. He is probably best know for ‘Lost and Found’ a beautiful book and animation about the blossoming friendship between a boy and his penguin.
However, my favourite is ‘How to Catch a Star’ a story of childhood whimsy and imagination. A boy wants a star and then spends days trying to work out the best way to acquire one in a variety of madcap ways. I love using this book as part of a ‘Space’ topic in a Key Stage 1 as it has endless fabulous activities that it inspires and compliments.
I set the scene using this beautiful Kate Rusby song (the Barnsley nightingale!) and video. Turning the lights off adds to the drama…and I enjoy being dramatic (as anyone who knows me can testify!).
If you want to be less ethereal then Perry Como’s ‘Catch a Falling Star’ creates a more upbeat feel…
I have found that a Talk 4 Writing approach works really well with this story as it has a simple and repetitive structure that is easy to learn orally through use of a simple story map. It lends itself to fun actions too.
The simple illustrations can be used as a sequencing activity on a time line or a washing line as the children retell it independently.
I then like to change things a little by creating an instructional text ‘How to Catch a Star’. The children learn this text map and then innovate it, choosing their own way to catch one. This can be written up in a simple format following the key features of writing instructions.
I like to use ‘Marking Ladders’ to provide steps to success to support children’s learning – they can be easily found if you Google them.
Role-play and drama is a great way to get the children to innovate their own ideas for how to catch a star and the wackier the better!
I also love the story ‘Katie and the Starry Night’ which works beautifully with the Oliver Jeffers book and can lead to art activities based on the Van Gough painting.
The Literacy Shed website has a short film called ‘La Luna’ with ideas and inspiration for activities to follow. This is fantastic for children who have little or no English and still images from the animation can be used to scaffold or stimulate writing.
In areas of provision stars can be hidden in foam or gooey gloop, caught and threaded onto string or wool. They can be made in salt dough or play dough, star shapes can be used for printing, glittery stars can be made from card and beads threaded onto string to make tails…
Oliver Jeffers’ book ‘The Way Back Home’ can be used in tandem. There are so many ways you can travel to the Moon..
This is a slightly self-indulgent post as I want to share with you some of my absolutely favourite children’s books. This is probably the first of many post in this vein as I am book obsessed. I love picture books, graphic novels and regular books. I do seem to find myself swinging towards fantasy and dark books, but not always. I will explain who I have shared these books with and how I have shared them. More importantly just enjoy them. Try to continually expand your experience and repertoire of children’s books.
‘The Mysteries of Harris Burdick’ is a book of weird and wonderful pictures. Each picture has a story title and a brief synopsis that give a tantalising taste of what the story would have been had the author, Harris Burdick, not disappeared. I have used the pictures as both a story stimulus and as a tool to develop questioning (brilliant for open-ended questions) with children throughout Key Stage 2.
The more recent ‘The Chronicles of Harris Burdick – 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales’ is a selection of stories written by established authors for each of the original pictures. My favourite is ‘The House on Maple Street’ by Stephen King, a fantastic model text to use as the basis for all short story thrillers! I tend not to share the stories with the children until I have looked at the original story-free version as it can curb their creativity.
Children can write their own questions as well as answer yours. The questions can then be categorised as ‘thick’ or ‘thin’ questions – those that are juicy inferential questions and those that are right there literal questions.
‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ are a series of books by Tony DiTerizzi about a world of faerie creatures that can only be seen by some. When I use the term ‘faerie’ I don’t just mean the twinkling, Tinkerbell, winged variety….many of the creatures are evil and rather frightening. Boys love it!! Alongside these books is a beautifully illustrated ‘Field Guide’ which is a ‘factual’ book about these creatures. It lends itself beautifully to children creating their own creature and writing in the style of an information text. They can also write as experts about the best way to trap a specific fantastical animal. There are lots of art opportunities with these books and I enjoy getting the children to draw what they can see when they peer through ‘The seeing stone’.
The film is brilliant too – although I would only use it with the upper end of Key Stage 2 as the trolls as pretty scary…at least I thought they were. There are lots of cliff-hanger moments when the film can be stopped and children predict what is going to happen next. They can write letters and diaries as some of the peripheral characters expressing their thoughts and feeling about the move to this dilapidated house and Jared’s odd behaviour.
I have recently discovered Jonny Duddle’s books. I wish I had found them sooner. His illustrations are lively, detailed and amusing and perfect for Key stage 1 children and the lower end of Key Stage 2.
His website is full of beautifully colourful pictures and ideas to get children involved.
His ‘The Pirate-Cruncher’ works beautifully alongside a pirates topic, followed by ‘The Pirates Next Door’ and for those who are more confident readers there is ‘The Ghostly Galleon’.
The children can draw their own sea monster and treasure maps with instructions to find the treasure. I have taught them the story orally so they can retell it using a story map and then innovate it writing their own ending. Some have then gone on to write their own pirate adventures, with their own motley pirate crew.
Another set of books which are fantastic for Key Stage 1 are Simon Bartram’s ‘Bob – Man on the Moon’ and ‘Alien Spotter’s Guide’. The hidden aliens in Bartram’s illustrations mean that children engage with the book and look carefully at the details. My son loved spotting the strange creatures that Bob seems oblivious to. The spotter’s guide has a letter from Bob who explains to the reader that aliens don’t really exist – my Year 1 children wrote back to him disagreeing and sending him pictures of aliens to prove their point.
They used the illustrations and information on the different alien species to create fact files and then draw their own aliens adding fun facts and labelling their pictures. I also found this picture with some lovely fruit aliens and space cookies inspired by ‘Bob – Man on the Moon’.
Here is my board where I collect my book ideas –
In this short blog post I am going to list beautiful, amazing, moving and brave books that tackle the ever-present issue of being a refugee. I was moved to do this very late at night having read an article on the far-right anti-foreigner movement in Germany and their attacks on refugee camps, which follows on from the crisis in Calais and the shameful British press response.
Many schools find themselves with new pupils who have suffered the trauma of having to leave behind all they know in order to find a safe place to live. As educators it is our role to tackle these meaty issues head-on and what better way than through story.
‘The Librarian of Basra’ J. Winter – a true story from Iraq
Here is the video link from Youtube –
‘Give Me Shelter: Stories About Children Who Seek Asylum’ T. Bradman – human physical and emotional suffering, but also about the humanity of some.
‘Christophe’s Story’ N. Cornwell – about a young refugee who struggles to share his experiences with others
‘Malalal Yousafai: Warrior with Words’ – child friendly biography
‘Malala a Brave Girl from Pakistan / Iqbal a Brave Boy from Pakistan’ J. Winter – a seriously moving tale. Tragically Iqbal did not survive so the story needs to be sensitively used.
‘I have the right to be a child’ A.Serres – the Convention on the rights of the Child drawn up by the United Nations.
‘The Hundred Dresses’ E. Esten – a Polish girl is mocked for her stories. A valuable lesson for all.
‘The Matchbox Diary’ P. Fleischman – a story of immigration across the genarations
‘A Child’s Garden : A Story of Hope’ M. Foreman – a boy’s world is in ruins. Can a tiny green shoot give him hope in a bleak landscape?
‘The Silence Seeker’ B. Morley – a family of asylum seekers move in next door.
‘The Island’ A. Greder – Picture book about a man on a tattered raft discovered on a beach. A powerful picture book about refugees and xenophobia and human rights.
‘The Arrival’ S.Tan – What drives someone to leave all they know behind. A wordless book – the story of every migrant.
These are just a small sample of the powerful books you need to share with your children.