Learning a story in Year 1. Splash! Anna Hibiscus. 


Today I introduced my Year 1 class to this story without sharing the book. Well, without sharing the book to start with. 

Our school have a real push on writing at the moment, although I can’t think of a single school who hasn’t.  We are giving the Talk for Writing strategy a go in every class and sharing good practice regularly. Working walls are becoming busier and used more effectively. We are working hard on writing and know that the reading phase is a huge part of making good progress. 

Today I shared a number of images that represented the plot, setting and characters within the story. Using “magic” microphones (laminated images) they worked with a talk partner to discuss what they thought might happen in the story, who the characters might be, where the story is set or what the ending could be. We ended up creating some really interesting verbal stories using the images given. None that were the same as the real story of Anna Hibiscus though. 

Then we moved to questions. Using a question hand I modelled verbal and written questions building up a verbal success criteria as we went along. The children worked in threes to come up with a range of questions they wanted to ask about each image from the story. This activity focused the children on the images that represented parts of the plot without it being a dull sequencing lesson. In Year 1 it is hard to find lots of different ways to sequence a story without resorting to strategies you’ve taught many times before. This was a new strategy for me, inspired by one of our literacy consultants.  The visualiser was used to encourage the children to self-correct their spellings, choose different question words, consider adjectives to use and remind them about punctuation. In essence it was a verbal reminder of the success criteria which worked well to teach the children about making choices in their writing.

Following this we read the story and the children were extremely keen to find out whether their ideas were right. They were surprised that the bucket and spade was used to bury one of the characters on the beach, as no one had come up with that idea. It made them realise that their first idea isn’t always their best and that authors have different ways of using objects within their stories.

They then used coloured pencils to answer their own questions. 

I hope that by having a solid knowledge of the images that were linked to the plot of the story, this class will be able to recall the story more effectively next lesson so watch this space! I absolutely loved seeing them work so independently. Year 1 children grow so much in this school year and they made me ever so proud today. 


Using Twitter as a tool to create book reviews.

I find Twitter to be an amazing source of views, photos, news reports and celebrity snippets as well as a wonderful source of supportive CPD.  TeachMeets are arranged, talked about and promoted.  Ofsted advice is given by people who really understand what it is like to receive that phone call.  Classroom photographs, role play areas and working walls are shared as standard.  #planningpanic is a hashtag that dominates my timeline on a Sunday night.

Occasionally, I have wondered whether using Twitter as a teaching tool would be effective.  Currently I use it as a way of communicating with parents about the daily life in school, something I have found to be particularly beneficial to those parents who work and can’t always see through the classroom window at 3.30pm.

Last week I found myself in a planning session with a teacher.  Prior to the teacher arriving I had been checking Twitter and noticed that author of “Yeti and the Bird”, Nadia Shireen, was participating in a primary schools workshop in London.  I like her updates as they are a mix of humour, parenting and reading.  When the teacher arrived and said she was teaching a literacy unit on “authors and letters” I have to admit that Twitter wasn’t on my mind.  As the coaching session continued and the teacher talked about creating book reviews, I suddenly saw how Twitter could be used and be effective.  Not just technology for technology sake, but actually be a fantastic tool for learning with a real life purpose.  Short tweet reviews of a book would be an ideal way of getting the children writing in phase 1 of the literacy unit.

  • Using only 140 characters would help the children to consider and manipulate the language that they use in their review.
  • The language of ‘characters’ would make the teaching of punctuation more explicit.
  • The children could tweet a real author who would hopefully reply, what a fabulous way to engage them.
  • Giving the children a template with 140 boxes in would give them more awareness of why sentence structure is important.

I created this template (disclaimer – the photo is appalling, my target is to ensure the photo in my next blog post is an improvement) which can be found at http://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resource/Twitter-review-template-with-140-boxes-6413562/

Awful photo, must try harder!

Awful photo, must try harder!

I then took to Twitter and tweeted @NadiaShireen, the author we had decided to tweet.  She replied and the planning was complete!

I can’t wait to see the tweets and replies on the working wall next time I visit this school.  Follow the hashtag #tweetreview on Twitter to track the progress if you wish.