Fabulous films….

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…


How to Catch a Star…


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…

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Oliver Jeffers’ book ‘The Way Back Home’ can be used in tandem.  There are so many ways you can travel to the Moon..



Really useful literacy resources…

I have listed below all the resources that over the years I have found have enhanced my teaching of literacy.  I am pretty sure I have not remembered everything and I would love to hear your ideas too. Some of the resources are more important as ideas, like the box of fairies.  A shoe box can be made into a magical box full of endless surprises that I will discuss more in a future blog post…


Sentence strips


24-Inch Multicolor Pack Wipe-Off® Sentence Strips By Trend


For modelling sentence types and to display and share children’s ideas.  Adult monitoring of handwriting.

Tell-a-story board


Encourages discussion of story structures and easily editable ideas.

Recordable Pegs


Great for instructions or challenges. Useful for children with EAL or SEN or young children.

Talking point


Useful to record sounds / phonemes



As above but has a space for an image

Talk-Time Postcards



Various sizes and length of time available. Great for making the link between speaking and writing. Record, listen, write.

Box of fairies


This can be made with various bits and pieces for less money but gives a good idea of what you could collect in a shoe-box

Writing tool belt


This could be made more cheaply using aprons or tool belts and resources added.  Excellent for writing in areas of provision or just anywhere outside.

Pick-a-Question Comprehension Tub


To challenge and develop comprehension strategies both in groups and individually

Re-tell A Story Cubes


As above.

Talk for Writing Across the Curriculum


Brilliant book to guide you through using talk for writing in non-fiction writing.

Jumpstart! Grammar: Games and actvities for ages 6-14


Vital book to support teaching of grammar!

Jumpstart!: Literacy – Games and Activities for Ages 7-14


Another hugely useful book for word and sentence level games and activities.



Post-its (of all shapes and sizes)


Many, many uses…see my previous blog psot!

Highlighter Pens


Essential for text marking.

Descriptosaurus: Supporting Creative Writing for Ages 8-14


Fantastic book to develop the use of exciting and juicy vocabulary

Easi Speak® MP3 Recorder / Player


Encourages talk and oral rehearsal

Story starters

I love collecting ideas to stimulate writing…in fact I think I am bordering on obsessive…

I always start the school day with a ten minute thinking / writing time which I sometimes expand into an extended writing activity. My children are often limited in life experiences and are not immersed in stories at home so they can sometimes struggle when it comes to using their imaginations, or pulling ideas from stories they know.  I use a lot of Pie Corbett’s word warm up activities (his training is the most inspiring and useful I have ever been on!) and am constantly referring to ‘JumpStart’ for ideas.


I try to plan so that the children can respond to the picture through words and drawing depending on their level of need so I have to think very carefully about the types of questions or sentence starters I use.  The more mystical and weird the picture the better!!!

Here are some of the ideas I have used…


As she touched the mirror her hand disappeared into the world beyond… Draw what was on the other side of the mirror.  Continue the story.


As she turned towards him she began to change…Draw how she changed.  Continue the story from the point of view of ‘him’.


The mist began to take form in front of him and an earth-rumbling, guttural growl reverberated in his chest. What appears from the mist?  Why is he there? Write the story before this moment.


Through the driving rain and darkness he saw before him a house.  His only hope… Why is this is only hope?  Who lives in the house?


The Elven Kingdom has been a place of peace and safety for thousands of years.  All that was about to change… Write the story that explains why.


Would you stay here?  Write a diary entry as a guest of this little hotel.

Here is my collection on Pinterest –


Here be dragons!

After a fantastic training session with Pie Corbett I became obsessed with creating a dragon themed topic. After much reading and watching weird ‘Youtube’ videos I came up with loads of useful materials which the kids in KS1 and 2 loved. It all begins with a brilliant documentary I found produced by The Animal Channel.

I focused on visual texts to support EAL learners and to allow all children to access it at some level.  Some of the books that worked brilliantly are…

George and the dragon – Chris Wormell

The Dragon Snatcher – M.P. Robertson

The Snow Dragon -Vivian French

The Egg – M.P. Robertson

Ignis – Gina Wilson

The Dragon Machine – Helen Ward

The Great Dragon Rescue – M.P. Robertson

Another fantasically useful website is ‘Love Reading 4 Kids’


If you register with them (which is free) you can download extracts from hundreds of books. It also guides you as to age / interest suitability and links you to the cheapest place to purchase them.

These books are fantastic to use as model texts for non-fiction (the Pie Corbett idea of using fantasy in non-fiction). I did a really easy but effective ‘How to trap a dragon’ using ‘Talk for Writing’ approaches (information on this can still be found on the old Primary Framework site –  easy to read and understand – have look!) which eventually the children used as a template for real life instructions.