Fabulous books to inspire…

I have started collecting together some of my absolutely favourite books for children and young adults.  I admit I am obsessed and so I imagine this collection will continue to grow and grow…

I have found that most of these books are brilliant at inspiring creative writing, but also (and more importantly in my opinion) as an introduction to damn good stories and fabulous authors.

Feel free to add to the padlet page as I am always looking for new books to add to my overflowing bookshelf!

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Reading ready in Year 2?

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Above is an extract from paper 2 of last year’s KS1 SAT….the ante was very much upped from previous years.  This then leads to the question of how can we prepare children for this assessment process without switching them off reading, but allowing them to feel prepared so that nothing will come as a horrible surprise??

AND the Year 2 teachers have to bear in mind the other measures that they can be moderated against in the interim framework…here is what an ‘expected’ child can do in reading…

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Quite a challenge it seems….

What can we use to support our teacher assessment for fluency, accuracy and understanding?  There are lots of everyday processes that can be used without planning activities to simply tick boxes…

  • Reading records books used in school – the expected colour of book banding would be gold, white or above.  Check that the phonic phases match and therefore the books being read are appropriate.

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  • Home/school reading record books – some schools may use Phonics Bug, Lexia or other online reading acivities which can be used at home and often produce reports on what has been read etc.
  • Running records – 90% accuracy per page is needed for children to be able to comprehend the text.  Here is an interesting article explaining how you can use any book as a running record: http://scholastic.ca/education/movingupwithliteracyplace/pdfs/grade4/runningrecords.pdfCaptureww
  • Standardised reading test – SWRT /Salford which will give a reading age, but will also highlight the words that they are struggling with
  • Guided reading book or reading journal – this will evidence understanding of a text
  • English book – as above this will show what an individual has understood from texts used as a class

To build up stamina and fluency individual reading needs to happen as often as possible, but the use of ERIC (everyone reading in class) can help children focus on a text independently as they will need to do in the test.  I generally do this twice a week from January onwards.

I often use text extracts from http://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk to get children used to reading an ‘unseen’ piece of writing, which also has age range recommendations with each extract so I can ensure that it is suitably challenging.

It is vital that the children have experience of answering questions by writing answers.  I like to build in examples from each content domain throughout the year.  I found some brilliantly useful question stems on this website http://primaryenglished.co.uk/ which I have used firstly with illustrations and films, building up to using mainly text extracts…

Robert Innocenti - On the rock

Sea Dragon extract Y2

I use these during guided reading sessions, adding different question types as we get nearer to May.

Useful websites and links:

https://www.pobble365.com/

 

 

 

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…

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!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fi Fi Fo Fum

 

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.

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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.

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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!

http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/4825/4/nls_y6t2exunits075202narr2.pdf

 

Assessing reading…a quick guide.

I think reading is really difficult to assess and I have been doing it for years!  I decided to put together a quick guide to help out other teachers who are struggling to get to grips with making a judgement for reading.  I don’t think anything is new or particularly revolutionary….just useful (I hope!).  I have tried to consider a few ways in which you can demonstrate progress too.

I also want to draw your attention to the work of MrsPteach and her brilliant blogs on reading.  She has created lots of lovely resources too for using R. I. C. (Retrieve, Interpret, Choice) to help focus teaching on particular question types…

http://www.mrspteach.com/2014/06/guided-reading-and-new-curriculum.html

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Here is my list…

  • Look at the level/ stage of the reading book they can comfortably read (90% accuracy – a running record can be used to check this). Use the reading scheme guide (often a poster) which explains the reading age of each level.
  • What is their phonic level (if they are not beyond phase 5)? Does their reading book reflect their phonic level?
  • The Salford reading test will give a reading age and is therefore really useful to evidence the impact of interventions. It does not measure understanding.  Again, check that their reading book reflects their reading age!
  • YARC comprehension and reading test will give you specific feedback on areas of weakness and on-line will produce a useful report. The initial YARC phonic assessment can be used to ascertain if they can access the test and will give you a clear picture of phonic gaps.
  • GL assessment will give an age related standardised score – this assesses comprehension. This may not be directly comparable with the newest SAT tests (2016) in Y1 and Y6, but is still a useful tool to target those who are struggling at the beginning of the year and may be used to evidence progress if repeated at the end of the year.
  • Reading exemplification (for the interim framework) on YouTube, produced by the government, is useful for moderation of teacher assessment and assessment for learning approaches that can be useful in the classroom.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9KRimNLkJQ&list=PL6gGtLyXoeq8k9ykPys3NvQIfIvAGCUjN

  • Learning and Progression Steps (Lancashire County Council) break down statements from the National Curriculum to show smaller steps of progression throughout the year. This can inform planning, help in making age related teacher assessment judgements and, if the grids are filled in, show evidence of progress over the year.

Assessment for Learning – useful reading assessment activities in the classroom.

  • Orally re-tell using a text map
  • Wanted posters
  • Acting out with small world play
  • Role-on-the-wall
  • Hot seating
  • Freeze framing
  • Role play
  • Retelling in story board / comic book frames
  • Write a letter to or from a character
  • Use information books to research a famous person
  • What does the character – ‘think’, ‘feel’, ‘say’?
  • What can you sense in a setting? What can a character see, hear, smell, and feel?
  • Choose a sentence from your book that you like, tell someone or write down why you chose it.
  • Write a character description
  • Summarise a chapter or the plot
  • Thought bubbles
  • Sequencing and sorting jumbled pictures, lines, sentences or paragraphs from a text
  • Text marking with a focus e.g. the impact of punctuation or cohesive devices.
  • Collaborative group discussions
  • Suggesting alternative words, phrases or sentences
  • Book reviews (can shadow on-line book awards and join Leeds Book Awards)

Useful question stems for inference, deduction and interpreting events / ideas.

  • What does this tell you about what….was thinking?
  • What words give you that impression?
  • Can you explain why?
  • What makes you think that?
  • Do you agree with this opinion?
  • Predict what you think might happen next.
  • Who would you most like to meet from the story?
  • If it were you what would you be thinking?
  • Would you want to visit this place? Why?
  • How did……change through the story?
  • Which is your favourite part? Why?
  • If your book had a sequel how do you think it would end?
  • Did the book end the way you thought it would? What clues did the author give you that made you predict the ending?
  • What do you think is the author’s main message? Why do you think that?
  • What character did you interpret as ‘bad’? What did the author do to give you that impression?
  • What are the two emotions that….has felt. Why do you think….felt that way?

 

 

Don’t fear exemplification!!

Having spent a few hours trawling through the reading exemplification that the government has published to support teacher assessment using the interim framework I decided to create some positive action points from what I watched and read.  Okay it may have involved a couple of medicinal gins to get my creative juices flowing, but I managed to make a brief list of key points that, as a literacy leader in school, I need to ensure we consider in our teaching of reading.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2016-teacher-assessment-exemplification-ks1-english-reading

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2016-teacher-assessment-exemplification-ks2-english-reading

I initially felt rather disheartened when I listen to the children on the videos read with lovely expressive voices and confidently discuss their clearly thought out views in well-trained groups.  I could not see any links between those children and mine. However, I don’t stay down for long and really, when I looked closer, I realised that we do lots of the good stuff.

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So key points are as follows….

  • Prior knowledge is vital –  for understanding of language expression and for the ability to empathise. We teach through our creative curriculum so all texts are experienced in a context as our pupils lack life experiences.  It helps EAL and new to English pupils to make sense of what they read as well as focused teaching of idioms.
  • Phonic skills – they need to be confident in applying their skills to read unfamiliar words.  This means it is essential to have really good tracking and monitoring of those who begin to fall behind in Year 1.  We have found that Dandelion Phonics worked well as an intervention for some children as well as using alphabet arc. I have blogged some of my approaches to teaching those who experience learning difficulties. https://theliteracyleader.com/2016/02/21/literacy-difficulties/
  • Fluency and expression – this is something that my pupils struggle with as they are mainly EAL or new to English.  I have decided that we need a greater focus on drama and reading and performing playscripts and poetry.  Our assemblies need to showcase fantastic reading and performance rather than mumbling into a tatty piece of paper!!!
  • Vocabulary – a wide breadth of vocabulary is needed to help the children understand what they are reading.  I have blogged some useful approaches to playing with words. https://theliteracyleader.com/2015/12/02/playing-with-words/
  • Modelling answers – it is vital for teachers to model their thought processes when they answer questions.  Google Pie Corbett and ‘book talk’ – there are lots of really interesting ideas on developing your questioning.
  • The importance of talk – talk helps children develop their understanding of a text so group discussion is vital.

I am no longer afraid of the exemplification materials!! Hurray!!