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!!
Sometimes you come across an author that you feel you must share with everyone and Colin Thompson is just that. An author illustrator his pictures are so so detailed that you could lose yourself in them for days…There are many ways in which you can use his books in the classroom, although I would say firstly just enjoy them.
My favourite book of his is ‘How to live forever’. It is fabulous for getting children to engage and look closely at a book. I have used it at Guided Reading time to focus on inference and deduction as the words really take a back-seat to the illustrations. A page can last a whole session if used well – it allows for deep questioning for children who might be EAL or who struggle with the technical aspects of reading.
My son and I love looking carefully for Max (the silhouetted large-eared dog) who appears on nearly every page and Cafe Max, a gingham curtained bistro that is a recurring theme. We have even discussed what we think might be on the menu at Cafe Max – we went down the French route here!
The pictures lend themselves beautifully to creative writing opportunities – diaries, stories, newspapers, instructions…My most recent planning was centre around the book ‘Looking for Atlantis’.
The children did some beautifully intricate artwork using a small photocopied square of one of the pages which they continued in a similar detailed fashion. I was amazed by how focused some of the children were during the art sessions.
The stories behind these illustrations are often quite deep and thought provoking which means the level of questioning you can use with these books can be challenging. What is Atlantis? What is the message that his Grandfather is trying to communicate? Where would you find Atlantis?
Below is my Pinterest board of ideas for an Atlantis topic –
Another gem is ‘Castles’. This book is all about the stories in each picture. Children can design their own castle based on a story they know or write stories. I have had success using photocopies of castles that the children have created labels for using post-it notes of varying detail and humour!
His books are fantasy lands waiting to be lost in.