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!

 

 

 

Advertisements

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 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!

The World of Food by Carl Warner

  Regardless of your pupils’ interest in books and reading, they are all universally engaged by food and that what this book has in bucket loads. The amazing aspect of the book is that the author, Carl Warner, has actually constructed every scene in reality, with genuine food items. The sets have then been photographed and compiled in a book, with each page having a color theme and a matching piece of poetry to explain how the image has been constructed.
Quick Activities

At the simplest level, the images provide enthralling stimulus for narrative writing. The children could be asked to step into the picture, with their descriptive writing focused on the sights, smells, sound and obviously tastes that are found in that culinary country.

In addition, the children could use the images as starters for a new batch of fairy stories, starting with the traditional link of Hansel and Gretel through the image of the land of sweets, as shown in the image above. Children could select their favored image and develop a fairy story about the events that could take place there. This would work equally well myths and legends.

Extended Activities

This book could form the basis for an extended Art, DT, Maths and English project.The children could be challenged to make a number of different lands, through a number of different means to create a new class book ‘ Our World of Food’. The worlds could be made through Art;

  • Mixed media sketching
  • Watercolor painting
  • Collage with papers or even food items (non perishable!!)
  • Clay sculpture
  • Plaster or Mod-roc relief
  • Photography project using more of the author work, which can be found online.

In addition, the worlds could be made through DT;

  • Using structures skills to build a new shelter using unusual objects or food
  • Textiles project focus on making a world of fabric…possibly even incorporating a felt making project
  • Creating the national dishes of each world of food shared in the book

Finally, it would be an excellent Maths project to evaluate the cost of the items bought to build each of the worlds in the book, with the children using current online prices from supermarkets to find the worth of each world. Which one will be most expensive and why? Can they create their own budget/luxury versions?

Failing all of this, just enjoy the incredible skill required to create this masterpiece of text!!

Tuesday by David Wiesner

  For this post, I have chosen to feature of one of true masters of the picture book genre, David Wiesner, and his amazing book ‘Tuesday’. The book itself tells the tale of a mysterious Tuesday night when the frogs surrounding a small American town take flight and run amok!
Quick Activities

The book is filled with page after page of humorous, creative and detailed images. One of these could be taken, out of context of the rest of the story and without the children knowing the plot, as the focus for a piece of short story writing. What is happening in the image? How would you describe the settin? Why is the frog in the images? Etc

Additionally, the whole text could be shared and then the accompanying narrative story could then be written. The original text itself is completely wordless. This allows scope for the story to be retold in comic strip form, with short sentences or paragraphs written for each image. Alternatively, you might choose to write a more conventional, extended narrative to retell the fantastic events in detail.

Extended Activities

At the end of the text, the residents of the small town are very confused. One image shows the police investigating the scenes of the ‘crime’. In this sense, the mystery element of the story lends itself to journalistic writing. The children could write a newspaper article reporting on the events, including interviews with the main characters featured in the story.

Extending the newspaper report theme further, you could challenge the children to write newspaper reports from the perspective of the animals in the story; The Daily Croaker (reporting on a great scientific break through for frog kind – flight!), The Barking Times (a sympathic report about the trauma experienced by domestic dog who had his home invaded by amphibians) or The Cat’s Whiskers (a report on the cat nation loss of night time dominion to the frogs).

For a more creative challenge, you could linger on the final image of the text…the ominous shadow of a pig taking flight at the arrival of night time on the following Tuesday night. Children could write a new narrative to tell the unknown story of the adventures experienced by the pigs on their magical Tuesday night!

‘The Land of Neverbelieve’ by Norman Messenger

 This amazing book by Norman Messenger is one of the rare gems; a book with so much depth that you can make many return visits and discover something new every time! The book takes the form of a 19th Century style biological journal, filled with amazing observed anatomical drawings of strange beast and maps of wonderous landscapes.

Quick Activities

Encourage the children to take inspiration from the amazing hybrid animals in the text to invent their own fantastical creature with consideration of how interesting and inventive adaptations can help it cope with life in the wild.

Using the map, displayed above, the children could be challenged to create their own fantastical land, within which they demarcate specific habitats, geographical features and natural wonders. They can create their own key to accompany a written travel guide for tourists.

Extended Activities

This book has so much depth, there is great potential for the text to be used as a central anchor for cross-curricular learning. I will detail below how different aspects of the text could be linked to curriculum subjects:

English – narrative writing focused on the adventures of a traveller in the world of the book or a child’s own invented land.

Non Chronological reports based on the lifestyle and habits of one of the amazing creatures or range of species.

Narrative/nonsense poetry based on an encounter with a terrifying creature, linked to The Jabberwocky.

Science –  study the habitats of the species depicted in the text and make comparisons with real animals.

Plant anatomy, food production and seed dispersal, studying real plants and then creating fantasy species.

Art – Observational drawing of plants and animals, emulating the 19th century biological journal style.

Experiment with the use of watercolour, in the style of the illustrations, to enhance observational drawings

3D sculptures of the animals and plants with the text i.e. Clay

Geography – create a 3D relief map of the island, encouraging the children to inclide features such as valleys/ volcanoes

Consider the impact of the physical nature of the island on humans by designing a new settlement.

History – investigate the ‘explorer’ heritage of the past, makin links with the work of Charles Darwin.

Personal, Social and Health Education – invent a new indigenous tribe for the island, considering how they would develop laws, ensure equality, provide for the needs of the people and develop a moral or religious belief system.

These are just a few ideas to get you started! Personally, I would have my whole classroom themed around the text, with regular letters or deliveries being made to the classroom from a fictitious field investigator on the island, with the deliveries then acting as a stimulus for learning activities. Imagine the excitement of a packing crate arriving in the classroom early one day filled with exotic plants for the children to dissect and investigate or a broken packing crate with an escaped creature in the classroom…can they use what they know of the creatures features and habits to create an appealing home to trap it again?

Please let me know what amazing ideas you come up with!!

‘Pictures of Home’ by Colin Thompson

 In my experience, one of Colin Thompson’s less known books is the amazing ‘Pictures of Home’. The images were originally commissioned as part of a building society marketing campaign but Colin had the idea of then combining all the images in this single book. In essence, Colin has taken everyday scenes of home, such as arm chairs, kitchen sinks and back gardens; he has then developed smaller homes within these scenes, such as the one shown in the picture.
Quick activities

Children could be given the opportunity to view selected images from the text and then draw their own imagined home in a familiar setting.

Extended activities

Having viewed the text, the children could be given images taken from around the local area or school. Using these photographs, they should then be challenged to ‘Thompson’ them by drawing the photograph with the addition of their own imaginary home. The individual pieces of artwork could then be compiled into a class book i.e pictures of school.

In addition to the above artwork, children could then use a variety of poetic forms inspired by their images, such as cinquain to summarise the scene being depicted.

Alternatively, as part of an extended narrative writing project the children could choose their favoured image from the text, from which they develop the story of the shown/imagined characters who inhabit that particular home. These could be developed further by establishing a link with ‘The Borrowers’ whereby the children write a short story about the interact between the large and small inhabitants of both ‘homes’ in each image.

Any other ideas? Have you used any other of Thompson’s books? Is there a particular text that you would like to see featured?

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

During my many years as a teacher, I have witnessed first hand the power of pictures, imagery and symbolism to stimulate and engage learners. Pictures reach to the very core of the human condition; cave paintings were used to communicate the earliest experiences of our species and we have been hooked ever since. The world is full of amazing picture books, potent novels and powerful images which act as a catalyst for the imagination. Unfortunately, many educationalists still limit their own potential and that of their learners by insisting that picture books, in particular, are consigned to areas of earliest childhood learning, when in actual fact they can be even more impactful with older pupils. I have therefore made it one of my missions in life to spread the word (or should I say pictures!) about the importance of illustrated stories in firing the imagination and inspiring experimentation with the written word.What I hope to share here are some simple suggestions of picture books and other sources that can help to create exciting and engaging learning opportunities for children. In addition, I would hope to share some suggested activities for my favourite texts which might encourage my fellow teachers to set off on their own journey into the world of picture books.

I am happy for anyone to contact me if I can be of any help or offer advice from my perspective. Enjoy!