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…
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!!
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!
I am collecting together resources for my Year 5 and 6 Space topic – To infinity and beyond! It is a topic I always get ridiculously excited about…obsessive in fact! I love every element of it and I could probably fill a full year with all my ideas and excitement.
I have used Pinterest to organise my thoughts over time.
Above is the absolute best video of the wonders, horrors, dangers and realities of space. It is the most vivid representation of the vastness of space and the clearest explanation of time travel – the deeper we travel through space the further back in time we go and if we could look back at Earth through a hugely powerful telescope we would see dinosaurs….wow!
My children were transfixed. I forgot I was teaching…
The International Space Station produces lots of videos about life in space and children are always keen to know how astronauts go to the loo!!! Commander Chris Hadfield was particularly informative and entertaining.
Commander Sunny Williams gives a fascinating tour of the ISS including an explanation of how they sleep and how they go to the toilet! I like to show this video as it proves to my sometimes passive Year 6 girls that women can and should have the same aspirations as men.
Recently, we watched with anticipation the journey to the ISS of British astronaut Tim Peak…We will be following his time in space very closely through Facebook and Twitter – a great audience and purpose for children to write.
For those who enjoy researching and collecting facts there is the creation of planet fact files or top trumps (there are various free apps that can be used on iPads).
There is also more of the science stuff – a day on Earth. What is night and day? Does the Sun move?
Then there is the historic elements of man’s journey through space, culminating in the infamous Moon landings…
There are lots beautiful books about space…
I love the endless possibilities that space provides…
I will be blogging about the fantasy elements of space over the next few days…releasing my inner geek. Live long and prosper.
I realised recently what an amazing programme Dr Who is when my seven year old son came sobbing from his room after watching a clip on Youtube where Matt Smith regenerates into Peter Capaldi.
‘It was the bit when Amy Pond said ‘Raggedy man goodnight’, that made me feel sad,’ he cried. I had to admit that I too had become a snivelling wreck and I was already sobbing when Matt Smith delivered the deadly line ‘I will never forget when the Doctor was me’.
Something that moves a seven year old boy to such an extent is powerful stuff! I had to use it in the classroom.
There are hundreds and hundreds of ways Dr Who can be used effectively in the classroom…the geek in me got a bit giddy.
The BBC ran a competition to write a script a few years ago but the resources are still there on-line. They have brilliant video clips and ideas to create aliens, develop characters, settings and scripts with lesson notes and printable resources.
This fits in brilliantly with my Year 5/6 topic on Space this term – hurray!
What about teaching art and art history through the really moving episode that features Van Gogh, his paintings and tragic life. Another one that I blubbed at!! There is also the episode where they visit Pompeii in time for the towns volcanic destruction – great for a Roman topic.
What about an explanation or instructions on how a Dalek works? Or a balanced discussion on whether the Doctor should wipe out the Daleks??
What about creating aliens and planets to feature in a new story…?
The children could write a travel brochure for their newly created planet or a fact file on their alien or monster.
Now that Clara Oswald is no more the Doctor is in need of a companion – get the children to create one. Look at past companions and list the key skills needed to travel through space and time.
Amy Pond was my favourite…
And what if the Doctor regenerated again…what would he look like…who is your favourite Doctor so far? I struggle with that one…I am caught between David Tennant and Matt Smith (for died-hard Whovians I am sure that that is some form of blasphemy and that I should really appreciate the older, darker models!).
The BBC has a beautiful Doctor Who section on their website with fantastic info on characters and monsters – a brilliant resource for story writing.
There are lots of Doctor Who books that could be used as a model text for Sci-Fi story writing. They can be picked up on Amazon second hand for a couple of pounds.
And finally, totally indulgently, when the Doctor says goodbye to Donna and wipes her memories…also makes me cry (it seems there is a common theme here!!)…
I have just come across this beautiful book whilst rummaging through the shelves at the School Library Services.
As Remembrance Day is nearly upon us this is a wonderful way to share the real reason why we wear poppies and remember.
It tells the story of the Christmas truce when the war stopped, so very briefly, whilst a football match was played and peace was found…for one special day. It is gentle and beautiful and suitable, on a very basic level, for younger children (I shared with my son aged 7 who read it himself afterwards).
It also reminded me of a grittier version of the story ‘War Game’ by Michael Foreman.
There is also a beautiful animation version of the book. Both I would only share with upper KS2 children as they are very moving and tackle the death of the young soldiers in a gentle, but incredibly powerful way.
If you want your children to empathise with the loses of war then this really is the book to read. I read it to my son, in an edited version, and he sat still and thoughtful for a few minutes after it finished. I think it is vital that children read books that are sad. They should experience a huge range of emotions through books – this is why I am passionate about reading real books and throwing away schemes as soon as you get chance!
Last year Sainsbury’s brought out a magical Christmas advert that was also based on the Christmas truce story.
There is also a fascinating short film of the true story behind the advert…
…and a really useful website which gives more information on the football match played during WW1.
One of my favourite websites ‘The Literacy Shed’ also have some super ideas in their ‘Christmas Shed’.
Just found this Youtube channel absolutely bursting full of fabulous animations. I plan to use them for literacy inspiration and guided reading developing comprehension questions. Some are more suitable for secondary school pupils and others are perfect for primary children.
Or you could follow them on Pinterest
In keeping with my recent spooky theme I wanted to share with you one of the best scary, tension-building animations I have ever watched with Year 6. It really is only suitable for the oldest children in primary or those in secondary as it does make them physically jump…great fun!!
It is a brilliant example of how an author can create tension and a dark mood. The colours used, the music, the quiet…all powerful tools.
The anticipation throughout is palpable…cut-the-air-with-a-knife stuff. The narrators use of the word ‘isolated’, the shadows on his wall, the skull in the fish tank, the Jaws ‘teeth’ poster, the use of a model monster to hold down the map, the sudden use of the brooding music, the sentence ‘But I wont be going back to Quetico any time soon…’ set the scene for something dreadful. As an audience you are waiting for the sudden fright. The children can be challenged to spot these signs and consider the impact of the author / creator using them and what they might look like written on a page. Can the tension be replicated in words – challenge them to have a go.
Knowing that something awful happened to Francis Brandywine puts the audience into a heightened state of tension and alertness…not knowing exactly what that is grips and engages. A highly effective narrative hook that can be ‘magpied’ in story writing.
What impact does the camera shot suddenly descending into the murky depths of water have on the viewer. It makes me feel as if we are seeing things from something else’s perspective…something that lurks in the lake. The music changing into an almost mournful ghostly wail at that point and the narrator describing it as ‘one of the deeper lakes’ and ‘a lonely body of water’ and ‘estimated to be over 300 feet deep’ emphasises this fear of the dark endlessness below her boat…Can children spot these clues? How do they make them feel? Can this be translated to a paragraph?
Does the sudden whooshing of the camera through the trees make you jump? Then you realise it is nothing…the wind…an animal…your imagination playing tricks. Francis relaxes…nothing to be scared of…but instinctively we know the horrors of what is to come. The fact that she stops her boat over the lake’s deepest spot…ahhh!!!!
‘She was feeling very peaceful’, that is the trigger, a signal that something is about to happen. Would that be a short sentence in writing? Then it happens…the knocking. It keeps happening, driving her crazy with fear. And then…nothing. Only her journal was found with her frantic jottings and then, on the very last page, written with a muddy finger, were the four words…’I DID KNOCK FIRST’.
Mwahahaha!!!! Brilliant! The children could create there own version of Francis’ diary explaining in more detail what happened and how the character felt. Maybe they could write the story of what really happened to her and reveal what made the knocking sounds. They could learning this story orally and then create their own with a few innovations.
Please watch it and share!
There are lots of ideas for how to use and make films on the ‘Into Film’ website: