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?

 

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?

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?

 

 

 

Yr2 spelling in the new curriculum

Some of you might have guessed that Becca and I are still working.  We will stop on Friday but here is tonight’s offering.  Spelling in Yr2.

With the new curriculum we have come to realise that phase 6 (in Letters and Sounds) is probably no longer relevant. Our current advice is that Yr1 pupils need to secure phase 5 and then Yr2 need to start a spelling programme.  And so with that in mind we have written a session by session plan.  It starts off with daily spelling and moves in the summer term to spelling 5 times over a fortnight to come in to line with Yr3 and KS2. However, if your cohort is not great at spelling you might need to continue daily spelling all year and Yr3 might need to start with daily spelling in the first term and then reduce the amount.

We have updated the spelling pathway to include Yr2

You will find the overview and what to teach each session available here.

Small school spelling programme

We have had our spelling programme on the website for a couple of terms now for individual and mixed age classes.  However, like all large rural counties, we have a significant number of whole KS2 classes in schools.  So just for you, we have written a two year rolling programme for whole KS2 classes. To start off with there is a pathway through the programme. This is then followed by a session by session overview.

Year 1 is made up of Yr3 and 5 spelling programme and year 2 consists of Yr4 and 6.  Over the four years you will teach year 1, year 2, year 1 and year 2.  We have planned it like this because schools will get new children in at some point during the four years so if you do a four year programme there could be gaps for those children.

What you will need to do is make notes about which parts the children do really well and which will need more emphasis when you repeat the year again.  For all years you will need to differentiate the sessions by the words that you use with groups of children.  For instance, we have given you a range of homophones to choose from.  Some children will only have a few of the more common ones and others will  be working with those that have more challenging spellings.

Find the pathway and session overviews here.

Assessing without levels

As we move towards a life without levels, all sorts of providers are moving to offer you the solution to this challenge. However, there are a few things which we need to bear in mind when deciding how we will assess in the future.  These can be summarised as:

  1. Whatever we adopt now will need to change in the future when the performance descriptors become available for KS1 in the autumn term and KS2 later on.
  2. Overtime we will develop an understanding of expectations for year groups that are not end of KS in order to make judgements about whether children are on track or not to achieve end of KS expectations.  Again systems will need to be flexible enough to allow this to happen.
  3. We don’t know what language will be used to report at the end of key stages and some systems may want to report this at the end of each year.  This will develop over time.
  4. Tracking is not the same as assessing.  It will be easier to sort your assessment and then find a tracking system rather than choosing a tracking system which determines your assessment.
  5. We  need a range of ways of assessing.  The report into reading in Stoke on Trent, Ready to Read?, talks about triangulating data/evidence and many schools will want to use a range of data to come to a judgement.  I think there is a real danger in using only one system at the beginning stages of new systems. They are all so untried and no one wants to find that their assessment does not align with the new expectations.

So we too must throw our hats into the ring and say that we have developed a system for assessing reading and writing.  It is a very draft set of documents because we do not have all the information that we need to complete the work.  We have taken statements from the NAHT key performance indicators, test frameworks for KS1 and 2 and a few things from APP that are still relevant.

The documents operate in an APP style in that they are for periodic assessment and are designed to be used with a range of evidence.  We would really welcome feedback from those who have used them in their classrooms.  We will write more about them nearer the start of the new term.

Resources for writing persuasive texts

We are frequently asked for good texts to use as models for persuasive writing.  We don’t have any books on our list of texts that teach which are persuasive because that is not the form that these texts come in.  However, this morning I received two different types of persuasive texts through the post.  The first is from the British Legion asking for money using  the 70th annniversary of D-Day as a focus.

dday

There is a letter with the ‘call to action’ explaining how you can donate money and why.  There is a leaflet which contains four stories of unsurpassed bravery.  Making an emotional link with people is a very powerful persuasive device and this leaflet does it really well. Finally there is a small union jack leaflet which has space on the back for you write a message of thanks to the D-Day heroes.  This is returned in the envelope provided with your donation.  This pack would make a great model for Yr6 pupils to create their own around something that they feel strongly about.

The second is a brochure for cars from BMW and how easily they can be purchased for just a small amount each month. It would suit Yrs 3 and 4 where they could create a persuasive leaflet about pets, toys or  new PE equipment they would like in school.

cars2

 

There are also some good resources online.  Here are some of the ones that I have used recently:

What are your favourite resources for persuasion?

Connected learning in grammar

Many people will be aware of Haylock and Cockburn’s connective model of learning in mathematics.  It is based on the idea that a developing

mathsconnective understanding is constructed through making connections between what we already know/experience and new knowledge and experiences.

If we cannot make connections then we have to resort to trying to learn by rote. The more connected are our experiences, the more secure and the more useful is the learning. (Haylock with Thangata)

The four aspects of this diagram are linked by arrows in all directions which represent the talk that is the means by which children make the connections.  When reading this, I was struck by the similarity with grammar teaching and learning.  Debra Myhill’s literature reveiw of grammar teaching identified elements necessary for effective learning.  Myhill talks about looking at grammar in context, offering the children patterns or models to base their ideas around.  Without this, grammar becomes a very abstract idea and leads to misunderstandings.  In very simplified terms this can be shown by the fact that when looking at word classes we don’t say that  a word belongs to a particular word class, e.g light is a noun.  It could be used as a verb, noun or adjective depending upon the context it is in.

The language in the model is about the technical terminology so we call a verb a verb rather than a doing word.  This means that when children are talking and investigating a particular aspect of grammar we are using the terminology and actively encouraging them to name it in their talk,  not as rote learning but as a way of describing what they are doing and what they are trying to achieve.

The images is an interesting aspect because we don’t have images for grammar but we could!  The idea behind our Sentence Toolkit is that for each element we have a real tool that provides a way of linking what can sometimes be quite an absract idea to a concrete one.  For example, we use a tape measure for expanded noun phrases and as we model ways of making noun phrases, we stretch our tape measure.  This then brings in the fourth element which is an action.  Here the stretching symbolises what is happening when we modify the nouns.  Hammering our fist into our palm when we hear verbs reflects the necessity for a verb in a sentence and indicates where it is.

gapsconnectionsAll of this brings us to our connective model of grammar learning.  We have the context, terminology, symbol and action all connected by talk.  Without all the elements, the connections will be shallower and the learning less useful to the children.

It provides us with a useful model that enables us to build rich learning experiences for children that will help them develop their writing and pass the grammar test.