Category Archives: Writing

The perils of greater depth…

During our most recent Year 6 cross-trust moderation there was one common sticking point….one little statement on the ‘interim’ framework that even those of us who have been teaching for longer than they care to remember (where did 20 years go – wasn’t that long ago I was the cool-kid on the block?!) struggled to find evidence of or even know how to effectively plan for it:

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Luckily, I work with some amazing teachers where the true joy of collaborative working is experienced regularly and fabulous ideas and resources were pooled and shared.  I will share some of the more useful approaches below as I am pretty sure many more of you are struggling too…!

Firstly, if you have the financial means, a subscription to ‘Grammarsaurus’ is invaluable. New resources are added regularly and they often tackle meaty EGPS issues in child-friendly, easily accessible ways.

https://grammarsaurus.co.uk/portal/category/key-stage-two/ks2-writing/

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One of the most inspiring CPD events you can attend is any run by Alan Peat.  The man is a font of knowledge plus he is extremely interesting and a brilliant teller of stories.  He is running events which focus on writing at greater depth…

http://www.alanpeat.com/conferences/

He is also well worth a follow on twitter or Facebook as he has shared super ideas on shifts in formality…

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Remember it is about managing several shifts within one piece of writing and also across a range of texts…

Here are some features to identify in reading and use in writing:

  • the subjunctive – I wish I were… If I were you…
  • passive constructions – It is widely believed that…
  • use of ‘one’ – One should consider…
  • technical vocab
  • Nominalisation – The arrival of the VIP caused much excitement. (use nouns rather than verbs or adjectives)
  • Abstract nouns – Darkness crept in
  • Stack your verbs – I propose to change….I demand to see
  • Avoid contractions
  • Avoid slang
  • Use colons to add detail to an independent clause (use it to summarise or detail why)

Opportunities in writing:

  • Newspaper Reports can provide great opportunities for these shifts.  Formal statements can set the tone for the report which can then be contrasted against the informality of a direct quotation from a witness.
  • Diaries are another useful text type for shifts.  Reflection can add an element of formality to an otherwise personal, chatty and immediate piece of writing.
  • In letter writing personal reflection can also add formality and contrast.
  • In narrative the contrast between informal direct speech from characters and the narrators more formal tone can be effective.

I am sure more ideas and inspiration will occur to me, feel free to share your thoughts below.

 

 

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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…

More Able Writers…

Just attended some fantastic training from Therese O’Sullivan (EMA consultant for Leeds – she is fab) where she shared some super ideas which got me thinking about stretching and challenging more able writers in manageable ways.

Here are some ideas I have used and some I have still to try…

*Numerical challenges – how many connectives can you find in this text etc…

*Time challenges – how many connectives can you find in 3 minutes…

*Lipograms – where a chosen letter is banned (don’t choose ‘e’ if you ever want them to finish!).  I have asked children to re-write the last paragraph without a specific letter – vowels are obviously the toughest.

*Syllabic poetry – tanka (5/7/5/7/7 syllables) and hendecasyllabic (11 syllables in each line) give a challenging framework for the children to express an idea in.

*Ways to start or end a story – I have asked them to start with questions (using ‘The Iron Man’ as an example)

*Ensure you use challenging texts as a model for ‘reading as writers’ – one of my favourites is ‘Skellig’ which has the brilliant example of an effective start to a story.

*Use guided writing groups to model more technical aspects of writing.

*Get your most able to type directly into the class computer / iboard.  This means that other children can see their writing and magpie ideas and processes – it also gives the writer an immediate audience.

*Use film – this can provide complex story telling structures.  Ask the children how an author would represent that on paper in words.  My favourite short film is ‘Francis’ which I have blogged about before.  How would you create the tension seen in the film on the page?  Use the music from films too as a creative writing stimulus.

 

*Use challenging ‘slow writing’ sentence challenges (see my previous blog on’Slow writing’).

*Use the most able as editors for others, buddy them up with those in need of some support (they seem to listen to the suggestions of their peers over the teacher!)

*Play with words.  Get them to investigate the history and origins of words (use etymological dictionaries).  Explore new words or phrases added to the English dictionary.  Collect homographs / homophones.

*Just found this ‘write a story in two sentences idea’ – brilliant challenge!

http://primary-ideas.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/two-sentence-stories.html

 

*Create a writing challenge box.  Pictures and ideas from Pobble 365 could be printed off and laminated as could ideas from my pinterest board ‘Stuff to Write About’ – there are some fantastic prompts on there from ‘writingprompts.tumblr.com’

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.

To infinity and beyond…

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.

Click here to see board.

‘#SuperBloodMoon’ shines bright across the world http://bit.ly/1FCFnC2:

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.

Infographics; The Solar System; Saturn; Description and observation tips:

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…

10 Awesome Books About Space for Kids (plus a GIVEAWAY!):

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.

 

 

Boxing Clever.

Are you looking for a new and effective way to teach children how to tell and write interesting, well structured stories?  I came across this idea by Alan Peat many years ago, but recently discovered this really clear video of him explaining the concept.  The best thing is it costs nothing (well a handful of gift bags, but you could use leftover Christmas ones) and can be used as on oral approach for children as young as Early Years.

Enjoy!

Doctor Who?? Raggedy Man, goodnight.

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.

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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.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/teachers/doctorwhocompetition/resources.shtml

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.

Anatomy of a Dalek Now, what would be an awesome idea is if we could develop an "Operation" styled board game with a Dalek instead of a human that screams "exterminate" whenever you screw up.:

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.

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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.

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Amy Pond was my favourite…

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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.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4tDN85fyxYXTtVPrCql8jB/monsters

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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!!)…

 

 

 

Playing with words.

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.

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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.

Chain Link

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.

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Using paint colour samples (just ask nicely at your local DIY store) children can write shades of meaning below a key word.

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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:

http://www.primaryresources.co.uk/pshe/pshe.htm

Random words

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.

Alliterate

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.

Ink Waster

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!

Pobble!

This will be a really quick blog to point people in the direction of a brilliant website.  It is a re-branded and re-named – it used to be ‘Lend Me Your Literacy’ – and is now called Pobble.  My absolute favourite section, which is an essential for the busy teacher, is Pobble 365.  It has a new picture to stimulate writing on a daily basis.  These pictures are fantastic and they can’t help but get the creative juices of the children flowing.

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This is support by a story starter for KS1 and KS2, including writing tick-lists, a set of questions to develop deeper thinking, a sentence challenge – brilliant for SPaG lessons, sick sentences – again great for SPaG and Picture Perfect which asks children to respond creatively either through drawing or words.  Even better is it is completely free!

http://pobble365.com/the-time-traveller/

If you go on the main Pobble site you can look at children’s work that has been published and if you register you can publish your writing too.  Great for motivating even the most reluctant writer, but it also great to use to critique a specific story type or to create a class WAGOLL (What A Good One Looks Like) using the best elements of the published work.

In fact if you read the blog there is an almost endless number of uses for the site.

http://blog.pobble.com/

How to Catch a Star…

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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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http://intheplayroom.co.uk/2014/07/05/star-crafts-activities/

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

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