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Happy New Year!

I hope that you have had a wonderful break and really recharged your batteries!  I actually managed to completely switch off and eat, drink and be very merry over the Christmas holidays! I had some wonderful presents and I wanted to just share a couple of them with you, as I am hoping to use them in schools over the next few weeks.  My children brought me three boxes of Rory’s ‘Story Cubes’ and we spent quite a while making up ridiculous stories together. You roll the dice and then have to tell the story that the pictures show you. This would be great to use with all year groups, as you can make it more difficult by giving pupils different adverbial phrases that they have to try to incorporate:

story cubes

I found ‘The plot of The Great Escape’ on the net and thought that you could have so much fun focusing on the basics of plots of different novels and films with more able pupils.


This reminded me of some wonderful little books that I found last year that take classic texts and write them in just 12 words. They are beautifully made with felted settings and characters and are made up of a double page with one image and one word on. They even present the story of ‘Oliver Twist’, ‘Emma’ and ‘Les Miserable’ in just a handful of words.  Brilliant! I have given them to more able Year 6 and asked them to create the story after reading the book. It is a wonderful way of enabling children to embellish a plot and use their imaginations:

Cozy-Classics-Huckleberry-Finn Cozy-Classics-Jane-Eyre1 Cozy-Classics-Moby-Dick2

I actually delivered training for more able Year 6 pupils on Friday at the Book Centre, with Maddy Barnes, and we had a great time discussing more interesting and demanding texts with the many teachers that attended. Here are a few that we recommended to stretch more confident readers:


‘Wonder’ by Belacio is a genuinely heart warming book about a boy with great physical disabilities who conquers his fears when he eventually finds enough courage to go to school. It is told through different voices and really makes the reader think!

The boy who swam with piranhas

I do like David Almond’s texts and have used ‘Skellig‘ a number of times over the years. This has to be my favourite of his books though. It has so many fascinating characters and is cleverly written. You really want to know what will happen with Stanley when he runs away to join the circus after his uncle uses his beloved goldfish in his latest fish canning experiment!

Each sentence seems to have great thought behind it and it is great for developing work on higher order word and sentence level choices.

The illustrations, by Oliver Jeffers, just add to this strange world and give another layer to the reading.

If you are looking for a text to use to develop really able readers and extend work on emotions then look no further than the heart rending tale of the young boy who is watching his mother try to conquer cancer. It is visceral and raw in its writing, but is just so moving and wonderful for discussion. The illustrations can also be used to generate great work. A health warning though, have tissues ready!

 a monster calls      image from a monster calls

During the holiday, I had a fantastic evening with my family at War Horse by Michael Morpurgo at The Lowry and felt really inspired to do lots of work linked to the centenary of World War I. I have bought Marcia William’s fictional book about the war, as I enjoyed using her World War II book to inspire both reading and writing. I am going to compare it to factual texts about the period:


I also bought him Carol Anne Duffy’s beautiful text about the World War I Christmas Truce and we compared this to the scene from War Horse where the English and the German soldier help Joey when he is trapped in no-mans land.

carol anne duffy

I also bought my son an amazing book that is a concertina book based on the Battle of The Somme. He is fascinated by this period of history and poured over the book on Christmas Day, looking really closely at each image and asking lots of questions. This is what history should do!



I am just finishing off writing my history training, that I will be delivering in a few weeks at the Book Centre, and really want to find texts like this that will bring history to life!


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