I love using some of the fabulous short films from Literacy Shed as a hook into writing.
This year, I did a narrative unit with my Year 5 class and they produced stunning pieces of writing so I thought I'd do a little run-down of what we did.
Before watching the film clip, we recapped the imagery techniques we have previously covered: simile, metaphor, personification.
This film is the perfect opportunity to describe something usually seen as ugly in a way that makes it appear beautiful. To start this off, I gave each child a picture of a scrapyard. They each revised their descriptive skills by trying to include every type in a paragraph to describe the rubbish tip. There were some wonderful ones, like this:
We watched the film through, pausing it at different points for the children to make comments and predictions. You can find it here or on You Tube (something about our school's security makes the Literacy Shed website very sluggish, so I often use their You Tube links. Also, this You Tube version has a beautiful piano score throughout.
We then watched this Sky advert for audio described programming. It's a wonderful advert to use and could be used to inspire all kinds of writing and artwork.
I made a transcript of this description and uploaded it to our school's shared drive. The children logged on to their laptops in pairs and saved a copy of the document to their own drive. Then, we watched Treasure once more. We essentially stole each sentence structure from the advertisement's description and changed it to describe the scrapyard in Treasure, thus creating the opening paragraph of our stories. Take a look at the beautiful paragraphs they produced:
Now that our introduction was completed (and stuck into books), we moved on to the main body. This was a lengthy but very simple and very successful process. I played a VERY short clip from the film - 1-3 seconds only. I then gave the children a particular sentence type to use or a specific thing to include. The children then worked in pairs to compose their sentence. Some types of sentence or things to included: open with a preposition, include an oxymoron or juxtaposition (I taught these as a new feature as we were doing this), open with two verbs (e.g. Rummaging and clattering, she...), start with a subordinate clause, include a relative clause etc. This was also a great way to embed some of our grammar work. As you can imagine, this takes a long time but really was worth it. Their writing was fantastic. Take a look at some of our paragraphs:
We have struggled in the past with our closing paragraphs. The children are inclined to rush at the end. To try to prevent this, I used the same technique I used at the start of our Shipwrecked stories - we watched the closing scene, in which the old lady in the story has created a magical scene from the scraps she has collected. We identified all of the different things we could see and each pair took one (e.g. the shadows on the walls, the light from the candle, the expression on her face) and wrote a 'stonking sentence' - the best sentence they could compose together, using all of their 'powers' and selecting which techniques to use. They wrote these sentences on strips of paper. I stuck these all to one A3 sheet and photocopied one each.
The children then looked at all of the sentences, decided which to use and in what order and edited them as they liked.
Here are a couple of their final paragraphs. You can see how they have used the same sentences differently:
I know that this is a very supported and guided way of writing, but they then wrote another story independently as an assessment. For this, I played them a few seconds of the film The Lighthouse and they selected a sentence type to include (from a list on our display) and they composed independently. Their stories were beautiful and they included lots of the techniques we had looked at, showing that they really could apply those skills.
Finally, here are some examples of our completed stories. Some are over a couple of pages so are in a couple of photographs. Don't miss the introduction - it's the typed paragraph at the start. Enjoy!
Recently, I held a Maths workshop. I like it best when the children both design and run something like this. It gives them a sense of pride to show-off what they are learning and to be able to lead their family members in activities. I usually run these things as a 'drop-in', with no formal introduction or anything. The parents come in when they collect their children at the end of the day and their child leads them around.
All of the activities here also make good warm-up activities for your Maths lessons.
Here are some snaps from my most recent Year 5 Maths workshop:
Show me your way
This station shows different calculations for people to write how they would work it out. I use this as a starter activity quite regularly. It's a good way to get children to think about different strategies and how they suit different questions and to think about how to present their working out so someone else can see their method.
Use what you know to find out what you don't know
Here, we were making a mindmap of derived facts. We worded this as 'Because I know 4 x 3 = 12, I also know...'. Some examples for this fact were 0.4 x 3 = 1.2, 40 x 30 = 1200, 8 x 6 = 24 (doubling all), 4/5 x 3 = 12/5=2 2/5, 12=4+4+4
We play this game a lot! When I use it as a starter, I give them a minute to think of as many as they can, either by themselves or using a Kagan structure, such as Rally Robin. All they have to do is put things of the same value between the equals signs. I give them a starting value, such as 2/5 and encourage them to think of different forms, e.g. equivalent fractions, calculations, decimals, words.
e.g. 2/5 = 0.4 = 1/5 + 1/5 = 1/5 x 2 = 1 - 0.6 = 1 - 6/10 = 1 - 3/5 = 2 fifths
You get the idea. It's a great way to get them thinking about equivalences and to reinforce the fact that the equals sign means just that - equal to and does NOT mean the answer is. Right from Reception, we move the equals sign around to try to avoid this misconception in the first place.
Some Foundation Stage-style practical learning here - very simply, pin the dates onto the timeline. A chance to practice using a scale and estimating. This also happens to fit in beautifully with our World War 2 topic.
What can you tell?
I LOVE this way of approaching data. In the past, I have seen my most able mathematicians rush straight to the question, take a quick glance at the graph or chart then write an incorrect answer before giving any time to looking at the graph and trying to work out what it is showing them.
The way I am teaching it is to give them graphs, charts and tables with no questions. The task is merely to look at it and write down everything they can work out from it. This open-ended task self-differentiates and takes very little preparation. The speech-bubble post-its seem to make the world of difference to the children's enjoyment!
One of the children's favourites! I challenge my top group to write their working out in one calculation. As a starter, I use the IWB. For this workshop, I put out laptops.
Although it's easy to make yourself, there's a super version on the NRICH website here, which is great, albeit very strangely organised. There's a fractions version, too!
Speaks for itself. Fun though!
Hi! I'm Mrs P: passionate primary school teacher!