7 minute writes….getting creative quickly!

For many years I used the start of the school day as ‘thinking time’ – an opportunity to get the creative juices flowing, even if it was for ten minutes.  I shared a writing prompt – a picture or words – and let my class write.  The children’s ideas could be shared with their table or as a class, but their was no pressure as writing could be refined at a later date.  These exercise books  became the equivalent of a writer’s notebook, where a multitude of ideas were stored.

These were the days before the creation of Pobble 365 (an amazing tool!) and I took great delight in saving thousands of images on Pinterest (it was an addiction at the time).

The evidence can be found in the link below…don’t judge me…

A couple of my favourite sites for my daily prompts were –

https://promptuarium.wordpress.com/category/writing-prompt/

http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/

I also stumbled across this quick video on one of the links and it clearly explains exactly what I was aiming to do but they refer to it as a ‘7 minute write’ which I like better than my ten and will use from now on!!

And now, just to indulge, I will shared some of my favorite images which have been the catalyst for some amazing writing….

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I hope you enjoy them!

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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!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

Dragon Tales – a compendium.

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My first ever blog post, years ago, was all about dragons.  Since then I have stumbled across endless magnificent examples of dragons and dreamed up new ways to use them in my teaching.  Dragons are the most perfect topic to use across the whole of primary school –  last week, in nursery, I introduced the children to George the friendly dragon and we flew around the classroom, zooming, soaring and breathing flames.  They made Chinese dragons and learned about New Year celebration.  Whereas in Year 6 we watched video footage of the awakening of Smaug and played with words and sentence structures in an attempt to build the palpable tension Bilbo feels as he begins to stir from his deep slumber.

Dragons go well with Vikings…

The beautiful scene above invites children to draw and make their own particular breed of dragon.  The whole classroom could become a giant dragon’s nest of baby dragons.  I have pinned lots of art ideas as I think it works well as a stimulus for writing, giving children a real sense of ownership of their dragon.

Paper plate dragons -super easy and fun art and craft project to make with the kids!:

Upcycle: Milk Jug Wizardry! DIY dragon:

If you need a non-fiction dragon book to model some information text writing then look no further than the ‘Ology’ collection of books…

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I tend to use these as a model for my Talk 4 Writing ‘washing-line’ about the Beeston Bull Dragon.  If you search for Pie Corbett and dragons you will get a link that will explain the processes he uses to teach non-fiction texts through fantasy.  I bought ‘Talk for Writing Across the Curriculum’ which beautifully explains how to use these interactive and very physical approaches to teaching writing.  It has had a really positive impact on engagement with writing throughout my school…

Instructions!:

I often use this very funny book about dragon ownership as a starting point for instructions on how to keep a dragon as a pet.  Other instructional writing can be ‘How to trap a dragon’.  Again Pie Corbett does a really good explanation of this in his book (see above).

Dragon’s egg make for a beautiful descriptive writing stimulus as there are lots of textures involved as well as shades of colour.  I use paper mache with the children to create enormous eggs which look stunning all together on a giant nest…or you can leave one lying in the playground and see where the children think it came from and what will hatch out of it…

All this gorgeous dragon’s egg takes to make is a plastic egg, a hot glue gun and some paint! Dragon loves, Game of Thrones fans and those who like fantasy in general will LOVE this! It’s sure to be a conversation piece if displayed anywhere in your home.: MUST DO THIS! Accio Lacquer: What Does One Name An Egg Such As This: Make your own Dragon Eggs. An easy alternative craft for Easter/Eostre/Ostara.:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My absolute favourite documentary to use for information text writing is ‘Dragons – a fantasy made real’. In this programme, which can be watched in 10 minute or so sections on YouTube, (my secret crush) Patrick Stuart, in a highly dramatic style, narrates the finding of a body (dragon) and how scientist can now explain how it flew, breathed fire etc. It is spellbinding.

I detest the film version of ‘Eragon’, but love and devoured the books. A good read for Upper Key Stage 2 pupils.  I do use clips from the film and still images to model descriptive writing of Saphira.

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A greatly under-used narrative poem is ‘The Lambton Worm’.  It has origins in the North East and is best listened to in an appropriate accent.

This tells the story of a young squire returning from wars abroad to slay the ‘worm’ that was killing people in his home village.

This can link well with the story of ‘St George and the dragon’.  Sometimes I feel we don’t look at the origin of patron saints enough…I am pretty sure my children in Year 6 will be hazy as to who the patron saint of England is let alone the story of how he became so famous!

http://resources.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/stgeorge2.html

Above is a clear, easy to understand version from Woodlands Junior School.  I have made a mental note to show this to Key Stage 2 in an assembly next half term.

Here is my pinterest board with hundreds of ideas, links and images to help you plan an exciting dragon topic…

Stuff to write about…

Another link to help last minute new term panics.  Thousands (yes literally…need to get a life!) of stimulus for creative writing.  Each could last 10 minutes or be worthy of a week or more teaching.  Have fun.

Lots of literacy ideas!! Yippee!

The new school term is about to start and how many of us are panicking about Monday?  I am going to share with you some of my literacy ideas that I have collected over the past few years. They are suitable for various year groups and some need very little preparation.  All of them are exciting, interesting and fun…well at least I think so!!  Have a look and try one – let me know how you get on.

Build Your Wild Self!

New York Zoo have a brilliant activity on their website called ‘Build Your Wild Self’.  A super-fun and interactive way for children to create a wild creature made up of lots of parts of real animals.

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This would be a great starting point for information text writing or for creating a fact file.  If you use Talk 4 Writing approaches this would work well at the third stage of invention or as a wacky way of introducing the features of information texts before you apply them to a real animal.

The finished animal is given a very technical name based on all its parts and the final picture can be printed off or emailed.  These images could even be turned into trading cards or top trumps by using various free websites or apps.

http://www.buildyourwildself.com/