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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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.

giant poster

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

 

Literacy difficulties…

I am very lucky to teach a small group of lower KS2 children a few times a week for an hour.  We have an absolute ball!!  These children really struggle to access the curriculum in class as they have a variety of issues that means literacy is a huge struggle.  They are working way below their age related expectations and sometimes find focusing on tasks for an extended period challenging.

I say I am lucky because these children are full of joy, enthusiasm and awe.  They make me smile, they make me laugh and sometimes they make me cry….

Homemade Moon Sand Recipe:

I have learned so much from them in the brief time I have spent with them.  I have had to be creative in ways I was not familiar.  I have spent more time harassing my EYFS leader for resources and ideas than she is comfortable with….and I am now a playdough queen. For someone who was firmly rooted in Year 6 this has been a glorious revelation!

The key problems they all have are letter formation, pencil grip, spelling and stamina.  This means that I do lots and lots of fine motor development activities. I set my room up with focused areas of provision.  When I first watched these children use playdough I realised some could not roll it or ball it and did not have strength or dexterity in their fingers.  I now challenge them daily with doughs of different textures and watch them carefully to see the precise movements they struggle with adapting my planning accordingly.

How to add color and scent to water beads for seasonal and themed sensory play:

My current favourite finger gym activity is using water beads and tweezers…the frog spawn needs putting back in the pond.  I have to use EYFS activites with a KS2 slant…really challenging!

As a result of my discoveries working with this group we have now developed finger gym activities throughout KS1 and lower KS2 – we keep them in special boxes and they can be taken out and used as a challenge at any time.  Handwriting has always been a big issue in school but we had not worked out an effective way to tackle it – I think we had taken the approach of do more writing to get better at it (this never worked for some), but we hadn’t realised the extent of their fine motor issues, even into upper KS2.

Peg board fine motor control.:

I have also built in purposeful cutting and colouring activities.  We made card jungle creatures before we labelled them, we cut out paper plate frogs before we drew their life cycle….I found that they really struggle with using scissors so we use them as often as possible, talking about they best way to hold them.  We draw things or make models (Lego is good and fiddly) before we write about them. Practise makes perfect.

AWESOME Frog craft idea for an F is frog lesson to use with your preschoolers.:

http://www.littlelettercompany.co.uk

I teach spelling through multi-sensory approaches – glitter trays with fine paint brushes, pipe-cleaners, dough, silver foil….We learn key words and vocabulary that will help with topic work back in class. Through assessments I realised that the children did not know all the letter sounds or names and were not clear which was which.  We use alphabet arcs daily for ten minutes to teach the alphabetic order and letter names and sounds.  Doing these kinds of challenges against the clock seems to really motivate.

Magnetic Rainbow Arc

http://www.crossboweducation.com/shop-now/spelling-teaching-resources/spelling-teaching-resources-magnetic-resources/magnetic-rainbow-arc

Crossbow education have lots of lovely resources to support literacy difficulties.

Here is a brief explanation of the basic activity – this can be built on and challenge added.

http://www.fcrr.org/studentactivities/F_001a.pdf

I have also focused on whole word recognition and knowledge of high frequency words – phonics often does not work for these children.  They can’t blend as they struggle to remember or hear beyond initial and final sounds.  We are working on ‘crashing’ sounds together.

Talk for Writing works beautifully as it gives these children the internal structures of stories and various non-fiction text types.  They tend to take longer to learn a text, but once they have they love to retell it, playing and over emphasising their favourite words and phrases.

Our latest text was ‘The Tadpole’s Promise’.

Brilliant for life cycles and explanations.  The ending made them laugh and was their favourite bit to retell.  We did the whole story in a very dramatic fashion, pretending to sob when the tadpole breaks the caterpillar’s heart, with hilarious results….but they did not forget the story!!!

We don’t have a written outcome everyday.  It is too difficult.  We work up to writing with talking, oral retelling, learning key words, organising texts, labelling, writing sentence strips and finally using graphic organisers to support their final piece of writing.  I always display their work.  Their pride at seeing it on the wall is tangible.

The graphic organiser will contain images and key words plus explicit instructions and objectives.  I always give them lines to write on in the organiser too.  You can see lots of examples on pinterest but it does not take long to create one and you can then adapt them very easily each time you use it.

Finally,  I have learned to be as precise with my language as possible..and to never assume! Whilst revising the key information about an elephant’s diet I reminded them about eating the outside part of tree branches (bark) ‘Remember, it is like the noise a dog makes,’ to which the response was resoundingly ‘Woof!’….I have lots to learn!

 

 

 

Grammar and spelling ideas to wake up writing…

Capture

I recently delivered some SPaG training (Spelling, punctuation and grammar) for both NQTs and experienced staff, which was all too necessary due to the fact that in the UK the KS2 SPaG test has changed AGAIN to include far more complex objectives.  In fact, as a child of the 70s grammar was something of a mystery to me…I seem to remember school was somewhere I enjoyed going to play, sing and make things.  Recently I find myself constantly have to ‘up-skill’ just so I can keep teachers updated.

I am becoming more concerned that instead of us teaching grammar and punctuation to allow children to write more effectively we are simply preparing them for tests.  This is really rather unavoidable when the subjunctive is on the list of things to learn….!!!!!  So instead of delighting in the beauty of the language and playing and experimenting with words and phrases grammar can become dull, dry and time to turn off.

Some of the ideas I shared in my training sessions are, hopefully, a way to shake things up and embed and excite.

Image from http://properenglishusage.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/36a1e67c169cc8f7fcd0879a0e73e180.jpg?w=300&h=210.:

Would you pass your SATs in 2016?

http://www.sats2016.co.uk/think-youd-pass-your-sats-in-2016/

Go on, try it.  The staff were shocked.  Especially those who do not teach the top end of KS2.

Multi-sensory spelling…

When it comes to spelling make it multi-sensory. I have a box full of pipe-cleaners, glitter trays, play-dough, silver foil…anything that can be used to make or feel words. Repetition is also key.

 

  • Create a rainbow (use a different colour for each letter)
  • Drill across the page
  • Fill the page
  • Beat the clock

Always make the children say the letter name or sound as they write it out.  Find words in words, emphasise it Wed -nes – day…use magnetic letters.  The more active the more effective.

Investigate words…

word Alan Peat’s Word Games is really useful.

wordsTry ‘Teachers pay Teachers’ for some fantastic word investigation mats.  They are free and created by Jen Bengel.

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Vocabulary-Placemat-Printable-Graphic-Organizer-for-Learning-New-Words-329865

knowing

What about creating a display were children can place their spellings in the box that reflects their knowledge of the words….over the week they should gradually all move into the green zone!

I always find that the Babcock Consultants’ website has really good ideas for what spellings to teach, when to teach them and how.  They also have links to old National Strategy resources such as Spelling Bank, that are really useful.

http://www.babcock-education.co.uk/ldp/v.asp?rootid=17&depth=3&level1=17&level2=391&level3=872&folderid=872&level2id=391

Grammar…

As a school we use Alan Peat’s ‘Exciting Sentences’ app and books.  They are fantastically simple sentence types to introduce throughout school.  It ensures that year after year there is consistency in language used to describe sentence types and that there is progress across the key stages.  If you ever get chance to attend any of Alan’s training grab it with both hands.  The man is hugely relevant and is a brilliant presenter.

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There are Alan Peat sentence type posters on TES and videos on Youtube.  His punctuation app is brilliant too.

I love using film extracts as a stimulus to model sentences.  I always use The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to support teaching quest myths.  I have used this clip for fronted adverbial sentences…’Gently cradling the ring, Bilbo wept.’

Again, I highly recommend using The Literacy Shed for hundreds of fantastic film clips.

http://www.literacyshed.com/

Pobble is another fantastic resource that has daily grammar activities to go with exciting pictures.  The story ideas are brilliant for writing too.

http://pobble365.com/flying/

Grammar Puss for Parents has lovely explanations to support home learning, with some super activities.

http://grammarpussforparents.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/happy-families-present-and-past.html

The one above addresses the past progressive verb form.

I like to use music wherever possible…

This is a fun figurative language song.

Lots of songs have figurative language in them the fun is getting the children to listen and spot it!  The one above contains hyperbole.

I also enjoy using TESSpag.  This resource costs £9.99 for a year and has loads of interactive quizzes (great for up-skilling adults as it goes right up to Secondary level), plus explanatory powerpoints.

 

On the theme of tough concepts this is the best way I have found to explain the subjunctive.  Basically, Skee-Lo got it wrong but Beyonce got it right…it should be ‘If I were…’ not ‘If I was…’!!!

The most important points I want to make are that grammar should be embedded and it should be exciting and playful…Enjoy!!

 

 

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.

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/

 

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!