Making comics

I recently saw this resource and thought how useful it would be to teach about story structure but couldn’t quite see my way into how i might start to use it with children. I do, however, remember reading my most favourite book of the year last year – Syllabus by Lynda Barry.  This is the book of her syllabi for imagination/comics/originiality/writing and so, so much  more. I can’t tell you how much i enjoyed it and actually practise some of the things that she sets her students to do.

Some of her ways into drawing and story would really suit introducing children to comics and making full use of the resource offered by Ways with Words, who also have resources linked to comics.

Barry introduces her students to drawing characters as Ivan Brunetti describes. We can all draw circles, triangles and wavy lines and therefore we can all draw characters. Practising drawing them in different positions is really useful and exploring them in different settings very supportive for story-making. Barry includes copying photographs and other people’s drawings/cartoons as ways of looking and moving your arm/hand in different ways. Allow children to do this to find their cartoon characters. A good way to develop this is a Drawing Jam. Fold a piece of paper into 8 rectangles and draw a line across the top of each box to create a space for a heading.  On your piece of paper write in the heading box the name of an occupation or style of person e.g. robbber, demon, superhero etc. Pass the paper on to the person next to you who writes another occupation and so on until all 8 headings have been completed. Take your paper back and then in the spaces underneath you have 1 minute for each box to draw the character in the heading. No stick people allowed. This kind of activity produces a kind of original drawing that is always fantastic.

Ask the children to choose one of the characters from their drawing jam and draw it again but this time on a rectangle of card. Imagine where this character is and draw in the background.  With a partner talk about the sorts of stories that this character is in, what happens to them and what you like about them.

Take 6 more cards and choose from this list to draw on them:

  1. draw a scene that shows the setting for a story
  2. a scene that shows your character in a day to day activity – what an average day is like
  3. a scene that introduces another character
  4. a scene about an object or special trait that your character has
  5. a scene that shows your character engaged in a significant action
  6. something from your character’s childhood
  7. your character talking to someone, trying to persuade them
  8. the climactic scene for your character
  9. what happens a day later to your character
  10. a year later

Order your cards and see how they might fit into the comic layout introduced as the first resource in this post. Talk your story to a parner.  What is needed in the gaps to complete the story. Draw cards to fill in the gaps.

You can now create your comic using the format from Ways with Words.

Do you teach comic making in your class?

 

Books for guided reading

We are frequently asked for suggestions for guided reading as are our wonderful School Library Service so we decided to get together and come up with a list. Who could say no to half a day looking at books? We looked at loads of books and chose some for our list which we have organised by year group but of course there are no hard and fast boundaries.

One of the things that we have decided to do is to say why we have chosen the book, and therefore what is it about the text that is worth discussing. This is not the only thing worth discussing in the book but is a starting point.

To support us with this, we have delved into Doug Lemov’s latest book Reading Reconsidered. Although it is written about secondary age pupils, we found much in it that resonated with us.  We were particularly taken with his ‘reading plagues’ as they summarise the challenges in books that we did not have  name for but often discussed.

1. Archaic text.  We know that texts written some time ago have a different vocabulary and syntax so why on earth would we want children to read books like this?  I think the reason is that they are part of our heritage and culture and are often books that have stood the test of time.  If we don’t introduce children to these books and ways of writing, some children will never meet them.  Take for instance Paddington Bear in Paddington Hits Out by Mchael Bond

‘Do you happen to have my tee handy, Bear?’asked Mr Curry, as he took up his position at the start.

‘Your tea, Mr Curry?’ repeated Paddington. Taken even more by surprise at this sudden request, he reached hastily under his hat in an effort to make amends for his accident, and withdrew a marmalade sandwich.

There is so much in just this small amount of text. There is the knowledge about golf and therefore the wordplay with tee/tea and linking this with ‘the accident’ in the next sentence and vocabulary such as ‘to make amends’ and ‘withdrew’ , The last sentence is a long one with many clauses  starting with a past participle (taken) and can be confusing in terms of who did what and why.

There is not a year group when children should start to read books with this type of langauge. The idea is that as soon as books are read to children and when they start to read books themselves, children come across texts which use archaic language.

2. Non-linear time sequence.  There are  texts which jump backwards and forwards in time and in setting. One example of this is The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo.  The story starts off with a narrator going back in time to his school days and by the end of the first chapter has moved into ‘seeing the lion’ alongside an old lady who he met in the woods.  The story then moves setting to Africa and back further in the old lady’s memory. You can read the start of the story here.  If you asked ‘When is this story set?’ it would be quite a complex answer because the story shifts amongst times and narrators.  These texts are more than flashbacks or flashforwards. Non-lineartime sequences might involve being unclear about when an event took place, moving from a single event in time to multiple moments in time, layers of memory (which is what happens in The Butterfly Lion) and shifts in the rate of time elapsing.

3. Complexity of narrator.  There can be multiple narrators (Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne), unreliable narrators (The True Story of the Three LIttle Pigs by Jon Sciezka) and non-human narrators (Dr Xargle’s book of Earthlets by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross).  If you haven’t come across narrators like these, it can be a very disorientating experience. I remember reading Dr Xargle to a Yr3/4 class and them completely missing that it was an alien describing the babies and couldn’t work out why they didn’t use the ‘right words’.

4. Complexity of story (plot and symbolism).  A story with mulitple plots is obviously harder to follow than one that follows one plot.  Black and White by David Macaulay is a perfect example of this sort of text. Consisting of four stories, it is not clear at the beginning where you should start and whether you should read each one separately or all at the same time and whether they are separate stories or all one story. Also included in this plague are books that have many intertextual links: those stories where characters from other stories pop up. This is quite common at present, particularly in stories about books. One example is  Yours Truly, Goldilocks by Alma Flor Ada where Little Red Riding Hood and Peter Rabbit appear. At an even simpler level The Foggy Foggy Forest by Nick Sharratt has Sleeping Beauty and the Three Bears appearing in it.

5. Resistant text.  Books which are just difficult to read/understand because they need to be or books which have parts that refuse to yield up their meaning.  I have often found The Secret Garden to be quite a resistant text for primary age children yet often find it in guided reading sets.  Sometimes the resistant text can be anticipated and other times it can’t.

It is not that every book in guided reading has to link to one of these plagues, it is just that they can be complications in texts.  See our list of guided reading books here along with our reasons for choosing them.

Knowledge organisers and how we might use them

Michael Tidd’s latest blog post about knowledge organisers is very interesting. I haven’t heard of these before and, like him, I am not a hundred percent convinced that they should/could be used in primary schools. They seem to be used mostly in secondary schools where there is  a strong knowledge-based curriculum. However, I can think of two ways in which they might be used in Primary English:

  1. Teachers could create a knowledge organiser around a grammatical element that the class are learning about. I am thinking here more about KS2 rather than KS1.  As a developmental activity for teams to complete, it would be an excellent tool to bring together understandings and identify areas where there is a need for further staff development. We are, in effect, just re-organising the grammar curriculum but it goes much further than that. I have had a go at creating a knowledge organiser for clauses for Yr6. The benefits of this are that it could be used for revision, sent home for parents to refer to (you may need a parents evening to introduce it and the subject knowledge) and to direct and mark key learning points in a sequence of sessions. It covers all the work from Yr1 where and is introduced right up to Yr6 and this means that gaps can be filled. It would be fascinating to see and compare the chart that they Yr3, Yr4 and Yr5 teachers created for their year groups in the same area. This would go along way to developing consistency of understanding of key elements of learning in grammr. You can see the organiser here. It was struggle to get this all on one A4 sheet – thank goodness for font size 10!
  2. When I looked at the example on Michael’s blog my immediate thought was that it was what children needed to complete when researching and gathering information to write an invent, non-fiction  piece of writing.  Children could be given a blank chart towards the start of the sequence which they could then use at home and during lessons to collect the information they will need to write effectively.  My first worry about the way its use as described by Michael is that if the whole class uses the same one it over-scaffolds writing, ending up with 30 pieces of similar writing. This would be alright at the innovate stage of writing because there you would be showing the class how to use the organiser to support their writing. However, for an assessed piece of writing, I don’t think it meets the spirit of independence as described in the Moderation Guidance documents. But, if children created their own organiser to write about their content of their choice then I think that would meet the idea of independence.

I have found one primary school who have shared their curriculum with parents using knowledge organisers. I particularly like those that include essential vocabulary as it seems to me that we need a much greater emphasis on developing depth and breadth of understanding in this area. Interestingly they don’t have (or haven’t shared) the organisers for their English curriculum.

What do you think about knowledge organisers?

Creating a summary

The 2014 National Curriculum demands in Yr5 and 6 that children learn to summarise. I have for sometime wondered about the need for this but understand that it is a skill often used in academia amongst other places. I have always thought of it more in terms of reading, used to demonstrate understanding of the key ideas or concepts.

As we have been demonstrating and talking about Reciprocal Reading much more recently, I have investigated summarising in more detail in order that we can develop more activities based around it. Much to my delight, it has also meant buying many more children’s books as there is a rich seam of summaries of classics, in particular, out there.  The steps to summarising are:

  1. read and understand the text
  2. identify the main points and key ideas
  3. create your own sentence/sentences to express the information in their own words

Three steps which look quite small but require a lot of readers.

Step 1

This is actually the crux of the matter in reading.  The skills or strategies that we can use to help us understand the text are clarifying and questioning.  Clarifying identifies the parts of the text that are ‘reluctant to yield their meaning’ (Doug Lemov in Reconsidering Reading). Children use the clues in the text along with re-reading, reading on and going back and re-reading slowly to problem-solve and debug the issue.  Questioning where the children generate their own questions helps to identify key bits of information that could be included in a summary.

Step 2

This can be really challenging for children but there are some things that we can teach them.  Firstly, delete trivial information or redundant information or that which is not necessary by actually crossing it out.  This will leave what is deemed important.

Teach children how to use superordinates and/or paraphrasing. Superordinates can be used for lists, e.g dogs, cats and goldfish can be referred to as pets. Paraphrasing refers to the skill of taking some words and using synonyms or other words to refer to key ideas or events. Children can do this by circling words and phrases in the text and then labelling them with a synonyms or putting the ideas into their own words (fewer).

A topic sentence can be identified to support a summary. Not all paragraphs have one so where one is not available, creation of one is a key strategy. This is taught in writing in Yr3 and 4. It is almost impossible to create them in writing if they have not been studied in reading.  They are often more visible in non-fiction and so this might be the first place to find them when teaching and then move into narrative.

Step 3

Now pull together all the words/phrases/ideas and put them into your own words. Another form of paraphrasing.

These summaries can the be presented in a variety of ways. I have found the following books really useful as models of summaries.

unfoldedClassics Unfolded are a fantastic model of summarising. They are based on much longer novels and you wouldn’t start with these but they include a paraphrased couple of sentences for each significant event. Each page has a quote to back up the paraphrasing and an image that an illustrator has created around the text. For children the classics are The Secret Garden and Alice in Wonderland. Children could however, create one of these for any novel you read in guided or independent sessions.

 

 

 

 

 

shorttooThis book is a follow-up to the very successful Short by Kevin Crossley-Holland. The story in this book that I am most interested in is ‘In Your Dreams’. In this story, most words have been deleted apart from the nouns.  Try this on another text to see if it really does yield the main points or key ideas.

 

 

 

babylitThis book contains the nouns or main characters such as the sailors, captain, waves and stars with a small quotation from the original book to back up the choice of word. I love it!

 

 

 

starwars cozyclassicsThese books both work in the same way with just individual words to sum up parts of the story. These are from Cozy Classics including the Star Wars series from the same company. They are 12 worded, felt classics! Which do you think the following story is?

princess

trouble

boy

learn

captain

space

help

garbage

swing

duel

fly

heroes

 

But perhaps the best and the most random is the babylit counting books.

counting babylitcountingpride

These just make me laugh! Who could resist Les Mis for toddlers?

 

 

 

 

 

Have you taught summarising? How did you do it?

 

 

 

Inspired by others.

I recently read several blog posts by @headguruteacher, a secondary school Headteacher who has a fantastic blog about his work. One of the posts that particularly caught my eye was the one that shared the research his school development is based on. It would be a great idea if every school shared theirs so that we could all dip into different research papers and link with those who were endeavouring to develop and embed the ideas.

So in the interests of sharing, I thought I would list the research that we base some of our work on.

  1. For our grammar work, we draw very heavily on Debra Myhill’s research. More than anything, her work has helped us to think about the type and quality of talk that surrounds grammar teaching and learning as well as the idea that it is the impact on writing that is important.
  2. Our work on growth mindsets has been very influenced by Carol Dweck and Jo Boaler (with thanks to the maths team).
  3. The model of CPD that we have found to have a significant effect on the quality of teaching and learning is the lesson study model. I love the way that it is about little tweaks to teaching that can have a significant effect on individual children. I also love the fact that it focuses on children and their learning not the teacher and their performance.
  4. For writing, our favourite piece of research is Transforming Writing which focuses on embedding formative assessment in the writing process. This has had a very real impact on how we teach writing.
  5. In spelling there is not one piece of research that stands out as being the key driver but several. Anyone who has seen our publication No Nonsense Spelling will recognise word study as being one of the key ideas behind it as well as the use of research into the importance of morphemes.
  6. In reading we use a wide range of research.  Reciprocal Reading is a key component of the 2014 national curriculum and is a key tool to be dipped into. We believe guided reading is a key strategy that teachers of reading need to use to meet children’s needs. This document is a really useful summary of the research in this area.

We have also used:

What are the key research papers that you use in your school?

What does it mean to be a writer?

Now that we have finished the end of key stage assessments and results are in, there is time to reflect on what the new assessment arrangements mean.

One of the things that has become clear with the removal of ‘best fit’ is that we need to adapt our understanding of what a  writer is as defined by national assessments. If we consider the Simple View of Reading, there is a very clear understanding that to be a reader you need to have the decoding skills and language comprehension. You are not a reader if you can decode the words but not understand them and nor are you a reader if you can understand words but not decode them.

svor The two elements are necessary to be considered a reader.

The same can now be said of writing.

svofw To be a writer you need to have both composition and effect and accuracy in punctuation and spelling.

Composition and effect is present in the assessment criteria but worded very differently. It is about noun phrases for detail and precision, about atmosphere, about the use of dialogue to show character and managing shifts of formality. One of the things that the exemplification files did do was to show how the quality of the writing is linked to the grammatical devices used by commenting on their impact.

This year has been stressful in terms of not knowing what the assessment would look like at the beginning of the year. Almost every teacher I have spoken to recently has said that they will start next year very differently to the way  they did this year, knowing what they know now.

Is there anything you will do differently in September?

 

 

 

Managing shifts between levels of formality

I have been working with several teachers on the end of KS2 statement

manage shifts between levels of formality through selecting vocabulary precisely and by manipulating grammatical structures

The exemplification files for Leigh and Frankie show some good examples of what this can look like in writing.

  • in narrative they have shown the difference in formality between the story and some of the speech used by characters
  • in an explanation the text is more formal with a much more informal tone when relating the information to the writer’s own life
  • in a newspaper report the formality of the journalists report is contrasted with the informality of the direct and reported speech
  • in a diary different levels of formality are used to emphasise a point
  • in a letter the personal reflection on what will happen is more informal to show the excitement and enthusiasm of the writer

We then went on to think about texts that would model this for the children. One that we had to hand was My Secret War Diary by Flossie Albright – author Marcia Williams.  You can open this book on any page and find some examples of shifts in formality. We happened to open the book on p60 and found diary entries in very informal, spoken language which doesn’t always have subject verb agreement.

Weds 10th July BATTLING FOR BRITAIN

Flipping heck, I’m scared. I don’t want to sleep all alone downstairs no more. The Luftwaffe has begun to attack British Ships in the channel; our pilots spotted dozens of German aircraft dropping bombs on a convy near Dover.  Cook says it’s their invasion tactic to draw British planes into battle and then destroy them … I hopes we got enough planes.

This is then contrasted with a war talk in assembly from Miss Duncan on p61. It is more formal, although it still uses the pronouns you and our but it also contains the passive to distance and separate ‘us’ from the downed pilots who are prisoners. Another good page to use would be p22 and 23 where the informality of the diary entries is contrasted with a more formal newspaper report and within the report there are shifts of formality as well.

Which texts have you used to teach this? Has anyone used a film that would support the teaching of this element?

Teaching spelling – homophones

seven stepsWe are blessed with a language that contains many homophones. I did read somewhere that it was a sign of the sophistication of our language but I can’t find the quote so it may be something I made up to convince someone they were a good thing. They can certainly be the basis of word play.

 

The seriously chased are seldom chaste for long. The seriously chaste are seldom chased for long.

The 2014 National Curriculum does demand that we teach children how to spell a large number of homophones, some of which are near homophones but are seriously challenging. How many adults know when to use affect or effect?

I recently worked with  a couple of NQTs teaching in Yr6 who wanted to know how to teach the difference between affect and effect.  We generated a long list of ideas and then tried to categorise and generalise the ideas behind the activities and came up with a seven step plan. Of course, we then realised that it could be used to teach the spellings of any homophones.

You can find our seven step plan here.  You do not always need all seven steps and nor do you always need to do them in the order that we have listed here.

Do you have any good resources you could share to teach children how to make choices about the homophones they use?

Christmas Writing

I have to say that it is a bumper year for great christmas adverts .  I am in love with Mog and his christmas calamity and think it beats the John Lewis advert hands down. I do think that the John Lewis advert and Baboon on the Moon are very similar.
Here is my list of favourite christmas adverts that would be great to use to support writing and as a little present, there are three teaching sequences now available to go with them – one for Yr1/2, one for Yr3/4 and one for Yr5/6.

mogThis is such a fun story where a chain of events lead to Mog escaping quickly from the kitchen, which is in ruins.  I love the expressions on Mog’s face as he moves through the catastrophe.  We have a sequence for Yrs 3 and 4 based on this advert.

 

mononthemoonThis is a great advert, which if Mog wasn’t around would be my favourite this year.  It tells the story of a man (grandpa) far away and his loneliness.  The little girl goes to endless trouble to get in contact with him and because this is Christmas, she manages it. We have a sequence for Yrs1 and 2 based on this advert and Baboon on themoon . Although the sequence moves onto invented writing, you could stop at the end of the innovate stage. Download the sequence at www.babcock-education.co.uk/ldp/literacy .

spanishlotto My third favourite christmas ad is the spanish lottery advert which tells about a man who goes to work every day in a rather boring job and the things he does to pass the time. The staff then win the lottery and he thinks he is not included. But it’s christmas so I am sure you can guess the ending.  We have  a sequence for Yrs5 and 6 based on this advert at www.babcock-education.co.uk/ldp/literacy

 

kwikfitMy final ad is one from KwikFit  just for the joy of Christmas and the magic of Santa Claus for children. I love the reindeer nose peeking out at the end. www.babcock-education.co.uk/ldp/literacy is where it can be found.

 

 

Do you have a favourite Christmas ad to support writing that we should know about?

 

 

 

KS1 Assessment and reporting arrangements

The assessment and reporting arrangements (ARA) are now out for KS1 here. They are in a very different format and if you are not familiar with the ARA then it will be difficult to know what to search for. Below I have summarised what is in each section so that at the very least you can search for a section and read everything about , missing nothing!

Section 1 Introduction – how to use the format that the manual is in.

Section 2 – Key changes. This is a very brief overview of the changes to the tests in 2016.

Section 3 Key dates.

Section 4 National curriculum tests. In this section you will find more detail about the tests, sample materials, test frameworks, test orders, modified materials and delivery of test materials.

section 5 Participation in tests. This section is interesting because on the video released by the STA it states that all pupils should have access to paper 2 in reading but here it states that pupils who are working below the standards of the test do not need to take it.  It suggests that a sample paper is used to inform decisions about working below the test standard. Headteachers will need to write a report about any pupil not taking the test, explaining why, refering to actions to support the pupils, identify procedures used to analyse and monitor the pupil’s needs, indicate where the information is recorded and identify whether this is a long or short term circumstance.

Section 6 Test administration. Schools can undertake the tests anytime in May. Details are included about pupils who move school during May.

Section 7 Phonics screening check.

Section 8 Teacher assessment. Moderation information is still not available yet so there will be updates to this document once this has been finalised. This section also details pupils working below the standard of the national curriuclum, what happens when pupils change schools and reporting results at the end of KS1.

Section 9 Reporting to parents. This details what reports must contain and detail about RE.

Section 10 Keeping and maintaining records.

Section 11 Legal requirements and responsibilities. Of particular interest will be the reponsibilities of Heads, teachers and governors.

There will be a PDF version available in October.

Happy reading.