Sunday, 22 March 2020

Fun with Fossils

Schools are now closed, but here's a lesson on fossils I managed to fit in just before the last day.

You'll need some actual fossils, ideally, though you could get away with good, clear photographs. (Also, not every child needs a fossil, in spite of what the lesson plan says. They could work with one between two or even three, if necessary.)

You could also print out one or both of the two coloured sheets below: the first shows the geological ages and the second gives the main facts about the four fossils I used - crinoids, ammonites, belemnites and gastropods. 

Here is the lesson plan:

This is a link I gave to the children so they could research the fossils.  After they had done their research notes, we shared what they had found out and looked at each other's fossils. Lots of them already knew lots about prehistory so we had quite a discussion on the topic.

Then they all did the warm-up exercise and shared their lists of 'things that are usually grey'. Not all their ideas were concrete; some were abstract, e.g. "grey as despair".

Finally we wrote the poem all together, a line at a time, in silence. We only shared at the end. As usual, I told them that if they got stuck on any line, they should just miss it out and wait for the next one.

Here are just three Y6 poems that I have permission to share. One is a first draft and the other two have been revised and copied up.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Thumb Print Stories

This was a two-part exercise. In the first session last week, we just played with the ink pads, testing various effects and inventing characters. I advised the students to try and come up with four characters, all based on thumb prints, and to choose their favourite.

Then I asked them to make some notes about their character - name, age, sex, where did this character live, who were his/her enemies and friends, likes and dislikes, and finally to jot down the skeleton of a plot.

This week I gave out booklets and they started to write up their illustrated stories. It was a really quiet session because the children got very involved in their writing. They all said they'd finish the booklets off at home.

If you need to source ink pads, you can get them pretty cheaply here. I just bought a few new brown ones because they do for animals or humans. But your school may have some in anyway. If you're doing this activity at home and don't have an ink pad to hand, colouring the thumb with a felt tip or paint would work!

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Aliens in our Midst!

The children regularly ask for this writing game. I've done it about werewolves, vampires, zombies, and as a murder mystery, but the basic idea is that you give out slips of paper, one of which identifies the recipient as the baddie and which needs to be kept secret from the other children. 

The pupils all have to write persuasive speeches to deliver to the rest of the group (the "community"), setting out their ideas for dealing with the villain. Some will choose to be lenient, wanting to integrate the baddie into the community under various precautions, while others will want the interloper dealt with more harshly. At the end of the speeches, the group discusses what they will do as a community and then they vote for the best plan.

As a final bit of fun, they take a guess as to who among them is the baddie. (The clue is obviously that it'll be someone who's given a speech appealing for clemency, and the sharper students will pick this up.)

You don't actually need envelopes - they just add a bit of drama - and you don't have to use edible paper; ordinary paper will do fine. I happen to keep rice paper in my baking cupboard!

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Clerihew Poems

Start by introducing the idea of a clerihew with examples. The one above is by the poet Edward Bentley Clerihew himself, but you can easily find other child-friendly examples on the internet, or knock off a couple yourself. Explain that although the rhymes have to be a,a, b,b, the lines can be any length (they don't have to scan in the traditional sense).

I wrote one on the board about myself:
The trouble with Mrs Long
Is that she's never wrong
She'll put up a fight
To prove she's right.

Then give out one or both the sheets of possible starting lines and write a few together.

You can also issue the children with a sheet of easy rhymes.

The students found it straightforward to write in the clerihew form, but extremely tricky to get the last lines right! The main aspect of Writing Club, though, is to have fun and to experiment, and today's session was all about that. I do think, too, it brought home how clever and skillful good rhyming poetry really is.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Lovely Feedback Again!

Posted with permission.

Till Rolls

I don't know what it is about rolls of paper that make them exciting to write or draw on, but every time I've used them, the children respond enthusiastically. Till rolls are cheap to buy, or you could roll up any paper for the purpose. Often rolls of backing paper get damaged in schools, so you could use them up this way, and I've also used wallpaper borders and the backs of old wallpaper rolls for the same purpose.

Today we each started a story with the same opening line, then, every few minutes, passed the story on to a new writer, asking the recipient to unroll the paper by only a few centimetres to peep at what's gone before. That way you end up with a disjointed but satisfyingly whacky complete story at the end of the session.

But there are lots of ways you could use a long strip of paper: unroll a long strip across the floor, then take a well-known story and have children work on a different sections at once; or see who can write the longest (tallest) tale. Or give two children the 'middle' event of a story and have them write the beginning and the ending simultaneously. There are lots of possibilities.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Creatures of the Night

For this you will need plastic googly eyes, or if you want to push the boat out, glass cabochons in the shape of eyes, which can be bought here. If you're using glass eyes, pre-sort them into pairs. Ideally too provide some black paper and metallic pens for drawing, though the children could work on any dark-coloured paper with light chalks or pastels. Basically you're going for a moonlight effect.

Ask the children to close their eyes and imagine they are outside at night, far away from civilisation and humans. They could imagine being in a jungle, a forest or out on the moors. Ask them to imagine what they can hear - rustling leaves, the wing, the pad of paws, bird calls - and what the air temperature is like on their skin. Ask what the surface under their feet is like, and what scents they can smell, and what the sky above looks like - can they see the moon, lit clouds, constellations? Ask how they are feeling about being out on their own in the dark wilderness. Then tell them they have seen some sort of animal coming towards them.

As the students open their eyes, give out the props. First suggest they draw their animal (it can be real or made-up), and then, when they're ready, they can write about it. I gave mine the choice of writing a description or putting the animal into a story. 

Some animals were friendly but most turned out to be pretty threatening!