The Holy Grail of Cross Curricular Learning! ‘The Nowhere Emporium’ by Ross Mackenzie

As a teacher, I find myself on an eternal quest to find a stimulating, original theme to link areas of learning for my pupils, which holds sufficient breadth to avoid the need for tokenistic links that end up making little sense to the children and even less sense to me! In the past I have found myself straight-jacketed by agreed whole school topics that were driven by one subject….the result being that I actually ended up completing virtually dissertation level research into obscure Victorian explorers to try to find some semblance of a link between the ‘given’ history theme of the said Victorian Explorers and the geography topic of The Amazon?!? Hours of my life that I will never get back and a process I have sworn to never enter into again as a result.

This has resulted in me scouring book shops, blogs, Pinterest and social media for rich learning contexts which have enough inbuilt freedom to link the sometimes disparate aspects of the curriculum in a meaningful way. On rare occasions you discover high quality texts which emit an almost mythical call to teachers everywhere…..use me and your pupils will love learning whatever you throw their way! ‘The Nowhere Emporium’ by Ross Mackenzie is one such text that emanates with this ethereal educational glow!


I couldn’t possibly be tempted to give the plot of the book way….it must be experienced to truly appreciate the magic of the story but I will at least allude to some aspects to exemplify how this text could be a godsend for cross-curricular learning.

The story itself is centred around the eponymous Nowhere Emporium; a magical shop which can travel through time and space holding endless wonders behind the myriad of doors that festoon the labyrinthine hallways. This very fact makes it the perfect vehicle for cross curricular learning as, regardless of historical period, geographical context, artistic theme or mathematical skill…the Nowhere Emporium can go there with you. 

At the same time, the story itself it a true wonder to read. The story is dripping with powerful language, emotive descriptions and wonderful characterisation, providing a multitude of opportunities to use the book as he center of English reading and writing development.

I am already buzzing with the thoughts of how I am going to integrate the story into my teaching during the new academic year! I am immediately determined to transform my classroom into a version of the Nowhere Emporium; red velvet curtains draped over my stock cupboard door with gold lettered ‘Hall of Wonders’ sign, where I will be regularly ‘finding’ the latest unusual object, letter or image provided by the magics of the Nowhere Emporium….which will magically link to our curriculum for the term, our very own Book of Wonders to capture examples of amazing learning, oustanding behaviour and home learning tasks and maybe even a desk/bureau for the Emporium’s Mr Silver to work at when he visits in our absence…which could also luckily double up as the class writing area! I can also see myself scouring eBay to find some unwanted roles of ‘library shelf’ event wall paper to really help transform my classroom into the dusty curiousity shop that is the Nowhere Emporium.

The author, Ross Mackenzie, is a true master of his art. A book written for children which can also fire the imagination of adults is a rare creature and I, for one, am greatly appreciative that he has chosen to share his wonderful story with the world! You MUST get yourself a copy….it will be your ticket to cross the threshold of the Nowhere Emporium and you will never want to leave!

EXCITING NEWS! Multi-book cross curricular project uniting ‘Journey’ and ‘Quest’ by Aaron Becker with ‘Chalk’ by Bill Thomson

I am sure you are aware of the awe inspiring picture book ‘Journey’ by Aaron Becker, which tells the story of an isolated young girl. She finds she can access a hidden kingdom with the use of a piece of magical chalk (well I like to think of it as chalk – it could just as easily be a wax crayon or even a sharpie!

However, from experience, many people seem unaware that a sequel to ‘Journey’ exists in the form of ‘Quest’ by Aaron Becker. After I recently stumbled across the amazing ‘Chalk’ by Bill Thomson, the old picture book neurons started firing and I saw huge potential for an exciting and engaging cross curricular English and Art project.

From the first moment that anyone flicks through the pages of ‘Journey’ and ‘Quest’, they are captivated by the detailed illustrations of the magical kingdom access by the isolated girl and her friend. The continuing plot across both books is an excellent starting point for PSHE work focused on friendship and compassion; the girl in ‘Journey’ is determined to rescue a beautiful purple bird from captivity.

journey 1

This journey sees her exploring dense forests, sailing along sky-scraper high viaducts and taking flight in amazingly elegant airships. It is only after she rescues the bird, that she discovers that the purple bird is actually a drawn representation of a young boy – who appears to have discovered a similar piece of chalk to the girl.

journey 2

This is the launching point for the plot of ‘Quest’, as the two children return to the magical kingdom through an enchanted door, all the while aided by their mystical chalk drawings that spring to life – I particularly love the huge squid that helps them access an undersea city.

Quest 1

The children resiliently follow their quest to free the imprisoned leaders of the kingdom, returning order and calm to this magical world once again. The end of ‘Quest’ is truly beautiful but I will let you discover that for yourself!

English Activities

To be honest, I could wax lyrical all day about the potential of this book to develop oracy, reading and writing but I will try to be as concise as possible and summarise a few of the most powerful opportunities.

  • Both texts are wordless; the children could create Pie Corbett style story maps or traditional story maps to represent the key plot points within the books. Can they find any parallels between the plots of each text?
  • When familiar with the story, the children could be challenged to create short pieces of text or paragraphs that could be added to each page to change the wordless presentation of the originals. This would provided the perfect opportunity to explore sentence structures and punctuation, in order to achieve short but narratively impactful passages which ‘fit’ onto each page.
  • Extending the writing skills could be achieved by lingering on some of the most detailed images. This would allow the children to experiment with different descriptive writing techniques including the use of senses, changing points of view (i.e. the view of the city from the tower guards, as opposed to the little girl) and even writing from a third person perspective.
  • I would also be tempted to use ‘Quest’ to explore the use of dialogue within narrative writing, as the children could either write and punctuate the dialogue within their written extracts for each image or prepare the dialogue between the boy and the girl in the form of a playscript – which could later be re-enacted for an audience of children or parents.

Introducing ‘Chalk’ by Bill Thomson

Having developed the children’s writing skills through short burst tasks and within the context of ‘Journey’ and ‘Quest’, I feel that ‘Chalk’ provides a linked context for their own extended story writing.

1chalk

In the book, a group of children find a back of chalk, hanging from the mouth of a plastic ride-on playground toy, in the form of a T-Rex! They soon discover that whatever they draw with these magical chalks immediately comes to life – this was the point at which I saw the obvious parallels between Aaron Becker’s work and that of Bill Thomson. When they use the said chalk, the children produce all manner of wonderful creations including hundreds of butterflies. Unfortunately, one child is inspired to draw a dinosaur in the same style as the T-Rex toy – which inevitably  comes to life and that is where the real adventure begins!

chalk 2chalk 3

This is where the children can be challenged to let their imaginations run wild, whilst you bottle that enthusiasm to ensure they produce some amazing narrative writing. How about setting the scene by leaving the children their own bags of chalk on the playground and asking them to draw what they would like to see come to life. From this fun, idea generating actively the children can then develop their own story maps/plans and hopefully develop these into rich and engaging narrative stories.

To be honest, they should be begging you to let them write their stories once they have imaginatively lived the events of ‘Chalk’ for themselves on the playground!!

Have fun with your chalk, crayons or sharpies!

 

 

 

Mr Wuffles! by David Wiesner

Mrwuffles

There are many ways to categorise and organise personality types; one of which is those who love the structure of a clearly defined plot line which ends with a satisfying conclusion, as opposed to others who delight in the possibilities offered by enigma, mystery and alternatives. ‘Mr Wuffles!’ by David Wiesner is certainly a delight for the latter of these!

From the cover and first few images of this largely wordless text, it would be easy to mistake it for a rather conventional picture book about the eponymous Mr Wuffles. However, within a few pages it becomes clear that the central feline character is about to get a new toy!

Mrwuffles1

As a cat owner myself, I share the frustration of the owners in the story who purchase what they feel is a stimulating new plaything, only for the fussy feline to prefer a ball of string! However, Mr Wuffles discovers that his latest toy is actually the conveyance of a group of miniscule aliens!

Mrwuffles2

The jubilation of the very little green men, upon arriving on the planet, is short lived when they are ‘attacked’ by Mr Wuffles! The remainder of the story takes the reader on a humorous trip amongst the dusty corners of any average home; as the aliens team up with some equally cat-oppressed minibeasts who work together to escape from the clutches of Mr Wuffles!

Quick Activities

This book is full of potential! Throughout the text, the aliens are seen to speak using a strange symbolic language. It would be great for the children to try to replace the symbolic language with their own speech bubbles, literally putting words into the mouths of the aliens in each scene – essentially an educational caption competition. It would be really fun to explore the different alternative conversations generated by a class of children.

In addition, the aliens learn to communicate with the local minibeasts using the insect version of prehistoric cave paintings. They create these using found materials (bits of chalk, charcoal etc.) Perhaps the children could create their own cave paintings depicting the events of the story. They could use found materials around the playground, marking their story onto the concrete or they could create a 3D cave painting by arranging found objects on the ground to help create their tale. If you are feeling more adventurous, ordinary classroom paint mixed with some pva glue (you need to experiment with your recipe!) creates a beautifully rubberised paint which can be applied to a rock, concrete or wood surface which will then dry to a durable finish – extending the life of your cave paintings by a few weeks.

Extended Activities

I know of many children who would be enthralled by the code-like communication used by the aliens. Perhaps they could be challenged to devise the alien’s alphabetic, which they can then use to communicate with each other or to create classroom labels and signs. This would be great in a role play area designed around the interior of the alien space-craft – they could label all the buttons and gizmos. They would even create the communications sent to the explorer craft from the mothership or the explorer’s reports back to their HQ about the terrifying cat monster they have encountered.

It would be equally intriguing to tell the alluded to but untold story of the minibeasts who have been suffering at the paws of Mr Wuffles. The children could develop their own narrative based on these tales.

At the end of the story, one of the minbeasts end up leaving with the aliens in their spacecraft. This would be a wonderfully original launching point for some sci-fi writing, as it would provide a set of characters who are immediately ‘alien’ rather than the more obvious ‘human-meets-alien’ approach; has anyone ever written an insect-meets- alien sci-fi story?!?

Additionally, the final image shows the remaining insects being left with a series of broken technology from the alien spacecraft. These could form the basis of some wonderfully explanation or instructional writing, based around the insects working out how this technology might help to protect them from or defeat Mr Wuffles!

Above all else, this is a fun and entertaining story that will not fail to raise a smile!

 

Get Sculpting! Using ‘Night of the Gargoyles’ by Eve Bunting to inspire 3D art!

Night of gargoyles cover

Whilst I find sculpture projects to be great fun with children, especially when you gets your hands on clay, modroc and sculpting mesh but often the focus for the project can be a little ‘loose’. However, with the wonderful ‘Night of the Gargoyles’ by Eve Bunting (and coincidentally illustrated by my favourite David Wiesner) you have a fun and motivational context for a sculpture project which also links perfectly with a cross curricular English/History project.

At the heart of this story is the common premise that when night time falls, inanimate objects come to life – in this case all the gargoyles that sit poised on the rooftops throughout the city. This is a very entertaining picture book that does actually contain a fair amount of text which will also allow for some high level punctuation and grammar work – I’ve used it to look at the ever elusive semi-colon in the past!

The children (especially boys) will be immediately motivated by the comedic rudeness and a japery in the book and, as a result, they are then keen to engage with the sculpture task. The focus I have taken in the past has been to ask the children to design a gargoyle of their own, in clay, with some thought to how the form of the gargoyle represents an aspect of his/her personality i.e. it likes to surprise people from above, so it has wings; or it is always hungry so it has big puffy cheeks to store the scraps it finds in the local bins.

You can make this whole process even more magical with the addition of some glitter! In the past, we have had a resident ‘visitor’ in the our class who pops by at night and leaves us letters and notes to stimulate interest in our next learning activity. On this occasion we had a note left from our local fantastical beasts keeper, who advised us that he had lost a few gargoyles from the local church and then asked us to create him some more to avoid him getting into trouble. He then left us an intriguing little bottle of gargoyle powder (glitter); a sprinkle of which each of the children added to their clay at the making phase to help bring them to life at night!

At this point, the mention of the local church also encouraged us to visit the building to find out more about the many gargoyles residing there. We were lucky enough to get a guided tour from a church warden with a few pairs of binoculars (so we could see the smallest sculptures right at the top of the tower) who helped us all to learn more about the historical aspect of gargoyles and their inclusion on buildings in the past.

To further extend the use of the gargoyle theme (and to maximise on the children’s enthusiasm) we then used our finished gargoyles to write our own narrative stories; The Night of OUR gargoyles. We story-mapped each gargoyles adventures around our local area and then, over a number of sessions, developed these into wonderfully entertaining, extended narrative pieces!

Have fun sculpting and share any pictures of your gargoyles!

Hurricane by David Wiesner

hurricane

As a long-standing fan of David Wiesner’s intriguing stories and powerful illustrations, Hurricane has always been one of my favourites, yet it doesn’t seem to garner much popular attention.

This might be that the narrative, at first, might not seem as strong; when in actual fact the book is a ‘hurricane’ of potential narratives that readers can explore for themselves!

What appeals to my sensibilities as a teacher about this book is the way in which is encourages creative and imaginative play, in the outdoors! The basic premise of the book is that two brothers spend the night, tucked up in their cosy home, whilst a hurricane rages outside. The result? In the morning, they discover the largest tree in their garden has been felled by the storm and so the adventure continues.

As the brothers explore the defeated giant that is their favourite tree, their imaginations run wild. They imagine the tree becomes a spaceship, landing on a distant alien-filled planet and take to the high sees in their very own tree trunk galleon. The book is filled with a number of other adventures based in the imaginative worlds created by the boys.

Quick Activities

This obviously provides an excellent launching point for children’s own adventures in the outdoors. You may have a wildlife area which a log circle; there may  be a large piece of outdoor play equipment on the playground or you might be ‘lucky’ enough to have a recently felled tree. Send the children to your chosen location/s in pairs and give them a limited time to generate an initial idea about what this object /location could become – in the same style as the boys in the story. Share the ideas and ask pairs of children to take a small number of their peers to their given location, to share their story and roleplay the adventures.

Extended Activity

This book would clearly lend itself to narrative story writing. To maintain the link with the outdoor learning aspect of the text, ask the children to create a story stick. The children are given or find a stick in the locality that their story starts and then create a story by moving around the area finding physical objects that would act as a prompt to an element of the story i.e. the story might have a dragon; an unusual autumn leaf my be a dragon’s scale! The children can then use other materials such as wool or twine to tie these items onto the story stick, in the order that they appear in the story. Essentially, a Pie Corbett style story map but made physical through the use of the outdoors.

Upon returning to the classroom, the children can then use the stick to practice retelling (and embellishing) the story with their partner, before creating a drawn story map and eventually moving on to write or record their fully polished tale!

story stick

 

 

EASTER SPECIAL – The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett

  During my long and painful years as a secondary school pupil, never did I think that the dry mathematical theories could be presented in a way any more engaging than my slightly unhinged Maths Teacher pretending to be Spider-Man whilst ‘climbing’ a wall drawn on his rotating chalk board! Fibonacci sequences were merely another boring pattern to explore. If only Emily Gravett’s wonderful book had been around at the time….I might have started my picture book evangelical church in my teens!

The premise of the book is that a single field is tracked month by month, along with the rapidly replicating numbers of rabbits in this one field….that no rabbits ever leave, unless it is to go to bunny heaven! This is essential the Fibonacci sequence of numbers but presented in a much more accessible and humorous way than the boring maths text books of old.

The whole text is presented in the form of a calendar, presenting the funny trials and tribulations of rabbits in an increasingly busy field. The bunny so behave in a seasonally appropriate manner in each month…sunbathing in summer, seeking warmth in December etc. This provides lots of rich illustrative details for the children to get lost in to help deepen their interaction with the text. 

   In addition to the Fibonacci element of the story, there are also additional mathematical opportunities to explore. For example, there are ‘mini-books’ within the larger text which talk of carrot prices, rationing supplies and costs. This would provide a wonderful context for further work on the budgeting required to feed and clothe an ever expanding family of young rabbits. 
 Furthermore, the book could provide stimulus for some growing activities in the real world. The children could find out about their local wildlife, the favored food sources and habitat requirements. The children could be challenged to create some rabbit friendly (or other furry animal) planting, calculating the cost of the seeds, maintaining their planting patch, harvesting and even selling any produce that the rabbits haven’t claimed as their own!

The illustrations could even be used to help structure some narrative writing, where the children take a month each in small groups and tell the story of a single rabbit or a group of friends. This could be a fun writing and illustrati task for a special book week or even World Book Day!

Multi-book Project! Traditional Tales with a twist!

  The great benefit of working with traditional tales and fairy stories is that the children are usually already experts in the field. This provides a wealth of opportunities to explore narrative story-telling, art and drama. For this multi-book project, I would use ‘The Lost Happy Endings’ by Carol Ann Duffy as the central text; following this, there are many opportunities to branch out to explore other related texts:


– The Tear Thief by Carol Ann Duffy

  

– The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

  

– The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury

  

– Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole

  

 

– The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch

  

Central text – The Lost Happy Endings

This is a captivating tale about Jub, keeper of the stories, and her quest to retrieve the lost happy endings to all the stories after they have been stolen by a wicked witch. The children of the world are crying as their are no more happy endings, so Jub must act! The reason for choosing this as a central text is that, during the quest, Jub encounters many of the most familiar fairy tale characters. This offers the opportunity to branch out from the central text, at a later date, whilst maintaining a meaningful, contextualised link for the children’s’ learning.

Setting the scene

To really engage the children with this project, I would employ some good old fashioned awe and wonder! Easily recognisable sections from fairy stories could be copied and cut up. These could be crumpled and then left all around the room for the children to discover, possibly with clues mixed in to lead them to a copy of The Lost Happy Endings. Alternatively, familiar objects from fairy stories could be found around the school; little red riding hood’s cape, goldilock’s porridge, Jack’s magic beans etc.

Possible skills

When studying The Lost Happy Endings, the fact that stories have been broken up into extracts could support focused work on extracts of stories and sentence level skills. For example, the story writing process could be developed gradually by focusing on extract openings, build-ups and resolutions. There is great scope for short burst writing and slow writing, as the children could be asked to write their own narrative for specific sections/pages of Jub’s quest, as she reassembles the lost endings.

The book also lends itself to some excellent character work. The description of the bird-like witch sitting high in a tree, with Jub looking into her nest is spine-tingling. The description of the witch is both breath-taking and grosteque….from experience, children love it, especially the fact that she is smoking a pipe! To extend this, children could be asked to do some character writing focused around other well known traditional tale characters…the witch, Malefiecent, from Sleeping Beauty is a particularly potent character (you could even link in the original and modern Disney film versions as inspiration).

An additional fun task would be for the children to provide each other with their own ‘lost happy endings’ as inspiration for story writing. Each child would write a traditional (or non traditional!) ending to a story on a piece of paper. These would then be mixed up and redistributed to different children, with the challenge of writing the story that came before each particular ‘lost happy ending’.

Related texts

The Tear Thief If you wished to create a short author study through this unit, the use of Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘ The Tear Thief’ would be perfect. This beautifully illustrated, heart-breaking story tells the reader about the Tear Thief; a fairy who collects the tears of children. She prizes tears of true sadness – I want reveal the ending here as its is one of those special literary moments that you need to experience for yourself.

Other related texts

All the other texts, identified above, are incredibly fun, alternative takes on the traditional fairy story format. Within the books you will find Tom-Boy princesses, Princes in distress, frightened little wolves and terrifying pigs!

A study of these short, engaging stories would be a great starting point for children to write their own alternative fairy stories…perhaps Little Red could become a wolf-hunter or Granny could become a global manufacturing magnate, as shown in the excellent animated film Hoodwinked!

As an additional branch to this fairy story literary tree, the Story Spinner DVDs and App contain a brilliantly atmospheric oral story which paints a very different, much darker version of Little Red Riding Hood in 3 parts. Each part of told from a different point of view and provides an excellent model for both oral storytelling and powerful narrative for older KS2 children!

I would love to hear what you all make of these traditional tales with a twist and I am sure you will have fun making your own!

Sam and Dave dig a hole by Mac Barnett

sam and dave.jpgThis wonderfully whimsical and deceptively simple tale provides many rich opportunities for learning across the curriculum. The story of Sam, Dave and their Dog is all about them choosing a dig a hole but, unbeknownst to them, every time they are on the verge of a great discovery the trio veer off in a different direction and miss an amazing opportunity.

Quick Activities

Once the children are familiar with the story as a whole, they could choose one of the ‘near-miss’ discoveries to expand into a full narrative. For example, the group come close to discovery dinosaur bones. What might happen if they carry on digging? Will it be a rare/unknown dinosaur? Will they become famous? Is it a dinosaur at all – perhaps an alien? mythical beast?

Equally, the entire story could be expanded and retold from the point of view of a single character – typically Sam or Dave but for a real challenge for the more able, perhaps they could voice the dog and his frustration with the ineptitude of the human excavators!

Extended and Cross-Curricular Activities

At the core of the story is a clear link to the PSHE curriculum – resilience and determination in the face of a difficult challenge. If you keep going through tough times you might be surprised by your success. This text could provide a wonderfully inspiring centre piece for circle time activities. The children could be asked to write letters of encouragement to Sam and Dave or they could respond to the diggers’ letters of frustration in the role of an agony aunt!

From a mathematical perspective, this book could provide an unusual stimulus for work focus on shape and space – specifically measuring and drawing angles. Using copies of some of the images from the text, the children could measure the angles that Sam and Dave were digging at and create a sequence of instructions to reach specific goals from the story i.e. diamonds!

An additional and potentially very enjoyable collaborative project would be to draw and then write a class story. Groups of children could first create their own ‘near-miss’ images of Sam, Dave and the dog at the end of a session of digging – in the same simplistic style as the illustrations in the book. These could then be displayed together on the classroom wall and connected together with different paper pathways. This group artwork could then be used as inspiration for writing new stories for Sam and Dave; the children could pick one or more end locations and write a story about the journey taken by the characters!

This is an incredibly fun book and I would love to hear about your inspired ideas!

The Viewer by Shaun Tan

   If you are a child of the late 70s and early 80s, you will no doubt be familiar with the once popular (but often disappointing) viewer toy. Mine was made of red plastic and I would regularly be bought white disks to insert, showing scenes through the lens from the latest blockbuster film or popular tv programme….not exactly Netflix or Amazon Prime but it was all we had at the time. Well, one such device is featured in Shaun Tan’s The Viewer…although this tale is altogether darker and definitely for older children.
 The book tells the tale of a young boy who likes routing through rubbish, who finds the Viewer of the title. When he looks through the lenses, he sees images of suffering and descruction (all the scenes depicted can easily be matched to significant periods in History, such as the fall of great empires and the relocation of indigenous people. The tale ends on a mysterious and sinister note after the main character feels the viewer is watching him, until he finally gets pulled into the dark places between the images on the viewer disks….and his family forget he ever existed!

Quick Activities

The images in the book could all be used as a starting point for a piece of short story writing, as they are dripping with opportunities for descriptive writing.

Equally, the images displayed on each disk viewed by the main character could be used together, with the children being asked to sequence the images and then write or orally retell the story they believe is depicted. This would be a great opportunity for the children to explore different interpretations of the same events, as the images provided plenty of opportunity for discussion.

Extended Activities

The final set of images seen in the viewer are of potential modern day apocalyptic situations such as Nuclear explosions, famine and pollution. To take a more positive view, the children could be asked to create a viewer disk set of images or associated story which tells how one of these events was averted or avoided.

On a similar theme, the children could all be challenged to create images or stories for a positive viewer – perhaps a companion device to the one in the story which is found by another character on the same rubbish dump. They could be asked to identify significant successes and triumphs from mankind’s history to show the achievements and progress of the past.

The author’s note states that they were inspired to write the story after one of their childhood disks from their own viewer had a missing image pane….stimulating the idea that someone had been there before them and fallen through the broken image into history. The could provide a rich and challenging opportunity for writing as the children could be asked to write the story of the main character who is drawn into the viewer, in relation to where and when in history he appears. Does he return home? Does he influence historic events? Does he meet any historic characters. This would make the book easy to link to virtually any history project!

Cross curricular opportunities

There are obvious links to be made with art, in that the children could produce their own sets of images to reflect a world, local or personal event. However, this idea could be taken further with the use of animation software; the children could animate their own sequence of images or try to replicate those in the book, filling the gaps with their own storytelling.

The Viewer itself is found in an ornate box. There would be great scope for the children to create their own boxes, decorated and adorned with significant symbols and images, as part of a structures project in DT.

Additionally, the very emotive imagery in the book could provide stimulus for composition in music. What soundtrack would the children compose for the different sequences of images on each disk?

The Egg by M.P Robertson/ Dragonology by Dugald Steer

The EggInterior-Page-from-Dragonology-Book

Multi-text themed project!

Here we have an opportunity to provide children with experience of narrative and non-fiction texts in one integrated, themed project.

The first of the two books is ‘The Egg’ by M.P Robertson. The book tells the story of a young boy who discovers a rather large, mysterious egg. He soon discovers that within the golden shell dwells a young dragon and he decides to take on the role of surrogate mother; resulting in him teaching the dragon how to fly, breath fire and generally be a dragon of legend.

The second text in this project is ‘Dragonology’ by Dugald Steer. This is an increasingly common genre-twisting text; a non-fiction structure presenting fictional information as fact. Nevertheless, it provides an engaging stimulus for non-fiction writing. Dragonology draws together myth and legend from across the globe, with a healthy dose of the author’s own creative flair, resulting in a rich and engaging guide to all things dragon!

The Narrative Element

To introduce the project, the story of ‘The Egg’ could be shared with the children. At this point, you could simply launch straight into the non-fiction portion of the project (see below) having peaked their interest about having to care for a dragon. However, there are a number of further opportunities that could be exploited in order to also develop the children’s narrative skills. These could include:

-Storymapping the plot of the story, in the style promoted by Pie Corbett, to develop further working on the tradition of oral storytelling – stemming from the mythical and legendary link to dragons, with possible extensions to other supernatural creatures.

-Extending the original plot; the story gives the reader short snapshots of the numerous training sessions the dragon undergoes, which could be extended into short narratives in their own right. This could even be extended to feature event extended event becoming an additional chapter in its own right.

-Read around other narratives linked to Dragons i.e. How to train your dragon, George and the Dragon, Eragon.

– Challenge the children to innovate the original plot to create a new story, involving the character finding an egg containing a different fantastical beast – how would the training element of the story change? What challenges or dangers might the main character face?

The Non-Fiction Element

Once the children have been inspired by ‘The Egg’, they could then explore the content of ‘Dragonology’. This text could be used as the source material for the children to produce their own non-fiction text in the form of ‘A Dragon-Keeper’s Guide’. This can be contextualised by relating it to the challenges face by the human character in ‘The Egg’ who has to learn about dragon husbandry through, sometimes dangerous, trial and error.

The children could then be tasked with researching the different species of dragon, their needs, wants and health/safety requirements. The writing related to this task could obviously link to multiple non-fiction genres such as instructional writing (How to safely clean a young dragon’s teeth), explanation writing (How does a dragon breath fire?) and non-chronological reports (The Major Dragon Species of Europe).

Other curriculum links to the project

DT – design and build a cage/home/shelter for a dragon

Art – produce anatomical or still life drawings and paintings of the dragons featured in the children’s self written dragon guide

ICT – use animation software, action figures (snope produce great ones!) or modelling clay to create an animated version of ‘The Egg’

Music – create a soundtrack to accompany the animated version of ‘The Egg’ (above)

OR REALLY GO FOR GOLD AND HAVE A ‘DRAGON-KEEPER’S CONFERENCE – TAKE A DAY OR LONGER OFF YOUR STANDARD CURRICULUM TO ALLOW THE CHILDREN TO BE IMMERSED IN THE WORLD OF DRAGONS. HOLD DRAGON CRAFT COMPETITIONS, PLAY DRAGONS AND SNAKES, DESIGN AND MAKE THE LATEST IN DRAGON KEEPER FASHION ACCESSORIES. THE WORLD IS YOUR DRAGON EGG!