I have talked about this many times before – films are some of the most powerful resources you can use to engage children. They are amazingly effective with those often harder to reach groups….boys, EAL, SEN. I like to make collections of the films I have used that have worked across age ranges and I will share some of the best here.
I find film really useful at the start of an English unit of work to activate schema, encouraging children to bring their own experience to the text or genre that I will eventually share. Sometimes I use clips of full length films, but often it is short animations that work best.
I use the snipping tool or my smartnotebook camera to capture still images and create tick sheets of key words and corresponding pictures for those with little English so they are beginning to understand and focus upon the essential vocabulary. These pictures are also great to use to support the creative writing of those who have literacy difficulties, giving them prompts and structure for their work.
A brilliant film for assembly or a PHSCE session is ‘For the birds’, where a strange looking new bird tries to make friends with a a rather unkind flock with hilarious outcomes…
‘Defective Detective’ is great for inference. The detective’s overactive imagination leads him to believe terrible crimes are being committed in the flat above him…
‘Dangle’ is a great film for discussing ‘What would you do?’ and for using prediction…’What is at the end of the red rope?’
‘La Luna’ is a beautiful animation from Pixar that introduces the idea of mythology and how early man believed the world worked. This works well with Oliver Jeffers’ books ‘How to catch a star’ and ‘The way back home’ – ideal for a topic on stars or night time in KS1.
My absolute favourite (which I have done an entire blog post on already!) is ‘Francis’. A dark and spooky tale only suitable for the oldest KS2 children, but is fabulous at looking for the signs an author gives you to build up tension, anticipation and dread….
Following the spooky theme is ‘Alma’, which is more suitable for the rest of KS2, where spooky dolls have eyes that seem to follow you…..
‘Home Sweet Home’ is the bittersweet story of a house that longs to be elsewhere and his journey with friends across beautiful, yet rugged and host landscapes. This lends itself to creative writing and stories of epic journeys…
I will finish this post on a non-fiction note…’Dragons – a fantasy made real’ is an amazing stimulus for information texts on dragons and links beautifully to the talk for writing work of Pie Corbett…
I am very lucky to teach a small group of lower KS2 children a few times a week for an hour. We have an absolute ball!! These children really struggle to access the curriculum in class as they have a variety of issues that means literacy is a huge struggle. They are working way below their age related expectations and sometimes find focusing on tasks for an extended period challenging.
I say I am lucky because these children are full of joy, enthusiasm and awe. They make me smile, they make me laugh and sometimes they make me cry….
I have learned so much from them in the brief time I have spent with them. I have had to be creative in ways I was not familiar. I have spent more time harassing my EYFS leader for resources and ideas than she is comfortable with….and I am now a playdough queen. For someone who was firmly rooted in Year 6 this has been a glorious revelation!
The key problems they all have are letter formation, pencil grip, spelling and stamina. This means that I do lots and lots of fine motor development activities. I set my room up with focused areas of provision. When I first watched these children use playdough I realised some could not roll it or ball it and did not have strength or dexterity in their fingers. I now challenge them daily with doughs of different textures and watch them carefully to see the precise movements they struggle with adapting my planning accordingly.
My current favourite finger gym activity is using water beads and tweezers…the frog spawn needs putting back in the pond. I have to use EYFS activites with a KS2 slant…really challenging!
As a result of my discoveries working with this group we have now developed finger gym activities throughout KS1 and lower KS2 – we keep them in special boxes and they can be taken out and used as a challenge at any time. Handwriting has always been a big issue in school but we had not worked out an effective way to tackle it – I think we had taken the approach of do more writing to get better at it (this never worked for some), but we hadn’t realised the extent of their fine motor issues, even into upper KS2.
I have also built in purposeful cutting and colouring activities. We made card jungle creatures before we labelled them, we cut out paper plate frogs before we drew their life cycle….I found that they really struggle with using scissors so we use them as often as possible, talking about they best way to hold them. We draw things or make models (Lego is good and fiddly) before we write about them. Practise makes perfect.
I teach spelling through multi-sensory approaches – glitter trays with fine paint brushes, pipe-cleaners, dough, silver foil….We learn key words and vocabulary that will help with topic work back in class. Through assessments I realised that the children did not know all the letter sounds or names and were not clear which was which. We use alphabet arcs daily for ten minutes to teach the alphabetic order and letter names and sounds. Doing these kinds of challenges against the clock seems to really motivate.
Crossbow education have lots of lovely resources to support literacy difficulties.
Here is a brief explanation of the basic activity – this can be built on and challenge added.
I have also focused on whole word recognition and knowledge of high frequency words – phonics often does not work for these children. They can’t blend as they struggle to remember or hear beyond initial and final sounds. We are working on ‘crashing’ sounds together.
Talk for Writing works beautifully as it gives these children the internal structures of stories and various non-fiction text types. They tend to take longer to learn a text, but once they have they love to retell it, playing and over emphasising their favourite words and phrases.
Our latest text was ‘The Tadpole’s Promise’.
Brilliant for life cycles and explanations. The ending made them laugh and was their favourite bit to retell. We did the whole story in a very dramatic fashion, pretending to sob when the tadpole breaks the caterpillar’s heart, with hilarious results….but they did not forget the story!!!
We don’t have a written outcome everyday. It is too difficult. We work up to writing with talking, oral retelling, learning key words, organising texts, labelling, writing sentence strips and finally using graphic organisers to support their final piece of writing. I always display their work. Their pride at seeing it on the wall is tangible.
The graphic organiser will contain images and key words plus explicit instructions and objectives. I always give them lines to write on in the organiser too. You can see lots of examples on pinterest but it does not take long to create one and you can then adapt them very easily each time you use it.
Finally, I have learned to be as precise with my language as possible..and to never assume! Whilst revising the key information about an elephant’s diet I reminded them about eating the outside part of tree branches (bark) ‘Remember, it is like the noise a dog makes,’ to which the response was resoundingly ‘Woof!’….I have lots to learn!
I have started to collect together lots of different ideas for warming up words. My children have very limited vocabulary so it essential that new words are introduced and played with on a regular basis. Pie Corbett suggests 5 new words are introduced weekly. Even though my children mainly speak English as a second language I never set a ceiling on the words used as I want my children to become familiar with the nuances of the language.
See the Picture
This is an imaging game, designed to help children use the images in their own minds and attach words to them.
Ask all children to create an image in their heads. This might be a setting in a story they are writing, something that they are writing a poem about or an experience that the whole class have had on a trip. Ask them to hold the image in their head and then ask:
- What can you see?
- What colours stand out most?
- How does it feel?
- Walk around your image. What other things do you see?
Children then share with a partner their image and things that they noticed. Finally jot down a list of words and phrases form their image.
When children start this keep the walk around the image short and build up what they do over time.
How does it go together?
With the children generate a list of nouns and then a separate list of verbs and to put a noun and verb together in an unusual way. Looking out of my window I can see tree, grasses, street light, road sign and a randomly selected list of verbs rushed, slithered, dreamed, sat, wheeled…
Now I can start to put them together:
the streetlight dreamed, the grasses rushed etc.
The children can then go on to create sentences choosing the ones that most appeal to them. The sentences could be collected and made into poems.
You could play the same game with adjectives and nouns.
This game is based around vocabulary generation and using the vocabulary. It is a game that I first read about in What Rhymes with Secret by Sandy Brownjohn printed in 1982.. Start the children off with a statement such as:
The birds swooping in the clear blue sky.
Sky like an azure gem.
Gem of an idea in the air
Here, the children must take the last word and start off the next line/statement with it. It demands that children think and use words flexibly.
Using paint colour samples (just ask nicely at your local DIY store) children can write shades of meaning below a key word.
Clines is another activity where shades of meaning can be discussed and then ordered from least to most e.g. sad, morbid, gloomy, depressed…
A really handy list of feeling words can be downloaded from the Primary Resources website:
Choose a book. Ask for a number – this gives you a page to turn to. Now ask for a number – this gives you the line. Then ask for a small number – this will select a word. The children then have 15 seconds to write a sentence using the selected word. Then use the same sort of process to randomly select two or three words – can they make a sentence using the words… Be ruthless on capital letter, sense and full stop.
Use the animal list to create alliterative sentences – one per animal, e.g. the tiny tiger tickled the terrified terrapin’s two toes with torn tinsel.
To warm up the brain and get into a creative mood – give the children a topic and ask them to write as much as they can in say, one minute. Time them and ask them to count the number of words then try again with another topic. They should write as rapidly as possible. This limbers up and frees up the mind.
Poems and reading poetry is one of the best ways to play with words. Lots of ideas for playing with poems in the next blog!