The High Street by Alice Melvin

My copy of The High Street arrived on Christmas Eve so I had to wait a while to settle down and enjoy it.  I was not disappointed.  This is a book of lists (Yr1 teachers will be pleased to hear) and visits to the local shops.

This book is the antonym of cumulative – I am not sure what that is!  Decumulate?  When I looked it up it is subtractive which makes sense.  So, this book has a subtractive structure due to the fact that there is a shopping list and as Sally visits each shop she is able to cross an item off her list of 10 items.

This book would be great for anyone looking at their local environment and able to visit local shops, draw them and study what they have to sell in them.  It would also work well for Yr1 in the autumn term to go with the labels, lists and captions block of work.

Each page of the shop is folded over so that when you open it you can see the inside of the shop, both downstair and upstairs.  This will involve children in detailed drawings of the shop fronts and what they imagine to be upstairs.

This is a wonderful book that deserves to be on our texts that teach list is a model that children can innovate upon or use to invent.  For invent I was thinking of a Yr1 class I have been recently working with who have used Tell Me a Dragon as a model to write about the animals that they had visited at the zoo.  Before they went the class had drawn up a list of animals that they wanted to see.  Instead of a version of The High Street, the children could create a version called The Zoo where they cross the animals off their list once they have seen them.

If you are thinking about the things that we need to teach children prior to the Yr6 end of KS2 grammar test, this book shows the use of the possesive apostrophe well.

That aside, it is wonderful!

WANTED: The Perfect Pet by Fiona Roberton

Followers of this blog will know only to well my penchant for a good book to use to support literacy teaching.  Well thanks to @bogchild we have a new one suitable for Yr2.

This is the story of Henry and what he wanted more than anything else in the whole wide world.  A perfect pet, of course,  in the form of a dog.

There is however a duck who wants, more than anything else in the world,  a friend.  With a little bit of disguise by the duck, the two get together and have great fun until the disguise falls off.

The book is told in three short chapters which is unusual for a picture book.  The first chapter tells about Henry and the second chapter about the duck.  The third chapter tells  what happens when they get together.  There are opportunities for creating wanted posters, adverts, labelled diagrams and non-chronological reports.  It makes a wonderful text for children to innovate upon, writing about their own perfect pet.

The second sentence in the book is wonderful and is one that is definitely worth learning and remembering and using for children to create their own version.

What Henry wanted more than anything else in the whole wide world, more than chips, more than a cowboy costume, more than an all expenses paid trip to the moon, more, even, than world peace itself, was a dog.

The blueprint of this book is rags to riches.

What is your favourite text that teaches at the moment?

Wordless picture book number 2

Fans of wordless picture books will be familiar with Jeannie Baker’s work;  Window, Where the Forest Meets the Sea and Home.  The book of hers that I would most like to use in a literacy sequence is Mirror which I think fits very well with the Yr5 literacy unit stories from other cultures.

The book opens out to show two stories, one on either side of the cover.  Each book tells us the story of a child and their family, one living in Australia and one living in Morocco.    I think the book works best if you turn the pages of each story at the same time and read the two stories together comparing and contrasting what you can see and what you understand.

The images are created in Baker’s normal style, collage, and are packed full of detail that takes a while to observe fully.  The stories do cross when the Moroccan father travels into the market to sell a carpet and then the carpet is collected and placed in the Sydney home.  A way, I suppose, of asking us to consider where the things we buy come from and that we are linked in all sorts of ways.  It would be a great discussion with children to consider all the different ways that the title Mirror is reflected in the book.

There are several websites with teaching ideas for using this book.  Walker Books has a set of activities which are worth dipping into, particularly as they were drawn up with Jeannie Baker.  I would use the book to retell one of the stories but I would ask children to tell it in the style of The Day of Ahmed’s  Secret by Florence Perry Heide and Judith Heide Gillilan.  The writing in this book is rich with description and quite lyrical.  Whenever I have used this book with children they are always really surprised by the secret, it being such an every day act in their own lives.

The Beasties – a great talk for writing book

Happy New Year to you all.  2011 looks like being every bit as exciting as 2010 did.  I thought I would start off the year as I mean to go on and  therefore want to share a great new book with you.

beastiesThe Beasties by Jenny Nimmo and Gwen Millard is a fantastic book that can be used in a couple of different ways but both related to talk for writing.

The book follows in the long tradition of children’s literature about night time and not being able to get to sleep and the worries that the dark can bring.  Daisy is a little girl that finds it difficult to get to sleep, lying awake listening to all the sounds of the street and not noticing the three creatures, could they be monsters, that creep into her room and start to look at all their treasures.  What these three creatures do is pick out one of their treasures and tell a story around it just like storytellers do.  When Daisy finally plucks up the courage to look under her bed, where they are hiding, she finds three very very small beasties and is encouraged to make up her own stories.

This book would make a great model for children to create their own version of in groups with each child writing their own story based around an object.  What you will need for this is a story telling bag with lots of objects in it such as rings, unicorns, special keys, bowls etc that a story can be built around.

The book could also be used however to develop children’s  ability to add detail because each of the stories is in reality a bare bones.  This would mean that the children could learn the bare bones and then using games such as ‘Tell me more about…’ they could add  detail and description to each section and then tell their version of the story.  They would provide a good opportunity to consider how the reader is to feel during each section and how that can be achieved.

This book is suitable for Yr2 or 3 pupils and will be added to our texts that teach fiction list.

What new texts will you use this year in your literacy teaching?

Books that I have been enjoying

Over the summer holidays I normally update our texts that teach lists.  These are books that we think support the teaching of literacy.  On my desk I have a pile of new ones passed to me by our fantastic School Library Service so a big thank you to @bogchild for them all.  Here are a few of my favourite.

dragonTell Me a Dragon by Jackie Morris is a fantastical look at the dragons that we carry around with us.  The book ends with a an invitation for the reader to share their dragon.  The language is rich in description and enables us to create images out of the words.

A great patterned text.  Jacke also wrote the wonderful Snow Leopard which is also on our list.


Monsters – An Owner’s Guide by Jonathan Emmett and Mark Oliver is very funny.  The guide takes us through assembling the monster , taking care of it, trouble shooting and ending with a lifetime guarantee.   I did spot a monster called Bumfluff in the book.  I bet children find it faster than I did!

I have written before about the wonderful StoryWorld cards that support inventing stories.  The latest set by John and Caitlin Matthews is the Mad Professor’s Workshop.  There is a great range of cards, many which will remind you of stories that you already know.  How about the Mad Professor himself, the room of mirrors, the time ticket and the wrong ingredients.  We pick out a few of the cards, identify a blueprint and then tell a story using them.

Dual Voiced Texts

eelAs part of our Talk for Writing training we have been focusing on non-fiction using the wonderful book Think of an Eel by Karen Wallace and Mike Bostock.  The two voices in this book are very different; one a literary non-fiction with the most poetic language possible and the other a more formal report tone almost as captions.

There is so much to talk about in this book which makes it without question a text that teaches.  When we started to create our non-fiction texts that teach, several of the books were dual-voiced.  The power of this is that it makes it so much easier to introduce children to the idea of different voices when writing.

seahorseI recently came across Seahorse The Shyest Fish in the Sea by Chris Butterworth and John Lawrence which is another dual-voiced text.  The book is beautifully illustrated with what look like prints and just like Think of an Eel tell the story of a life cycle.  I love the way that it refers to the seahorse as Seahorse making it feel personal and the swaying of the more formal report voice to show us the movement of the waves.

This book would make a fantastic guided reading book for level 3 readers (UK National Curriculum) to be used during a unit of work based on Think of an Eel.

Have you used Think of an Eel in literacy?  Let us know how it went. And do you know of any other powerful dual voiced texts?

10 things I really liked in 2009

happynewyearI have now been blogging for 13 months – I forgot the blog birthday.  Strange how online life mirrors real life ; ) I thought for the end of 2009 I would pick out 10 things that I discovered and that have become a part of me, some of which I have blogged about and some not.  When I say I discovered it is of course thanks to all the people in my PLN that discovered them for me!

1. Talk for writing and here – this is a strange one but it is a way of teaching writing that helps children to embed language patterns and use them in their own writing.  I have worked with a lot of teachers and quite a few children in my eight years of being a literacy consultant and this is the one idea that has had the most impact on children and their writing. The other reason that I like it so much is that it is based on skills and processes that writers use and is not a mechanistic attempt to simplify writing for teachers or children.   I am looking forward to seeing how it develops amongst our team and with teachers and children in 2010.

2. There will be several books in this list but one of my favourites that has had a lot of use towards the end of the year and will do so next year is Think of an Eel .  This is a non-fiction text told through two voices; one which I would call a literary non-fiction voice and one which is a more formal report voice. Word order and choice is poetic, sentence construction is varied and paced to fit the life cycle of an eel and the illustrations are watery and also reflect the sentences and life cycle.  This is definitely a text that teaches.

3. 2009 introduced me to etherpad which then disappeared.  It enabled groups of people to write together synchronously or asynchronously and was so usable in the classroom.  It has been  reborn in several  forms of which I use two, Netherpad (which wouldn’t open when I wrote this post so I hope it hasn’t disappeared as well) and PiratePad.

4. Comic creators – the boys writing project that we have run this year has meant that I have had to move into areas of reading and writing where I am not very experienced.  Comics.   The best software to create comics is Comic Life because you can use your own images.  However, if you can’t afford to buy software (and this doesn’t cost much) then the following are great; Super Action Comic Hero , Dr Who Comic Maker , Read Write Think comic creator and Captain Underpants .  Plenty to choose from.

5. One book which has influenced my thinking about how we teach the reading and writing of fiction is The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker. I am fascinated by the underlying patterns of story and now when I read can’t help but try and decide which of his seven plots are used.  They help children to see the generic patterns behind story whether in print or as images and can be used in their own writing.  I am not the only one interested in this.

6. I have found diigo to be an invaluable way of reading and commenting on texts online, particularly when doing this as part of a group study.  I have to say that it went beyond my expectations.

7. Storybook creators – I love these sites that allow children to create their own books.  They range from those that allow a lot of choices to those that don’t but all offer something to young writers.  Some of my favourites are; Picture Book Maker, Spot the Dog and Storybird (this is my all time favourite but is blocked by our filters even on my computer – lucky you if you can get it).

8. My Flip Video Camcorder .  More and more schools are getting these as easy to use video cameras to have available in the classroom.  They should be there for children to use a a tool to record learning just as pens and pencils are.  I bought one because I found some of the other cameras in classrooms limiting.  I use it all the time.  It comes with editing software but I prefer to download the film and use MovieMaker to edit.  Very easy to use.

9. The power of animation to allow children to show their understanding of texts.  This is partly due to the project, Persistence of Vision, that we are involved in.  We are particularly focused on the links between animation and poetry. Our outcomes are to try and record what we think progression in animation looks like in primary schools and to develop a professional development package that can be used byanyone interested in taking animation further.  We are working with Oscar Stringer and using I Can Animate software and the powerful yet affordable Hue webcams as our equipment.  I have to own up to having a bright pink Hue webcam.

10.  and finally to all the people that I am connected to through twitter, blogging, LinkedIn,Facebook and online learning a big thank you for all your ideas and resources that you have shared.  It is because of you that I can write a post like this.

Happy New Year.

Traction Man Meets Turbo Dog by Mini Grey

If you enjoyed Traction Man Is Here then you will also enjoy this latest book from Mini Grey. 

Once again Traction Man has a series of adventures only this time Scrubbing Brush goes missing and Traction Man is on a mission to find him.

Everyone will remember Traction Man’s all-in-one knitted green romper suit.  Well in this book he has a range of suitable clothing from his Airtight Astro Suit with Glass Head-Globe to his Elasticated Micro-Suit.

This book is a must for every school library and is going on our Texts that Teach  when we next update it.

The website has a good short biography of Mini Grey.  You’ll never guess why she is called Mini.