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 .

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


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. is where it can be found.



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




My new favourite book

I don’t know what I would do with out Devon School Library Service.  I say ‘Oooh. Have you got a copy of such and such?  I’d really like to have a look at it.’  And if they haven’t got a copy they get one for me.  Which is how I came to have the wonderful little red hood by Marjolaine Leray.  (It’s not the greatest book for capital letters and punctation – so yes I have got the title right!)  From reading the inside of the front cover, this book was originally published in France under the title un petit chaperon rouge, and there were no capital letters in that title either.

The story of little red  hood is told through the dialogue between little red hood and the wolf although it has an alternative ending.  I don’t remember the wolf having stinky breath in any of the other versions of this story.  It is however true to the idea that little red hood overcomes the wolf in the end.

But what I really love about this book is the visual appeal.  The illustrations are all in red and black, as is the dialogue,  and little red hood looks like she came out of a red pencil scribble on the front cover.  There is such a simplicity here and yet the range of emotions portrayed through the tilt of the head or the drooping of the shoulders is enormous.  Some of the illustrations are contained within one page of a double page spread and others start on one page and finish on the other side of the spread all pointing or focusing in on little red hood in a threatening manner.

The illustrations have a very animatic quality and I can picture this book as a short animation.  The colour palette reminds me of Le Queue de la Souris below although where there is black in this animation, there is white in the book.

I think this book would be a wonderful way to tell other similar traditional stories.  Can you tell the story of the three little pigs just through the dialogue between the wolf and the third pig?  What colours would you use?  How could you represent the wolf and the pig?

I have of course had to buy my own version of the book.

What’s your favourite book at the moment?

Harold, the purple crayon and dipdap

One of my favourite books for the fantasy unit in Yr1 is Harold and the Purple Crayon.  It follows a fairly popular tradition in children’s fiction where the pencil crayon draws the character into trouble and out of it again and again.  Anthony Browne’s Bear Hunt did the same thing as did Doodling Daniel.

The book lends itself to children doodling or drawing their own stories on large sheets of paper telling the story as they draw.  In fact the doodles become the story plan.

But I also think this type of book links well to animation.  In fact there is a 1950s animation of the book, see below, but what I  think it links best to is the wonderful CBeebies animation DipDap.  Children could explore drawing lines bit by bit and capturing this using animation software.  They could then choose some suitable music to go with the animation.

Getting Going Slowly

I haven’t written a blog post since the end of the summer term and strangely it is taking me a long time to get going and back into the swing of blogging.  I suspect it is because we are so busy at the moment but really that is a poor excuse because we are always busy.

So what have we been up to?  Well  our number 1 piece of news is that we managed to get ourselves onto the government approved list of phonics trainers.  What that means is that the training we offer through their catalogue (out on the 16th Sept) will be match funded meaning that schools pay half price!  Our training is based around Letters and Sounds.

We have also been keeping up with new ideas and tools to support learning in literacy.  Tim Rylands recently shared the wonderful site Little Bird Tales which is so easy to use and designed specifically for children. I’m looking forward to using this with children.   Pie Corbett has a new book out, Evidence of Dragons, which is just waiting for a class of children.  And talking of dragons we also came across the wonderful site about dragonese as a precursor to the How to Train Your Dragon 2 film.  The site has a book of dragons which is a great model that children could imitate.

A great film that can be used as a text in literacy particularly the Yr5 unit, film narrative, is Paraphernalia.  We are currently using this in some of our Talk for Writing training in schools.

It’s good to be back!

Animation with children in the foundation stage

It is always the same.  Share an idea and get an even better idea back!

foggyforestI have been investigating Lotte Reiniger films recently and thinking about how they can be used in the classroom.  Whilst talking about the films to two colleagues, they both mentioned how similar they were to Nick Sharratt’s book The Foggy Foggy Forest.

The book makes an excellent link with the film through the use of silhouettes.

It would be great over the course of a few days  to show the children one or two Reiniger films such as Cinderella (do watch the animation through yourself as they draw heavily on the Grimm’s versions of the tales) and then read the book following the clues to discover who is in the picture.   You could then show children how to animate one of the characters from the book.

Enlarge one of the silhouette pictures such as the fairy bouncing on the trampoline or the witch on her broomstick..  Cut out the fairy and the trampoline and place under a camera linked to animation software.  Zu3d would be good for reception children.  Show the children how to take 12 shots to begin with and then 1 shot every time you move her.  Move her up slowly and then back down slowly, capturing the shots.  Play back what you have captured and discuss how smooth it is, whether your hands are in the shots or not.  If necessary create another bounce and watch back again.

Once you have a bounce that you like, ask the children how many bounces you would like the fairy to do and copy and paste your shots ending with 12 shots of her on the trampoline.

This would need to be modelled for the children and then they would need some support but the equipment and props can be set up in the classroom and left available for children to use.

Do you know of any other books that link well with animations?  If do do let me know about them and thanks Becca and Nicola for the idea!

Author Study – Animator Study

lotte 1I have written before about the the authors that would be great to study in the authors and texts block that Yr6 have. Now I want to increase the variety or range of  suitable authors by adding an animator to the list of suitable authors – Lotte Reiniger.

Lotte Reiniger lived from 1899 – 1981 and in that time produced a great body of work in silhouette animation, something that is very accessible to children.  She also concentrated on traditional stories such as Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk.  I particularly like the animations that she created for the Post Office.

One of the best videos is The Art of Lotte Reiniger because it shows so clearly the process she goes through to animate which would be great to share with children.  There may be a use for those obsolete OHPs in this type of animation as well!

The characters are rounded and archetypal and and the sound tracks generally consist of music and voice over, again something that it is possible for children to emulate.

There are several books that are illustrated through silhouette illustrations, lottedvdmost notably Jan Pienkowski.  I think his fairy tales book would be a fantastic to include in this unit because fairy tales were such a huge part of Lotte Reiniger’s work.

Lotte Reiniger’s work can be seen on our YouTube channel, on Daily  Motion and can be purchased on DVD from the BF!.

I am in the process of writing a teaching sequence based on this unit of work and Lotte Reiniger and will share it when it is ready.

Progression in Animation – take 2

DSC00626We had a wonderful day on Monday at our Animation conference.  Oscar Stringer and Helen came along to show us how to animate and we used the wonderful software Zu3D and Hue webcams.  You can see the animations that the teachers made here.

One of the things that I didn’t get time to share on the day was a draft progression in animation.  I  have tried to write this previously but as time goes on, you look back at it and realise that it is wrong.

So here goes for take 2.  This time I have taken the headings emergent, DSC00627developing, experienced and expert as  has been done in the great book Beyond Words: Developing children’s understanding of multimodal texts.

Once again I must stress that this is a working idea and is not the final outcome.


  • take turns to speak and ensure everyone contributes
  • explain their views and listen to others and agree next steps
  • create short, simple texts making adventurous choices
  • combine images and sounds
  • reflect on own work
  • plans are focused on images and are not always referred to when animating


  • organise roles and take on different roles, actively including others
  • distribute tasks and check progress
  • create texts with a beginning, middle and end
  • show imagination through humour, atmosphere and suspense
  • choose and combine images and sound for particular effects
  • if used, voice over is clear and well-paced
  • reflect critically on own work
  • planning acknowledges image, sound, time and number of shots


  • plan and manage a group overtime
  • understand different ways to take the lead
  • understand and use a variety of ways to criticise and respond to criticism
  • vary the pace and develop viewpoint
  • create multi-layered texts
  • use a range of techniques to engage the viewer
  • integrate sounds and images for different purposes
  • where appropriate, layers of sound are used
  • planning is an integral aspect of animating containing all relevant information


  • adopt a range of roles when needed
  • acknowledge others’ views and adapt/modify own views in light of what they say
  • use and experiment with a range of devices to hold the viewer’s interest
  • develop pace and emphasis
  • use terms appropriate for critical analysis
  • entertain and interest viewers
  • where appropriate, create animations that are open to interpretation
  • planning drives the creation of the animation

What have I missed out and what doesn’t fit with what you know about children animating?

Animated Learning

On Wednesday, the Persistence of Vision group met for the last time.  As usual we shared our thoughts about the animation work that had been going on in the classrooms and looked at the animations that the children had produced.  Having made 3 animations throughout the year we are now starting to become much more aware of what progression might look like and continue to be delighted by what children can do when given the opportunity.

One of the things that you will notice with this group of animations is that the teachers have moved away from 3D animation.  There are a variety of reasons for this based around the dexterity that the children need to create and manipulate the models successfully.  It was also felt that the use of shapes provides a constraint which encourages the children to be creative in their problem solving approaches.  In the Penguin animations made by Yr2 children the teacher photocopied an image from the internet for the background – the low tech way of greenscreening!  Block Posters is a great site for uploading images and getting print outs in sections.  Much easier than using the photocopier. The children created the kennings and then animated their ideas around them.  To see all four visit our Vimeo channel

Penguin 3 from Gail West on Vimeo.

Linking to this creative approach to problem solving, one class were looking at the use of water in religion and decided to link this to their literacy.  The children wrote snippets of poetry around water and then animated their ideas.  What I am interested in this series is the way in which the children have dealt with water and the different ways they have animated it.  My favourite is Who Let the Bubbles Out?  This series were made by Yr 4 children.

Who let the bubbles out! from Matty Dawe on Vimeo.

Becasue each of the animations that we have made are linked to poetry, one aspect that we discussed in detail is the importance of the poem chosen for literacy.  Each of the teachers talked about making a much more considered choice based around the images suggested in the poem which is not how they would have approached their decision making previously.  The next animation was made by a group looking at Bluebottle by Judith Nicholls on the wonderful Poetry Archive. I love the way they have represented the lord of the flies and the way the wings change position as the fly dives.  In fact flying is not an easy thing to represent in animation and the children have handled it well.

Bluebottle_Group2 from Stokenham School on Vimeo.

One aspect of progression that has become apparant is that children are now starting to think about how to animate much more complicated aspects such as water and flying.  They are also experimenting with the way in which shapes can suggest character or objects whic in writing we would call showing writing as opposed to telling writing.

This has been an exciting project to be part of  and one which will linger a long time in my work.  I have to leave with the last thought from one of the teachers involved

I can’t imagine doing poetry next year without animation.  It would seem like something was missing.

Great Video for Literacy Classrooms

I have recently become much more aware of the vast number of resources on YouTube that can be used in a primary classroom. YouTube is blocked from the majority of schools meaning that downloading is the only answer if you want to use something from the site.

My latest finds are Snap and Storytime.   Snap from LequeaxRoberto is a great short movie of a chase.  And aren’t chase scenes hard to write whether you focus on the person/object doing the chasing or being chased.  To use this film watch it through several times so that the children bocome familiar with it and then divide the class into two.  Half watch the person being chased and half watch the chaser.  Generate words and phrases to describe what they see in the chase, the movement of the body, what the chase is passing, the sounds etc.  Now use these ideas to create one or two paragraphs to describe a chase.

Storytime is an advert from The Calgary Public Library.  Because of some of the titles you can’t show this clip in the classroom but it would be a great idea to make your own out of titles in the school/class library.  Children would get to know more about what is in the library and would also have the opportunity to invent stories that incorporate the titles.  A great way of developing the inventing part of Talk for Writing.

To see more video that we think can be used in the classroom visit our YouTube channel – Primary Literacy

Animations for Literacy

I have been on a hunt for online animations to use in Literacy teaching and have come across some fantastic ones.  They are all available on YouTube and sometimes on other hosting sites as well. The easiest way to use the animations is to download them.

My all time favourite has to be Father and Daughter by Michael Dudok de Wit.  You can also see it here.

Oktapodi directed by Julien Bocabeille and Francois-Xavier Chanioux made me laugh out loud.  It reminds me of Finding Nemo.  See it here and if you can’t access YouTube try here.

I am becoming a little obsessed with animations made using sticky notes.  Yellow Sticky Notes by Jeff Chiba Stearn is wonderful.  Thi s would be a more interesting outcome for the Yr6 unit on biography and autobiography.

To see all the animations that I am collecting go to our YouTube channel and subscribe so that you are notified when new video is added.