Book of Bones: 10 Record Breaking Animals by Gabrielle Balkan and Sam Brewster

This is a wonderful book telling the story of 10 animals and their amazing bones, from the heaviest to the lightest to the smallest and longest and everything in between.

Each animal has two double-page spreads about it. The first double page is a ‘Guess who has…’ page where information is provided in almost riddle format for the reader to work out which animal it is. The second spread tells us what the animal is and provides further information. All of these pages are told in the animal’s ‘voice’ as if it is speaking to the reader. These voices are humorous and often make links between the quality of the bones and the animal’s behaviour. The Alaskan Moose finishes with “Why, hello there!” after telling us how his antlers are used to attract a mate.

What I love most about this book is the quality of language used to compare where comparisons are made to our own bones/skeleton but also to show how big or small they are.  For example with the Blue Whale

…my mouth is so large I could fit 100 of your friends in it. …. I need to eat 40 million krill a day – that’s like eating twenty four thousand bathtubs full of jellybean-sized fish.

So as a book for vocabulary work, this is fantastic.  There are lots of different ways of demonstrating size, weight, thinness and spikiness of bones.  There is the use of comparatives and superlatives and different words to describe the same size: huge, gigantic, tremendous or teeny tiny.

Phaidon, the publishers, have put together an activity booklet to use alongside the book. Some of the activities are a little dubious but I do like the ‘If I had …’ page.

If this isn’t enough, the pages where the animal is revealed are quite tactile, having embossed sections on the animal’s skin or hide. Make no bones about it – this is definitely a text that teaches suitable for Yrs3 and 4.

Made with Padlet

New texts that teach for January 1st

We release new sequences on January 1st so I thought I would share with you what we have been writing about.  These books would also make great presents!

Year 5 and 6

I am starting here because we have included my favourite book of the year in this key stage.

The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris.  If you are a fan of Jackie and follow her blog, you will have seen parts of the book as it was prepared for publishing. Since it has been published it has been nominated for many awards. What i hadn’t appreciated is that the words written about in this book were ones that had been removed from the Oxford Junior  Dictionary for children to make way for words such as broadband. What a sign of the times!

Each natural object is written about in poetic form, acrostic. It took me 3 readings to realise that these were in fact acrostics, so good are they.  In fact, is that not the point of acrostics, or any form, that it is secondary to the enjoyment and pleasure derived from the words?  Jackie’s illustrations are gorgeous – each double page spread spelling out the next item. These are spells not poems.  Buy it!

Whilst a very large book, it is only £20 and part of that is donated to the Conservation Trust.

Blackberry Blue by Jamila Gavin

This is one of those books that when you read it, you just know that it will be up for awards at some point. This book consists of about six short stories which are fairy tales with echoes of other stories but are not based on them. The stories all involve colour  and are written using the most fantastic language. The themes are Shakespearean: love, endurance, destiny and escape.


Years 3 and 4

Blue John by Berlie Doherty

Those of you who have known us for a long time will remember that this was the text we used when we very  introduced talk for writing to Devon.  Whilst this book is not as beautifully illustrated as the one we used then, the text is exactly the same and it is fantastic.  Doherty wrote this story after listening to music and visiting the  Blue John caves in Derbyshire.



This series, Little Gems, looks very promising. Next term we will be writing a sequence based around Monster Slayer by Brian Patten which is a version of Beowulf.

We have also written a sequence around a story in the book Beyond the Stars by Sarah Webb. If you bought this book for King of the Birds then you are set up and ready to go with The Snow Globe by Marita Conlon-McKenna. This story uses the snow globe as a magical object or portal to other places. A great opportunity for everyone to bring in their snow globes and share them.

Years 1 and 2

We have rewritten two sequences for KS1 to update them but they are based on old favourites. Naughty Bus by Jan and Jerry Oke and I Love Bugs by Emma Dodd. Both books went out of print at one point but are back now, although for how long it is hard to tell.

It has been an interesting process rewriting sequences as it has shown us how far we have moved over the years in terms of teaching sequence development.  The grammar teaching is now much more focused and precise and the activities in the Learning about the text phase more focused on reading and comprehension.

What have you read that you have loved this term? Do let us know. We would particularly like to know about non-fiction texts for Yrs 3 and 4.


Top 10 Best Biographies for Children


Biographies are not an easy text type for children to write. One of the reasons for this is that they need a wide knowledge of the world and particularly about the person they are going to write about. Without this wide knowledge the biography tends to become a list of facts about their lives rather than telling us about the person. Many of the biographies I have chosen for this list start with the person in childhood and discuss how this affects what they do later in life.

“Every life is inexplicable, I kept telling myself. No matter how many facts are told, no matter how many details are given, the essential thing resists telling. To say that so and so was born here and went there, that he did this and did that, that he married this woman and had these children, that he lived, that he died, that he left behind these books or this battle or that bridge – none of that tells us very much.” ― Paul Auster, The New York Trilogy

Virginia Wolf said ‘History is too much about wars; biography about great men.’ So, to counter that view, many of these biographies are about women.

Little People, Big Dreams is a series of books aimed at younger children about incredible women. This one is Amelia Earhart by Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Mariadiamantes.  The series includes Coco Chanel, Frieda Kahlo, Maya Angelo, Agatha Christie and Marie Curie.

Each double page spread provides information about Earhart as a child and how expereinces in her childhoold were the driving force to fly.  She became the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic ocean.  This informative biography comes with extra facts about Earhart’s life at the back.

This book is suitable as a model of writing for Yr2 and appears on our texts that teach list.

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst continues the theme of women who did great things that had a big impact.

This book is about several women, each one detailed on a double page spread.  One of the many strengths of this book is that the layout and presentation is different for each woman. I love the page for Coco Chanel where the word ‘Snip!’ is used as a refrain.

Uncomfortable corsets! Snip! (Oh la la!) Pointless bows and ribbons! Snip! (Au revoir!)  Giant fancy hats! Snip! (Sacre bleu!).

This book really teaches layout matching content and a lively way of writing about people.  It is suitable for Yrs 3 and 4 and appears on our texts that teach list.

Like the previous two books, this book was also released for International Women’s Day in March 2017.

Women in Science – 50 fearless pioneers by Rachel Ignotofsky provides mini-biographies of women, many of whom I had not heard of.  When you look at the book, you will not be surprised to find out that Ignotofsky is a graphic designer.  Each double page spread provides a biography, snippets of information, iillustrations about their work and a picture of them. If you visit Love Reading 4 Kids and sign in, you can download a double page spread to see that the book is like. This book is suitable for Yr5 and 6 and appears on our texts that teach list.

The Darkest Dark: Astronaut by Chris Hadfield is a really interesting book.  The main part of the book details Hadfield’s life as a child and his interest in space and space travel told in story form. At the back of the book is a biography of Hadfield and his work as a Canadian pilot, finishing with a message from Hadfield.

Although this book would be suitable for Yrs3 and 4 to read, as a model of writing where children learn to manage the shifts in formality through varying grammar and vocabulary, this book would be excellent for Yrs5 and 6.  Hilary Mantel talks about being like a historian and interpreting, selecting, discarding and shaping but as a writer of fiction making up people’s thoughts.  This would be possible with this book.

I am a complete sucker for the part of the page on Amazon that says ‘people who bought  this also bought….’ and so this is how I came to own a copy of One Giant Leap: The story of Neil Armstrong by Don Brown. Again, this book tells of the young Armstrong and his desire to fly and how this ended up with him being the first astronaut to walk on the moon.  Suitable for Yrs3 and 4.


Cloth Lullaby: The woven life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Noveesky and  Isabelle Arsenault is beautiful.

The writing isquite lyrical –

The river provided flowers and fruit, a lullaby and a livelihood.

but also makes the link between weaving and spiders which so influenced the work of Bourgeois.  The illustrations are gorgeous and weave together the cloth and the river in flowing images across the pages. Woven throughout the text are quotes from Bourgeois and others who have written about her and these are listed and attributed at the end of the book.   This would be an interesting way for children to ‘borrow’ from other writers and use in their writing. At the is also an Author’s Note which writes a biography that is a more formal biography that provides some background information that is not in the main text.  These two models would provide an excellent model for managing shifts in formality, making this book suitable for Yrs5 and 6. This book will appear on our texts that teach list.

Meet the artist! Alexander Calder by Patricia Geis is a book that I have written about before.  It contains pop-ups, little booklets, a circus and suggestions for creating your own art works.

This is a very accessible biography for Yrs 3 and 4 with the book on Picasso in the same series more suitable for Yrs5 and 6.


Many schools study Mary Anning so this book Stone Girl, Bone Girl by Laurence Anholt may be one book that is already in school.  Like Louise Bourgeois, Mary Anning was very influenced by one of her parents: her father who introduced her to fossils.  Anning is also included in the book Fantastically Great Women and so it would be interesting to compare the information included in each and compare.  Other books that could also be used are Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon by Jeannine Atkins and The Fossil Girl by Catherine Brighton.  For teachers there is the wonderful  book by Tracy Chevalier –  Remarkable Creatures.  These books would be suitable for Yrs 3 and 4.

This book follows a similar pattern to The Darkest Dark and several others, telling the story of Jane Goodall as a child and ending with a biography in a more formal tone.  The images are part photograph part illustration which is a visual way of showing what is known and what is imagined.  A really useful model for KS2 Me … Jane is told by Patrick Mcdonnell.



Charles Dickens by Manning and Granstrom is a wonderful way to tell the story of a person’s life.  Told through more formal biography, speech bubbles, comic strips, illustrations and smippets of information. The ‘story’ also moves between third and first person.  This makes is a fantastic book to teach managing shifts in formality and is included on our texts that teach lists.

Included in this book is background information about the life and times when Dickens was alive and this is one of the reasons this book is so good and different to other biographies.

Manfish by Jennifer Berne is the story of Jacques Cousteau told in picture book style. There are parts of the text which swirl and wave around the page and others that are set out in paragraphs. This was one of the first picture book biographies that I read and was what convinced me there were other ways of sharing an interest in a person in writing.


If a book is on our texts that teach list then we have  a teaching sequence written around it. To purchase sequences individually, click here and scroll through the pages. To purchase a whole school subscription to over 120 teaching sequences for Yr1 to Yr6, click here.

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?














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.


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?