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…


The Christmas Truce.

I have just come across this beautiful book whilst rummaging through the shelves at the School Library Services.


As Remembrance Day is nearly upon us this is a wonderful way to share the real reason why we wear poppies and remember.


It tells the story of the Christmas truce when the war stopped, so very briefly, whilst a football match was played and peace was found…for one special day.  It is gentle and beautiful and suitable, on a very basic level, for younger children (I shared with my son aged 7 who read it himself afterwards).

It also reminded me of a grittier version of the story ‘War Game’ by Michael Foreman.


There is also a beautiful animation version of the book.  Both I would only share with upper KS2 children as they are very moving and tackle the death of the young soldiers in a gentle, but incredibly powerful way.


If you want your children to empathise with the loses of war then this really is the book to read.  I read it to my son, in an edited version, and he sat still and thoughtful for a few minutes after it finished. I think it is vital that children read books that are sad.  They should experience a huge range of emotions through books – this is why I am passionate about reading real books and throwing away schemes as soon as you get chance!

Last year Sainsbury’s brought out a magical Christmas advert that was also based on the Christmas truce story.


There is also a fascinating short film of the true story behind the advert…

…and a really useful website which gives more information on the football match played during WW1.


One of my favourite websites ‘The Literacy Shed’ also have some super ideas in their ‘Christmas Shed’.


The CGBros.

Just found this Youtube channel absolutely bursting full of fabulous animations. I plan to use them for literacy inspiration and guided reading developing comprehension questions. Some are more suitable for secondary school pupils and others are perfect for primary children.


Or you could follow them on Pinterest



In keeping with my recent spooky theme I wanted to share with you one of the best scary, tension-building animations I have ever watched with Year 6.  It really is only suitable for the oldest children in primary or those in secondary as it does make them physically jump…great fun!!


It is a brilliant example of how an author can create tension and a dark mood.  The colours used, the music, the quiet…all powerful tools.


The anticipation throughout is palpable…cut-the-air-with-a-knife stuff.  The narrators use of the word ‘isolated’, the shadows on his wall, the skull in the fish tank, the Jaws ‘teeth’ poster, the use of a model monster to hold down the map, the sudden use of the brooding music, the sentence ‘But I wont be going back to Quetico any time soon…’ set the scene for something dreadful. As an audience you are waiting for the sudden fright. The children can be challenged to spot these signs and consider the impact of the author / creator using them and what they might look like written on a page.  Can the tension be replicated in words – challenge them to have a go.


Knowing that something awful happened to Francis Brandywine puts the audience into a heightened state of tension and alertness…not knowing exactly what that is grips and engages.  A highly effective narrative hook that can be ‘magpied’ in story writing.

What impact does the camera shot suddenly descending into the murky depths of water have on the viewer. It makes me feel as if we are seeing things from something else’s perspective…something that lurks in the lake.  The music changing into an almost mournful ghostly wail at that point and the narrator describing it as ‘one of the deeper lakes’ and ‘a lonely body of water’ and ‘estimated to be over 300 feet deep’ emphasises this fear of the dark endlessness below her boat…Can children spot these clues?  How do they make them feel?  Can this be translated to a paragraph?

Does the sudden whooshing of the camera through the trees make you jump? Then you realise it is nothing…the wind…an animal…your imagination playing tricks.  Francis relaxes…nothing to be scared of…but instinctively we know the horrors of what is to come.  The fact that she stops her boat over the lake’s deepest spot…ahhh!!!!

‘She was feeling very peaceful’, that is the trigger, a signal that something is about to happen.  Would that be a short sentence in writing?  Then it happens…the knocking.  It keeps happening, driving her crazy with fear.  And then…nothing.  Only her journal was found with her frantic jottings and then, on the very last page, written with a muddy finger, were the four words…’I DID KNOCK FIRST’.

Mwahahaha!!!!  Brilliant!  The children could create there own version of Francis’ diary explaining in more detail what happened and how the character felt.  Maybe they could write the story of what really happened to her and reveal what made the knocking sounds.  They could learning this story orally and then create their own with a few innovations.

Please watch it and share!

There are lots of ideas for how to use and make films on the ‘Into Film’ website: