Category Archives: happiness

Happy hooks and exciting enhancements…

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…!!

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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.

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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.

Shadows…

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?’

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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.

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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!!

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Colin Thompson….

Any of this author / illustrator’s books will whisk you away to another world and inspire you to create wonderful things…

Fantasy worlds….

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…

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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 ….

Favourite animations…

Hopefully there are some ideas to light your fire and keep you on your toes!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Joy of Teaching…

Last week was fantastic.  Why? I remembered that I have the best job ever.

I was in the midst of being smothered by the political gubbins that is being shoved in our faces…  There was lot of gnashing of teeth (mine included and with good reason) and I was forgetting that I like what I do…that I love what I do.  I forgot that I like to take risks when I teach, that I turn left when everyone else goes right…until I spent the day with the very special Shonette Bason-Wood.  She gave me permission to be happy – it is what she does.

http://spreadthehappiness.co.uk/

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She told us that these constant political changes don’t mean that you can’t be exciting.  It is true.  I work in a school where we work really hard to just get to age related expectations, but when I enjoy it so do the children and their work reflects this.

These are the things I enjoy the most:

Music:

Play it to set the scene.  I like to have a picture on the whiteboard with music to heighten mood so that when the children enter the classroom they immediately engage in learning.  In school we believe every second counts. I often use ‘Pobble 365’ or some of the images on ‘The Literacy Shed’.  The bonus with both of these sites is the high level questioning and writing stimulus, plus SPaG ideas that are already prepared and totally free to use.  I also compulsively collect stuff to write about:

https://uk.pinterest.com/thelitleader/stuff-to-write-about/

All of the ideas above take a few minutes to download.  Win.

I love using the soundtrack to ‘The Lord of the Rings’, ‘Jurassic Park’ or ‘Harry Potter’.  Each of these can be used as a stimulus for creative writing and are brilliant for changes in mood and tension building.

At the other end of the scale I use giddy music to energise – choose something that you enjoy listening to when you are getting ready to go out.  Due to my age these are mainly songs from the 80s where the lyrics tend to be safe. I love Kylie – you can’t beat the old Stock, Aitken and Waterman classics!

Try a little ‘Dough Disco’ to get fingers warmed up ready for writing…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-IfzeG1aC4

Dressing up:

And yes I have done this with Year 6.  Sometimes just wearing my Professor McGonagall hat cheers me and them right up.  It also gives me permission to be someone else and tell stories that somehow seem more believable.  Many times I have gone into Nursery dressed up which has led to mark-making opportunities (and a little bit of screaming!) including notes to the naughty witch and instructions on what to feed a crocodile.

Follow the children’s interests:

And yes I have done this with Year 6.  Because I am a teacher I can tell a good story and given a captive audience I am in heaven!  It also helps if you involve a member of staff with your fabrication (my poor Principal has seen the Loch Ness Monster, strange lights in the night sky and found a trap door that leads to an abandoned Victorian cellars beneath school).

I love teaching non-fiction texts because I use Pie Corbett’s principles of using fantasy.  I have trapped dragons, persuaded Brian Cox that aliens do exist, written information texts about Bigfoot and created a travel brochure for the planet Pandora (see the brilliant video clip from Avatar).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBGDmin_38E

Twitter:

The day your Year 6 class gets a tweet from a Bigfoot hunter in America is the best day ever! We asked various Sasquatch experts (yes they do exist!), via Twitter, what they could tell us about Bigfoot.  This is what we got back…

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My football-playing boys stayed in at playtime, blogging and tweeting about the potential existence of Sasquatch. It was the best two weeks of writing I have ever experienced…

We used ‘Google Earth’ to visit Ohio and imaged what it would be like to walk through the woods that Bigfoot is supposed to stalk.

Film:

I use film for teaching reading as well as writing.  My first port of call is ‘The Literacy Shed’ because the collection there is vast.  Again lots of the work has been done for you, questions, writing ideas, top links, age appropriateness…

I love the focus and engagement film brings, especially for my EAL pupils or those with literacy difficulties.  It is a brilliant way into a text, comparing film to the written version or to activate schema before starting a new story.  We discuss how to recreate the tension seen in a film on the page, how playing with the order of the sentence changes the focus of the reader and how varying sentence lengths controls the pace and rhythm of a story.

Be brave and enjoy your job.

As Shonette would say don’t let the lemon-suckers suck out your happy juice!