Using Scooby Doo in Literacy

scoobyWe have been recommending Scooby Doo for some time in our texts that teach lists where adventure or mystery are taught.  The cartoon clearly follows an overcoming the monster archetype and the characters are stock characters.  They don’t change or develop, always playing the same role.  These elements are what make it an excellent text that teaches for Yr3 pupils.

Well now we can add gaming to the mix with The Temple of the Lost Souls.  This game sees Shaggy and Scooby Doo searching for the hottest chilli in the world to use in their cooking, and in the process trapping a monster.  The game would lend itself to creating a comic to tell the story.  This will allow children to choose the frames to represent the pace of the ‘story’ and to add key aspects in text.  For a walkthrough of the game see this example.

For a great description of engaging boys (and girls) in writing there is a section in “I know what I want to writei know now!” Engaging Boys (and Girls) through a Multimodal Approach by Petula Bhojwani, Bill Lord and Cath Wilkes that explores making comic strips based on film.  Using comic strips based on games allows children to develop structure and theidea of key events.  Using comic strips based on film allows children to develop the notion of character and reactions to events which are not always present in gaming.

What do you like about writing?

I talked to a group of boys today about writing and how they felt about it.  Their responses were perceptive and showed a way forward for those of us working with them.

What do you like to write about?

This brought up the usual things such as aliens, the future, dragons and comic heroes.  When I suggested that they could make comics on the web they didn’t really believe me.  My favourite place to do this at the moment is ArtisanCam’s Super Hero Comic Maker.

The group wanted the freedom to write about what they were interested in and it seems to me that this is one place where blogging could be useful.  If we introduce children to blogs and start to comment on them  we will eventually create a blogging community within the classroom.  Then we can talk about the different types of blog and the children can write about what interests them.

What helps you to write?

Here the boys were adamant that they needed to ‘do’ things and then write about them.  I would not dispute this fact and many teachers are actively engaged in providing first hand experiences for the class.  But how do we move children on from this to being able to write about the thoughts and ideas that are in their heads rather than those that they have directly experienced?  Pie Corbett has some examples of developing the ‘seeing’ inside your head and doing that ‘mad stary thing’ where you focus your concentration on the images in your head and find words to describe them.

These ideas will certainly give us something to think about as we plan the next few weeks literacy sessions.  What do your class think about writing and what do they like to write about most?

Whilst I was looking for the comic url I came across the picture book maker. This is fantastic.

Boys Writing Project – lesson study CPD

We launched our boys writing project today.  It was a good morning where we explored some of the ideas that might be investigated in the classroom.


We are using the lesson study model of CPD for this project.  I first read about lessons study in a wonderful book, The Teaching Gap by James Stigler and James Hiebert.  The researchers compared maths teaching practices in Japan, Germany and America in order to look at teaching and how to improve it.  Part of their argument is that teaching is a cultural activity determined by our beliefs and habits and that these are stable and not easily changed particularly when the system is so complex.  And teaching is complex.  They also argue that in trying to accomplish too much we may well have sacrificed opportunities for small, cummulative improvements.

Japan however, gives great value to small improvements. Lesson study is based upon long-term, continuous improvement, maintains a focus on pupil learning, focuses on improving teaching in context and is collaborative.  Teachers who participate in lesson study see themselves as contributing to the development and knowledge about teaching as well as their own professional development.

We have slightly adapted the model to suit our cirucmstances but are uisng the plan, teach, observe and review structure of the Japanese model.

  • Plan – we are working in a  team of 3, 2 teachers and 1 consultant and together will plan a lesson. this lesson will be anchored within a teaching sequence.   We will be thinking about the barriers to learning for the boys and how we might overcome them.  Because we have all planned it, this lesson belongs to no-one thus taking the focus off any one teacher.  We may well have done some reading of research into boys writing  to inform us and provide some ideas to trial.
  • Teach – one of us will teach the lesson or part of a lesson.
  • Observe – the other two will observe the children, in this case boys, making notes about their behaviours, learning and difficulties
  • Review – finally we will discuss our observations of the learning in detail, what worked, what didn’t and why. Time will be then spent thinking about how what we now know will impact on the next lesson.
  • And finally teachers share what they have learnt.  We have set up a blog for teachers to discuss their learning with others in the project.  This is private at the moment because only 1 person out of the 30 people present has blogged before.  As confidence grows we will share some of the posts and learning on this blog.

We are looking for those small steps in learning and change in practice that are sustainable.  After all , I am sure you know the saying ‘When a butterfly flaps its wings in…..’

English at the Crossroads

I recently read English at the Crossroads, OFSTED’s latest publication about English.  There are some  interesting statements about the use of ICT in English with the main thrust being that the most effective schools are the ones that  recognised  ICT had fundamentally altered reading and writing.  As technology changes so do the literacy needs of the children.

As we are just about to launch into a project focusing on boys and writing, these thoughts are particularly pertinent to us.  From the research into boys’ writing we have drawn out some common points that seem to have an effect upon their writing and then thought about the sorts of ICT that might support in that area.

Working collaboratively – tools that will support this way of working would be wikis, Etherpad, myWebspiration and Google docs.

Readers responding to writing, providing feedback blogging, use of a visualiser and email

Presenting work in different waysNews generator, Glogster, Prezi, Jing, Xtranormal and piclits.  There are also a growing number of sites where you can choose an image and incorporate your own text on it.  These would be useful for younger children who are writing captions or labels or children who will not write much.

Planning MyWebspirations, Photostory 3 and some 2Simple software such as 2Create or 2Create a Story

Bridging writing between home and school – blogs and wikis.

Writing as an expert – blogging, creating own wikipedia and creating own websites.  If you know of a safe, free place where children can create a website please let me know.

Retelling texts prior to writing Audacity, Gcast and digital dictaphones.

Note collecting Edmodo, Wallwisher, MyWebspiration and Evernote for older children.

Visual literacy – there are so many suggestions for creating books with images plus the use of film and computer games.  There is also the area of graphica and creating comics and cartoon strips online.

What have I missed out?

Linked posts: Digital Storytelling and blogging