Tag Archives: literacy

What an Adventure by Watadventure by @Mroberts90Matt

I was given the opportunity to have a copy of a book to read over and see what I thought. I wasn’t really given any details about what the book was, only that it was targeted at Year 2/3. As I am going to be started a new phase of my Teaching Journey in Year 3, I thought it would be a great opportunity.
When this dropped through my letterbox I was instantly hooked:


Aside from the intriguing characters on the front of the book, what also caught my eye was the title. An interesting play on words. So I did what only you would do when something catches your eye in this day and age – I Googled it.

What I found got me even more excited. It turned out that this group were on a new journey themselves and that this book was the first in what I hope will be a fantastic series of these characters travelling the world and bringing us along for the magical ride. However, there was even more to it than that…

This is where WatAdventure stand out from the rest. There are three main characters in this story: Sirius the dour but passionate dog who just wants the best sightseeing possible and Jiblets, the impulsive but lovable monkey who enjoys the thrill of a new adventure. The third main character in this story is Lola, the girl who to whom Sirius and Jiblets belong to as toys before the magic begins. However, she is not just a storybook character…Lola is actually a real person. She won a competition in designing a flag for the Watabus (the three friends transport on this exciting outing) and as she was selected, she won the opportunity to be part of this story. This was fascinating so I looked a little bit more into it – it turned out that WatAdventure produce personalised stories for children which ignite their interest in reading for pleasure. I am looking mainly at ‘WatAdventure in Australia’ but this was a brilliant idea and I’ll already be looking out for future developments at this cutting-edge publisher.

Back to Australia…


I decided to read this to my two children – 5 and 3 years old. One is about to go into Year 2 so this was perfect. The first reaction I got when opening the cover was ‘Wowwww…’ – such is the quality of the illustration. I share an image from the WatAdventure Gallery below – there are plenty more at this site https://www.watadventure.com/gallery:


The fact is that reading the story alone was captivating enough. In reality, we could have spent hours poring over the finer details of this book. We could have spent ten or more minutes pointing out the gadgetry wizardry in the Watabus, the thriving life in the Australian bush, the fascinating schools in the Great Barrier Reef or the bustling Bondi Beach. They say don’t judge a book by its cover – in this case you should make an exception.


If the illustrations weren’t enough to grab the readers interest, then the writing of this story will. I read this to my children with delight. The flow of the narrative was exquisite. As I read, there was a rhythm to the words and the vocabulary used was outstanding. My wife actually commented on the words used and how much it stretched our children. With a storyteller, there is nothing wrong with this – in fact I say it should be encouraged. The vocabulary was thoughtfully selected enough to push the children but be accessible enough to keep the flow going. A real highlight. 


I loved the characters. Sirius and Jiblets were the standouts and I presume this was because they will be the focus of the series. From the first page in which they came to life, their character style was instantly recognisable. Jiblets would be the fun-loving companion whilst Sirius would be the ever-suffering, self-appointed tour guide. It made for great reading.

And if that wasn’t enough…

As the story closed, I was fully satisfied as a parent reading this book to my children. They were silent and captivated (a good sign!) and looked forward to closely looking at the illustrations and my 5 year old wanted to read it himself. But then we turned the final page…

An explosion on non-fictional information and great puzzles for the kids to look back over the pages of the book and search. This sold it for me. The re-readability of this book as the children go back over the story’s events and see where in Australia they took place make this a brilliant addition to any child’s bookshelf – I’d say certainly up to Year 4.

For Teachers

But the brilliance of this story doesn’t stop there. With each purchase of the book (which is a price that is certainly not extortionate) there comes with it:

  • Guided Reading questions
  • 3 comprehension lessons
  • 5 writing lessons

For a year group maybe looking at Aboriginal culture this would be an incredible addition to their curriculum.

I’m not being asked to sell this resource, but I know I’ll certainly be looking into this for our curriculum!


Temple Run in Writing by @Mroberts90Matt

Once again, another attempt to get onto the blogging bandwagon – however, we are into the midst of the Easter Holidays and I am fully aware of the fact that when we get back into the run-up to SATs, this will fall flat on it’s face again…

Just a quick post to share another idea. This was not my original idea but it’s one that created a lot of enthusiasm for writing so why not?

In January we began our Topic on the Mayas and so I was contemplating ways to link our writing into the Meso-American civilisation. Ancient temples, mysterious lands, ancient artefacts, varied landscapes…I then thought of this:untitled

Of course, when I mentioned that we were going to use Temple Run as a stimulus for writing the children were hooked immediately! Then I showed them news stories about how film makers were looking into creating a ‘Temple Run Movie’ (see http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/warner-bros-david-heyman-bring-650948 as one example of a possible example). Instantaneously this created discussion, talk, communication – How? What? When? They expressed that it would be a boring film because all the game involved was a man running away from a monster…

We used post it notes children to consider some questions: Who is the man running away? What is the creature in pursuit? Why is the creature chasing the man with the idol? Why is the idol so important/valuable? Where is this Temple? What traps did the adventurer have to avoid? When did the creature start to chase the man – before or after he grabbed the idol?

After these discussions, in pairs, the children used a six block storyboard to assist them in building a story, using the ideas that had been generated with peer-assessing along the way. There was only one condition: there had to be two boxes that involved traps in the Maya Temple which could build suspense in their story.

The results were amazing. Unfortunately they are at school and I am not so I will have to upload some examples later – but I would strongly encourage using this idea (which again is not originally mine – see Lee Parkinson’s excellent blog for the original – http://mrparkinsonict.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/using-popular-ipad-games-as-stimulus-in.html)

Teacher Voice Poll w/b 2nd March 2015

I posted a recent blog focusing on a strategy which has really helped improve a child’s handwriting in my class. It has led me to think about handwriting and the role it plays in education.

From Reception, we encourage children to make marks, write their name and more – that means from 4 years old we are educating children in the art of calligraphy (or, at least, the starting point of it). Children are encouraged to them move onto short writing tasks and their writing is assessed. Short letters, instructions and more are examined and created.

However, in a day where the average physically writes very little, if at all, is handwriting as high a priority as it had been in the past? What do you think?


photo credit: Embossed Children’s Poem Post Card, 1907 – Child with white cat via photopin (license)

Slow Writing by @Mroberts90Matt

(Ironically it’s taken me a few days to actually sit down and write this post)!

One of the best things I’m finding about being on supply, particularly this two week stint I was requested personally for in one class, is that, given the school have confidence in me and I’m not expected to do all the workload of the regular class teacher, this has given me a great opportunity to try a few things out. It is also the first time I don’t have a mentor around which also feels a little liberating!

One approach I’ve had the opportunity to test drive is ‘Slow Writing‘. For those who aren’t aware, this is a website which randomly generates a certain condition for every sentence the children write. An example would be ‘Sentence Two must contain a simile’ or ‘Sentence Five must have some alliteration’ etc. The content was provided by David Didau and the resource was designed by David Riley.
Up to the point I decided to introduce this method of writing, the Year 3 class I’d been working with had studied a text, created freeze frames of the story, discussed different endings of narratives and designed their own ending to the story. My plan was for them to them write their ending. I felt this would be the perfect opportunity to try this out!

At first, as you might expect for their age and previous experiences of writing, there was a little confusion as this had not been witnessed before. However, very quickly, the entire class got the idea. They were to write their own ending but really think about the content of their writing. Each sentence had thought put into it as well as a good writing technique.

Points to consider
Downsides? I would pick out one. However, this downside will have emerged from my implementation of the approach and resource rather than a fault with the approach itself. So rather than a downside it’s a point to consider, and one I did anticipate and try to support. As I looked through the pieces of writing I found that some children, mainly those who struggled in writing, ended up writing an ending that did not make much sense. To counter this potential issue, I had asked the teaching assistant to support their writing process on their table. However, as is the case on most primary schools, something came up which meant she could not help. The children’s annual reports needed a comment from each child, which had not been done as the class teacher had been away for several weeks. So in this post I am unable to say whether this would have helped or not. Despite this, the children’s writing was probably still of a higher quality in terms of content, rather than cohesion.
Learner Reaction
Yet to be convinced? Let’s hear from the experts; the children themselves:
“It helped me have something good in every sentence.” – Year 3 child.
“Instead of zooming through, it gave me the time to think.” – Year 3 child.
“It was easy because it gave me ideas for good writing.” – Year 3 child. I was particularly pleased with the latter quote because it came from a child who is usually a struggle to get a writing activity from – they composed a great ending to the story we studied.

I think that Slow Writing is definitely an approach I will be looking to take into my own classroom. It will be necessary to provide learning experience around creating coherent, flowing writing first I think so that the criteria of the resource does not confuse some of the struggling writers – however it is important to note that it got them all willing and motivated to write in the first place!
photo credit: Up Your Ego via photopin cc
photo credit: TempusVolat via photopin cc
photo credit: Blue Square Thing via photopin cc

A Monster Idea

It’s been a little while since I shared a lesson idea on here and was this was the main reason why I began my blog and, having been inspired by Oliver Quinlan’s recent post mentioning about sharing more practice, here a little idea.
I used this idea on a recent day supply teaching where the teacher had left me a specific focus (extending descriptive vocabulary) for a Year 3 class but no learning activities. I began by playing them a clip from ‘Monsters University’ which included lots of different monsters to engage the children and also get them thinking about how different monsters can look.
After that, we froze the clip on one monster and had a class discussion about how we could describe the monster using wow words! Soon after we were getting words like ‘monstrous’, ‘spooky’, ‘slimy’, ‘intimidating’ and ‘ghoulish’.

The children were then given 5 mins to design their own monster. I was cautious about giving them such a short amount of time to do this but didn’t want it to become an art lesson. This amount of time was sufficient fortunately. Once designed their task was to write about their monster, using as many descriptive words as possible. The class I was in didn’t have thesauruses to hand but if I were to do this again I would get the children using them to expand their vocabulary even further.

As I went through the work at the end of the day, the result was excellent. Not only had children of all abilities focused and managed to get ideas down, but it was clear they had enjoyed the activity. They had the opportunity to self-assess at the end and a number of children had actually written how they had enjoyed the activity as well.

One for the future I think!

photo credit: HikingArtist.com via photopin cc

photo credit: chavezonico via photopin cc

Change and the Humanities

So here’s a thought about making learning in the Humanities more interesting to children…

I’ve been writing a paper (along with three others) about looking at the concept of change in the Humanities and was reminded of an experience I had:

It was toward the end of my third main teaching practice, so pickling up some well needed confidence now! I was given the task of introducing the Topic of Ancient Greeks to a Year 5 class. I decided to do this around a major sporting event that had occurred about 8 months previously – London 2012 Olympics!


As we got into some interactive learning around what the differences were between the two, Ancient and Modern, the class realised there was no Olympic Torch Relay in the Ancient Olympics. This brought up many questions – why was it introduced? Was there any purpose in continuing it in today’s Olympics?

A spark had been ignited! Should I fan the flames or carry on onto the next topic?

In Literacy we were beginning a new topic on Persuasive Writing. The very next lesson I threw out precious planning, painstakingly prepared, and took a risk. I set the classroom up for a debate. The children would simply stand in a place in the classroom to show their opinion – Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree and Strongly Disagree – to answer one question – Should the Olympic Torch Relay be continued to Rio 2016?

The class responded marvellously. Children were stating opinions and reasons for them (persuading), children were changing their opinions because of reasons made by other class members (collaboration) and all focused around one key concept – change!

You see, i’m a big believer that as we are educating the future politicians, doctors, teachers, architects, dancers, plumbers – whatever, and we need to equip them for change. Frey predicted that by 2030, half the jobs we know of today will have vanished – replaced by jobs we have not even conceived yet. We do not just need to teach them what happened, for example, at the Ancient Olympics, but we need to equip them with the skills to influence and change future Olympics for the better.

Of course this is not just related to Olympic Organising, but for any job sector – change is inevitable. If as educators we can help children understand what change is, why it happens how it happens and how they can influence it, they will be so much more prepared for the future!

PS – tried getting three video of talk embedded but it’s playing up so, for now, link will have to do! http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/When-Ivory-Towers-Fall-The-Emer;search%3Atag%3A%22turkish%22


photo credit: adamsofen via photopin cc
photo credit: Send me adrift. via photopin cc

Epic Writing!

So, getting all of the necessities done, this idea/innovation I’d not my own and the video is not my property or work. I am merely sharing a creative way of using mobile technology to support children’s writing.

In essence, using a handful of apps, the children went from exploring a virtual world at their fingertips where they could (quite literally) go wherever they want, to creating their own eBook stories in that would, utilising diverse multimedia. As well as doing a lot more along the way!

The purpose? If not clear: using technology to motivate, enhance and support children’s writing.

I’m just going to let the video speak for itself now but if you want the original location of the video it can be found at this site: http://cheadleheath.primaryblogger.co.uk/year-4/multimedia-digital-stories/


Making Marks to Music

This was actually used as the intro to my ‘Stories from Other Cultures’ Unit but is probably more of a Music/Art idea…but use in Literacy at risk of assisting in children’s creativity! It’s so simple as well, and will have all in the room wanted to take part…seriously, even my class teacher/mentor wanted to join in!

In terms of resources, you’ll need a piece of music, paper and a pencil. If you want the kids to get even more creative you can provide other artistic materials – charcoal, colour pastilles, even paint if you’re feeling extra confident and messy!

Here is the link to the site I originally got the idea from:

The children thoroughly enjoyed listening to the Music, getting a feel for it, then responding to the Music through Art. They were also particularly excited because they recognised the country the Music was from, Jamaica, as they had played steel drums that year.
Aside from the objectives met in Music and Art, this activity was great at fueling the children’s creativity and that, I feel, can be lacking sometimes in the modern day classroom.

The Spear – An Aboriginal Adventure

Soon after the Poetry experience, I was required to teach a Unit on Stories from Other Cultures. Here’s a good story which I used to hook the children into this Unit:




Great story – has links to the interesting history of the Aboriginees, magical powers, an evil witch-doctor, a spear, a happy ending…what more could you ask for!


As far as our learning experience went, we created comic strips describing and retelling the story, after using Dramatic techniques to remember the story and discussion about the characters. Offered a good Art link at the end.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/robinhutton/7601183704/”>Robin Hutton</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Walking with my Iguana! by @Mroberts90Matt

I sat in the back of the hall for assembly, seated next to a colleague at the school, the Reception teacher. The Literacy Coordinator and Deputy Head announced that she was going to share some excellent examples of Poetry written for a competition at the local library.

“I can’t stand Poetry! Bores me to death,” came the comment from next to me. “Great,” I thought, for next week I would be starting a 3 week unit of Poetry, and I was only in the first week of my 3rd Year Placement. What a confidence booster ;).


Things did not improve after the first few lessons. We began looking as a class at a particular poem and the features of poem writing. I always encourage the children to self-assess themselves at the end of the lesson. So, when I got a book back at the end of the 3rd lesson off a child who had put a sad face and ‘This was boring’ I had to sit up. Now, this was a very vocal child who was certainly the most ‘disruptive’child I’ve taught to date, but her opinion was just as valid as any child’s.

I needed to do something or run the risk of losing the children’s engagement and probably the result I wanted from my entire placement as first impressions always count!

So, that night, I looked around, desperately looking for some inspiration…

And it came in the form of this poem:





I actually introduced this poem by reading it myself, in the dullest way possible. The children recognised immediately I was making a point. Then we listened to the performance of Brian Moses, the poet, found on the link.

The effect was amazing. Suddenly, the children were discussing if they had an unusual animal, what would it be and why? What would they do with this animal? How could they describe it? This then led to using features of poems to describe their animal and how they do what they do. They then, after some preparation lessons, wrote their own poems and performed it. Not  only that but the children decided to share some for the school’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations.

I would share a couple of performance audio clips but refrain from doing so as I no longer am at the school (it being one of my placement schools) and I don’t have permission of the parents to share anything online, even if it is only their voice.


This was an important learning experience for me but also, I’m sharing this because it is a great poem. I am aware, like my poem-deriding colleague from earlier, that poetry can be dull – but only if it is made dull. And this is the same with any topic/theme/skill I think…although fractions I’m still working on! 😉


So please, if you’re struggling to find poetic inspiration, feel free to use this amazing poem by Brian Moses, or indeed any others you may find on the Poetry Archive.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobaubuchon/5411945096/”>Bob AuBuchon</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/4328398526/”>Tambako the Jaguar</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;