Posted by: Bill Lord | October 19, 2010

Promoting Reading


Today I worked with a group of teachers about firing up the teaching of reading. Here are some of my musings on the matter.

Reading is an art and something which we should seek to pass onto children. It is imperative that teachers have a good understanding of which books are available for them to use and which are best. We are at a time when publishing houses are producing some wonderful books and we must ensure that this is reflected in our reading stock.

Children need to hear books being read without interruption – this is about ensuring that teachers read texts outside the literacy shared and guided reading sessions. These moments are magical and show children the power of text. As teachers we know that books can make you feel uncomfortable, warm and fuzzy, cold, shocked, surprised, emotional (I could continue) but I am not convinced that this is something that we impart to the children. To do this we need sustained periods of time where the children can sit down, shut up, stick their thumbs in their mouth, plait someone’s hair or play with their shoelaces as they listen to a wonderful book.

This is hard for teachers to bring out about due to the perception of the packed curriculum and so it is vital that all schools have a collective view on how books will be shared with children.

Teachers also need to be aware of books which is why things like the Read for Joy wiki will hopefully grow as teachers share good books but it should also be done in-house with teachers given a small amount of time in staff meetings to make others aware of books which they love. If schools are trying to place an emphasis on reading then this should include developing a reading staff. It is certainly worth reading the UKLA Research on Teachers as Readers

I read the opening to The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman to the group to show them the power of a text which is not necessarily a comfortable read.

The book is wonderful and will grab children from the terror of the opening through its use of humour, pathos and tension to a great conclusion. It is highly likely that the children will draw comparisons to the text in their literacy work so the time may well impact on their writing but they should be hearing books of this quality read to them by a range of people (if possible)

There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.
The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately.
The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet.

We moved onto talking about reading comprehension and the importance of Guided Reading which can, at times, be difficult for teachers due to the sensitivities over what you do with other groups whilst you are hearing readers. Teachers do worry about the progress made by other groups but need to keep in mind the fact that guided reading is the best way of teaching, practising and applying reading skills and ensuring that children cover more than recall and inference questions.

One activity we quickly discussed to aid comprehension and certainly teachers’ assessment of children’s comprehension was to use an application like Microsoft Photostory with images from a text or children’s illustrations of a scene from a text for children to talk over. At its simplest children could be asked to recount what happens in the text – we know that children’s ability to summarise a text, events or a presentation is varied and that it is a key skill.
I know that, whilst on holiday, I asked my daughter to tell me about the Eva Ibbotson book “Journey to the River Sea” just as we walked into the Cornish town of Fowey – half an hour later we sat down next to the sea and she was about three quarters of the way through the book. She knew the book inside out but was unable to prioritise events in order to provide a brief summary of the events!

For children to be able to summarise this needs to be modelled and practised – talking about books is a great way in.

Next in our discussion we moved onto looking at a range of books which could fire up their children. I had chosen the theme of authors and illustrators who brought something different.

The Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book
The Day I Swapped my Dad for two Goldfish
The Wolves in the Walls

The Pea and the Princess

Mini Grey
The Pea and the Princess
Traction Man is here
The Adventures of the Dish and Spoon
Biscuit Bear
Traction Man meets Turbo Dog
Egg Drop

Marcia Williams
Archie’s War – my scrapbook of the First World War by Archie Albright
My Secret War Diary by Flossie Albright

Catherine Rayner
Augustus and his Smile
Harris finds his feet
Sylvia and Bird
Norris the bear who shared

The Ice Bear

Jackie Morris (Author and Illustrator)
The Ice Bear
Tell me a Dragon
Starlight Sailor (James Mayhew)
East of the Sun and West of the Moon
The Snow Leopard
How the Whale Became (Ted Hughes)
The Seal Children

Christian Birmingham (Illustrator)
Wombat goes Walkabout (Michael Morpurgo)
Windhover (Alan Brown)
The Sea of Tranquility (Mark Haddon)
The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S.Lewis)
The Night before Christmas (Clement C. Moore)

Monkey and me

Emily Gravett
Meerkat Mail
Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fear
Monkey and Me
The Rabbit Problem
Orange Pear Apple Bear

Grahame Baker-Smith
Leon and the Place Between

Iggy Peck Architect

David Roberts (Illustrator)
Pooh! Is that you, Bertie?
The Troll (Julia Donaldson)
Tyrannosaurus Drip (Julia Donaldson)
Iggy Peck Architect (Andrea Beatty)

Marcia Williams
My Secret War Diary – WWII
Archie’s War – WWI
Bravo, Mr William Shakespeare

I finished the presentation by demonstrating three applications

I also extolled the virtues of Voki I had recorded a message using one of the characters to show how easy it is to use.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

Finally I showed them how easy Storybird is to use.

It could be used for whole class or to target specific groups such as intervention groups supported by a TA or gifted and Talented to work independently. Here are some great examples from Pete Richardson

Inanimate Alice
Finally I demonstrated the first chapter of Inanimate Alice This is the book which was demonstrated by Bill Boyd at Storytyne where he talked about his work with a group of teachers using Inanimate Alice.  It tells the story of the 8 year old Alice and her adventure in China. At present the book has four different chapters in four different locations. The text is written by an award winning author and is incredibly high quality. The text is moved through page by page which can be re-visited by clicking on the relevant icon. It is an interactive text which is divided into different frames using a wide range of modes. It used diagetic and non diagetic sound, animations, video films, exploded diagrams with a handheld mobile device as the main interaction tool between the character and the user.

The character was born digital (Alice was conceived as a digital project), it is a high quality text, has highly interactive engagement, uses trans-media engagement, covers different continents, gives potential for wide curriculum coverage and is progressively challenging – she moves from 8, 10, 11 and 13 in the fourth chapter. It is used widely in the Pacific Rim particularly in Australia but is being worldwide.

Useful links

Sarah Brownsword talked about her work using Inanimate Alice in her classroom at TMEast earlier this year.

As I often do I finished with a flag up for my blog post on the Second World War which remains one of my most read posts.

Posted by: Bill Lord | October 9, 2010

Musings on gender differences

Last week I was moderating the UKedchat discussion on gender differences. For those who don’t know about this forum it is an excellent place for people interested in education to get together to discuss a topic which is selected using an online poll.

Ian Addison wrote a great blog post about why UKedchat is so useful and relevant.

The chat last week was on the topic of What is different between the ways in which boys and girls learn? Does it matter?
There is a summary of the discussion on the UKedchat blog here

My initial thoughts for the blog were:
The discussion started off with a period of clarifying the behaviour differences of the two genders. This included discussion of maturity, (boys are silly, immature, disorganised and girls are a distraction!!)
This then moved onto trying to define to what extent the comments were nothing but generalisations and to what extent they were based upon on truth. There was a fascinating question about whether teachers go into class with these preconceptions (perhaps more at Primary.) Should teachers seek to treat the genders as a blank canvas at the start of each academic year?
UKedchat then moved onto the role of teacher gender in tackling the issue. We saw the inevitable airing of questions of whether the low numbers of male teachers in Primary schools is a formative factor in the gender problems which manifest themselves in both Primary and Secondary schools.This was countered by many examples of schools where this has not been an issue and how it is down to relationships, use of technology and good teaching.
There were up to the half way mark attempts to define what is girl or boy friendly and whether they are exclusive of the other gender. The conclusion appeared to be that the approaches were often as effective for both. The issue of split genders in set and classes rose at this point with mainly very positive experiences of this in both primary and secondary settings.
In the second half the chat moved away from some of the generalisations to more specific suggestions and strategies.
It was pointed out that after half an hour a discussion of gender had mainly been about boys’ behaviour and achievement. At this point the issue of girls’ achievement in mathematics was raised.
The recognition of different learning styles and the stimuli used was cited as important and too often unrecognised.
In the last fifteen minutes suggestions were made to investigate Kagan and also Trouble with Boys by Tyre. Forest schools got a good mention from several posters as well as other practical activities.
To sum up the hour covered:
– teacher expectations
– selecting appropriate pedagogies
– splitting groups by gender
– societal and cultural pressures on pupils to conform to gender norms
– governors seeking male teachers in primary schools
– gender discussions should include discussion of girls not just boys
– Move the FS 6 areas of learning into Primary could make a more vibrant and relevant curriculum

I decided at the end that i would seek to expand on some of my thoughts in a blog post. The issues which resonated with me were those around teacher expectation, recognising pupils as individuals rather than members of gender groups,  teacher bravery in planning and the use of technology.

To give a context I have worked in North Nottinghamshire for much of my career which is an area which has been blighted, in many places, by low expectations of pupils’ potential, a growing underclass caused by the collapse of the mining and manufacturing industries and an area where boys’ achievement is a considerable problem. In my advisory work I was lucky enough to work with Petula bhojwani (until recently of Birmingham City University) researching and developing strategies to support teachers with the teaching of boys up to 2004.

After a gap of several years we started working together again in 2006 leading a project in Nottinghamshire which was written up in a UKLA publication ‘I know what to write now!’: Engaging Boys (and Girls) through a Multimodal Approach about which I blogged last year. The funding for the project was ostensibly to allow the schools to target standards in boys’ writing but during the year we worked closely with teachers trying to develop a set of pedagogies which would raise standards for all children rather than concentrate on gap closing by targeting one gender group.

One of the chapters was about how Carr Hill Primary School strived to use boy friendly strategies to support the raising of standards across all year groups and both genders in which we discussed the approaches we took as a whole school to develop strategies which included those boy friendly ones but also a keen consideration of the needs of the girls.

So I am struck by the fact that, if we accept that what is good teaching and learning for boys is good for girls, we should be concentrating on good teaching and learning and pedagogical strategies.

Some of the main strategies we covered in this were:

Selection of texts
If you consider the average selection of texts given to a class in their primary literacy lessons it does not always make the most invigorating list. There have been many comments in OFSTED reports about teacher subject knowledge in literacy but for me there is as serious an issue with the level of knowledge of which books are available to share with children. I have used the line “children have the right to experience books by authors who are still alive or those written in the last 20 years” in conferences, training and meetings – this has been often greeted with laughter and smiles but also much crossing of arms.
There are too many classes where the selection of texts is down to what was used the year before the year before the year before. I do believe that  children have the right to be read books by authors who are still alive or still writing. I am not ‘dissing’ the quality of Roald Dahl, Dick King-Smith,  Allan Ahlberg, Anne Fine etc (indeed I was involved in a project based upon The Jolly Postman) it is about knowing texts and to do that teachers have to read books. You have to know your children and know which books would best suit them. In order to do this you need to be a reader of children’s  books.

I find it disturbing how many teachers I meet in Primary education who do not read any children’s books – for me that is the same as not reading up on the teaching of mathematics or art. My analogy is that I am not a confident teacher of art but ensure that I am aware of artists, exhibitions and art work. I also sought out the art teacher for support in teaching the progression of skills needed in the scheme of work.At the moment I am working with a lot of teaching on developing reading comprehension strategies and ‘reading books for books’ sake’. It is clear that people are keen to develop greater awareness of strategies and texts and teachers always love the time to engage with wonderful books but there is an issue which I often come across.  All too often I get comments like ‘we don’t have a good book stock’, ‘I don’t know which books to use’, ‘I can’t use picture books in KS2’, ‘I haven’t got time to read books at home’. I am afraid that much of this is phooey – it is not that hard and if schools are trying to place an emphasis on reading then this should include developing a reading staff. It is certainly worth reading the UKLA Research on Teachers as Readers

So for us the first important element was to improve teacher knowledge of children’s books and get them to vary the texts used to suit particular cohorts or cross curricular work. This is not necessarily a boy friendly strategy but one which did impact on pupil attitudes. We worked very hard to make reading  popular activity in part by making it subversive and introducing books which they were surprised that we allowed them to read such as Bumface by Morris Gleitzman and also by trying to be ahead of the trends in reading in our purchasing of books.

I also strongly believe that we should be giving the children the right to access books which cover uncomfortable

Quality First Teaching and the use of technology
In the last ten years Primary schools in England have seen a huge rise in the number of additional adults employed to teach and to assist in teaching. We see interventions taking place on a daily basis with learning mentors also supporting pupils. This is all good news and something which we could only appreciate the impact of once budget cuts truly bite in forthcoming years. There has been a lot of work in recent years on raising the level of Quality First Teaching (QFT). The description of this that I use with colleagues can be found here on the National Strategies website.  If you look at the descriptions below I don’t think that there is anything to necessarily to argue against but it does miss the absolutely crucial element – the pedagogy which drives it. For me, the definition of pedagogy is the art of teaching (others will refer to it as the science but I do like the concept of it being an art).  In the last year I saw a colleague use a video in a large training event in which a young teacher discussed how she  had spent much of the last year developing her pedagogy. The response to it was fascinating as some teachers look a little mystified, some nodded in agreement and two mimed holding a handbag and oohed in a get you fashion. It was almost as though they considered her to be getting ideas above her station using a word like that!

Quality first teaching is achieved by balancing different teaching and learning approaches.

Directing and telling

Sharing your teaching objectives and expected learning outcomes with the class, ensuring that pupils know what to do, and drawing attention to points over which they should take particular care: for example, showing how to ensure that one step follows from another in a scientific argument, the degree of accuracy to adopt when making a measurement, how to communicate findings, how to label axes correctly or plot a smooth curve.


Giving clear, well-structured demonstrations using appropriate resources and visual displays: for example, showing a particular technique or a scientific method for a practical activity, showing how to interpret a graph or develop a rigorous scientific argument, interpreting a view through a microscope using photographic slides or electronic views from a mini-camera or CD-ROM using a data projector or whiteboard.

Explaining and illustrating

Giving accurate, well-paced explanations, and referring to previous work or methods: for example, using models and analogies to assist understanding, giving the meaning of a scientific term, symbol or form of notation, and explaining how evidence leads to an acceptable conclusion.

Questioning and discussing

Questioning in ways that match the direction and pace of the lesson to ensure that all pupils take part (supported where necessary by a teaching assistant or other adult and/or by appropriate equipment); using open and closed questions, skilfully framed, adjusted and targeted to make sure that equal numbers of girls and boys, and pupils of all abilities, are involved and contribute to discussions; asking for explanations; giving time for pupils to think before inviting an answer and deciding when it is apt to have a ‘no hands up’ approach; listening carefully to pupils’ responses and responding constructively in order to take their learning forward; and challenging pupils’ assumptions and making them think.

Exploring and investigating

Asking pupils to pose problems, suggest a line of enquiry or design a fair test, to investigate for themselves or identify anomalous results; equipping pupils with the skills required to plan and carry out investigations, including opportunities to extend the range of equipment they can use successfully in their work.

Consolidating and embedding

Providing varied opportunities to practise and develop newly learned skills, through a variety of activities in class and well-focused homework; asking pupils to work either with a partner or as a group.

Reflecting on and talking through a process

Inviting pupils to expand their ideas and reasoning, or to compare and then refine their methods and ways of recording their work; encouraging them to use and apply their scientific skills to solve scientific problems across the curriculum.

Reflecting and evaluating

Identifying pupils’ errors, using them as positive teaching points by talking about them and any misconceptions that led to them; discussing pupils’ justifications of the methods or resources they have chosen; evaluating pupils’ presentations of their work to the class; giving them oral feedback on their written work.

Summarising and reminding

Reviewing, during and towards the end of a lesson, the science that has been taught and what pupils have learnt; identifying and correcting misunderstandings; inviting pupils to present their work and picking out key points and ideas; making links to other work in science and other subjects; giving pupils an insight into the next stage of their learning.

Guided learning

Guided learning is an instructional sequence for small groups which is integrated into lessons to bridge between whole-class teaching and independent work. It is more than just listening in; supporting and challenging in a sustained and proactive way at the point of learning; sustained time with specific groups; could be a systematic and ongoing rotating programme.

Taken from the National Strategies Website

At the same we have seen a massive rise in ICT hardware purchasing and use but to what end? I have spent the last 11 years arguing that technology should be a key driver in combatting the under achievement of boys but despite the massive investment there is still an issue. This points to  chronic problem in the use of the technology (not a new argument I know) – to be blunt we have invested millions of pounds in giving cutting edge technology in Primary schools to people who are not trusted with the remote control by their own children in their own homes.
It could be argued that we have made it worse  – for those of a certain age who remember the games show Bullseye in the 1980s – this is like the end of the show when contestants failed to win the star prize and they would wheel out a speedboat or car with the legend “Look what you could have won” coming from the lips of host Jim Bowen. We present the children with a dynamic, vertical, visual tool in class and then often leave it in the hands of people who don’t use it to anywhere it’s full potential.

I posted in some detail on the Storytyne blog post about attitudes of teachers towards children driving the technology. It is important that teachers hand over the use of the technology. I posed the question Have we spent millions of pounds on putting technology in classrooms and leaving it in the hands of people who are not even trusted with the remote control in their own houses?

In Independent sessions teachers should be aiming to use the IWB whether it be to continue from the shared session working with a targeted group for guided work or giving the access to the board to an independent group who then feed back in the plenary. (The use of the screen recorder comes in handy here)

Teachers who are not confident using specific applications should consider simply handing it over to the pupils whether it be screen capture, the recorder tool, Kodu, Photostory, Audacity, Google Maps, Podium, Voicethread etc – these are all applications which don’t get used sufficiently widely because of teacher confidence issues but all of which simply require an understanding of how they can support learning. The children will do the rest!

Posted by: Bill Lord | October 8, 2010


This morning I have been given the wonderful opportunity to attend Storytyne at the Open University in Newcastle.

The session was introduced by Tim Rylands (@timrylands) who started the call for teachers to consider what the children are saying and the stories they are telling not necessarily which technologies they are using to produce them.

He posed the question whether we are imposing an airplane model of education on children telling them to sit down, face front when they come in from the playground.

Tim then took the audience on a wonderful journey of storytelling showing how he and Sarah Neild have used games to inspire children to tell stories and showed a film of a young girl telling her tale inspired by game playing.

Children should be given the opportunity to slow down when involved with writing.

Tim then took us onto a journey through the Epic citadel donning the storyteller’s coat and telling a wonderful story of a pickpocket in the city. (I will post a short video clip of it at lunchtime) The tale told how the pickpocket met another beautiful pickpocket with whom he fell in love. The story moved and finished with a very uncomfortable ending – a reminder that children have a right to be made uncomfortable by their reading and storytelling. Personally I believe that too often we go for the middle ground in our choice of texts. (A blog post must follow of books which could be seen as challenging for Primary children.)

We then moved out of the city and met the pickpocket (played by @ideasfactory) and his wife (@mynictle)  who came to the front in role – Tim invited the audience to ask questions and there was silence!! The reminder that teachers do feel more bashful than children on many occasions!


The pickpocket and his wife


The model of storytelling was so important and does inspire the question how many of our children are given a strong model of how to tell stories in their classroom. This will undoubtedly happen in many infant classes but I do wonder how Junior classes are led by storytellers.

Tim then got a translator to come up and interpret questions from the audience to the couple. The questions were asked and the  interpreter / translator then put them into a different form.

We then had the first freebie of the day as Tim handed out thinking dice to inspire questions – it was clear that the audience overcame their bashfulness and asked some wonderful questions.

The dice are available from and cost £9.99.


glamorous assistants


Story telling dice

Next up  Sean McCusker from Durham University and Kerry Cottiss from St Cuthbert’s North Shields. They talked about a project taking place in the North East developing storytelling in the classroom under the title of NEstories.
They are heading down different strands in terms of the research and to demonstrate it Sean played us a story told by two nine years about 2 miners called Albert and Ernie who worked in Merton colliery. The use of specific vocabulary was impressive as the children talked about high tension machinery, hands being red raw, both men being determined to finish their job. One of the children took on the role of narrator whilst the other one did all of the voices. In the story one of the miners lost one and half fingers, again children telling an uncomfortable story but without being too gory or mawkish.
The intention in the classes was that storytelling would develop and also build a cultural heritage.  So in North Shields many of the children found the story of the bombing of the Lemonade Factory in the Second World War as it was a specific cultural event of which most families had knowledge.

Sean talked about the reinvention of the North East with an emphasis on art and culture, new industries and the service sector and how important it is that the industrial history of the area is brought to live. The colliery in the story was closed in the 90s and is now the site of the Dalton Park shopping centre. It has been there for seven years and so for many of the children their history of the area will only include the shopping centre and not the mine. Therefore it has been important for the children to gain an understanding of what went before in the their area for more than 200 years. The point being that  digital storytelling brings people closer to their own cultural heritage.

Classroom practice
Some of the prompts to start storytelling included What can we add to the introduction of the story? Can we add dialogue? The games used included introducing yourself, the name game, list game , chinese whispers, whisper down the lane, story swapping in which stories are developed as partners tell a story and the swap partners to build new elements into it and story skeletons.

Kerry came on the training in May and was inspired to go back and try it with Years 2 and 5 – initially they felt that it had more impact on the younger children. The children were warmed up and sat in a circle brainstorming what they would like to research as a class. The prompts and questions were based upon some knowledge or family history (grandfather in the navy, was the soft play centre once a church etc.)
“As teachers we must respond to the changing needs of pupils, education only flourishes, if it successfully adapts to the demands and needs of time” – this chimes with the sense that teachers need to be brave and make amendments to their practice based upon where the children are and the best pedagogies to support them.

The Benefits

  • An I-can non threatening environment
  • Enhanced confidence in the use of storytelling
  • Home – school links
  • Community cohesion
  • A unique approach of bringing language to life
  • Links well with APP (particularly with AF3 Talking within role-play and drama – AF4 Talking about Talk)
  • It evened out the playing field for

What makes a good story? I wish all our lessons were was good as this!” Ben Year 2

The story that Kerry finished with was incredibly moving as a young child talked about his grandfather who had been in the SAS and how he had suffered to come to terms with what he had experienced in times of conflict and how this had led to him drinking. A very frank reportage from a 6 year old child.

Break time

Tim Meek from Scholastic talking about Story stage ( and Kodu from Microsoft. He describes how he works with disengaged pupils as his ongoing CPD in his role working with Scholastic. He showed video clips of children working at the same laptop and the disengagement caused by the fact that there is only one mouse, Storystage allows up to four children working on the same computer plugging in four separate mice.  (He did advise scaling this up from 2 at first). He reassured the delegates that adults are pre-conditioned to only expecting to see one mouse / cursor on the screen at a time when children simply don’t see an issue in it at all.
The immediate beauty of Storystage is the fact that it is very simple. It is an on-screen version of a puppet theatre (the Luddite in me feels that it should sit in a class where there is the potential for puppet play as well!)  It does allow the user to develop a multilayered story with roles  being assigned and even the ability to cause it to snow, put stage lights on the screen or dismiss a character through the use of a trapdoor.
Tim described it as a playful space – this ties into the discussion we had on #ukedchat about four weeks ago (I will find the link later) where we discussed creativity. I still have not clarified the definition of what I think it want it to look like but the closest word is probably is bringing in a sense of playfulness. It would appear at first demonstration that this is a resource which has the potential to develop collaborative on-screen playful using storytelling, discussion, negotation etc.
At present finished pieces of work can only be shown in the programme but there is a patch being developed to allow it to be embedded in school portals / websites / VLEs. It is only Microsoft compatible at the moment.

In the resources there are also ebooks and animated tales for use out of the theatre as well as sound effects, music, ambient sounds (allowing the children to use diagetic and non diagetic sounds which is an important part of storytelling and the move towards writing.)

A resource worth looking at.





Tim next modelled the Microsoft application which he first saw at BETT 2010 which he describes as a jazzed version of Logo. It is a 3D modelling environment but Tim linked it to Monsters versus Aliens  and sought to find out if it could be linked to narrative themes by building a world. It is driven by a handset which to a middle-aged man like me looks like a Playstation controller. He showed the game in build mode and how it uses programming language and mainly icons.  He built a scene from the Wreck of the Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo. As a book lover it is lovely to a session which is undeniably very techy being built around reading language . Returning to the impact on the group of disengaged learners Tim showed how the children wrote diaries from the story, retelling of the story and writing for purpose. The children wrote to Microsoft to complain about the handsets and to request some free ones – a successful blag!! I think that this application will be too technical for many teachers but it will certainly not be above the children. The question is how many will be prepared to cede control of the technology to their pupils?

Vicky Cable from Shoofly


Angel boy


Vick y talked about imagination – can we imagine without experience? Can a child imagine a running dog if they have never seen a dog – it is our duty to create the experiences for the children on which they can build their imagination.
Vicky asked the delegates to look on their seats and find a feather on their seats – this was linked to the wonderful book from Shoofly  – Angelboy which is challenging, beautiful and incredibly evocative. A link from all presentations that the resources have been things of beauty and with a level of challenge or even the power to make children uncomfortable. Vicky has now brought out the role play clothes and this blogger has rushed to the back to appear very busy on his laptop. Delegates are being asked to think about role, voice, tone etc and divided into 4 groups.

Angel boy can be found here and is something that you should look at in Upper Junior Classes.

Vicky took responses in from delegates from their role play and then showed some simply wonderful examples of audiobooks made by children including The wolf and Little Red Riding with one of the scariest wolves I have ever heard!!!


Brainpop Eylan Ezekiel from Brainpop talked about Fact versus Fiction. Brainpop although technology based is not about technology driving the curriculum but about using technology firing the children up and opening up the learning in the classroom. Eylan talked about classes where the use of Brainpop has then inspired pupils to make their own movies as part of their own published final outcome.

Creativity – a word we often use but can’t always clearly define.

Eylan demonstrated how Brainpop had storyboarded their latest film about the Queen and then asked the delegates to work in groups and develop their own storyboards on a theme. The link was made to the session by Alan Yeoman of 2Simple as Eylan encouraged us to think in his session about how we could make our storyboard in one of the 2Simple products such as 2CASS (2 Create A Simple Story)

I was sat  upstairs whilst in the other room the delegates were being shown The Land of Me by James Huggins. The Land of Me describes itself as ‘The Land of Me is a collection of playful learning activities that adults and children can enjoy together. Created in collaboration with early learning experts, six enchanting chapters inspire you and your child to create monsters, buildings, music and more. Their follow up session was by Anithings – it was described by Susi Arnott on Twitter  as something which lets you create and control animations using characters and objects (you can build up your own) looks good!

Alan Yeoman
Alan works for 2Simple and quickly demonstrated 2 Create A Story  and how it enables children to create images, insert a voiceover, add music and import photographs. The  files can be exported as .swf flash files which enables them to be embedded in school websites. Alan then moved onto demonstrating 2CASS and how animations can be developed.

Inanimate Alice
Bill Boyd talked about his work with a group of teachers using Inanimate Alice.  It tells the story of the 8 year old Alice and her adventure in China. At present the book has four different chapters in four different locations. The text is written by an award winning author and is incredibly high quality. The text is moved through page by page which can be re-visited by clicking on the relevant icon. It is an interactive text which is divided into different frames using a wide range of modes. It used diagetic and non diagetic sound, animations, video films, exploded diagrams with a handheld mobile device as the main interaction tool between the character and the user.

The character was born digital (Alice was conceived as a digital project), it is a high quality text, has highly interactive engagement, uses trans-media engagement, covers different continents, gives potential for wide curriculum coverage and is progressively challenging – she moves from 8, 10, 11 and 13 in the fourth chapter. It is used widely in the Pacific Rim particularly in Australia but is being worldwide.

Useful links

Sarah Brownsword talked about her work using Inanimate Alice in her classroom at TMEast earlier this year.


At this point I blathered on about some projects I have been working on and will post it up later.
Bill Lord
I talked about the power of talk within the classroom and the role of the teacher in it. In order to develop it across the whole school there has to be whole school discussion of the expectations that we have of our children. Teachers need to have high expectations of their children and a clarity of the vocabulary that they are going to use. My opening pondering was to consider my own family with this image on display.


Boy in toilet


This photo was taken of me around the age of two when my mother came into the bathroom and upon discovering me rather than rescuing me ran to get the camera! I reflected on the fact that on this side of the family there was a strong oral tradition and stories which I could recount very easily from several generations whereas I couldn’t do that for the other side of my family. It was only during the summer when we were on a family holiday and visiting the National Trust property, Lanhydrock, when we were in the Nursery did I get the smallest recollection of a family story about my grandparents from my father’s side. Once we checked it turned out that there was an interesting story about how my Grandad was Butler in a country house where he met my Gran who was the Nursery Maid. The point that I was musing on was whether the issue which came up was that the difference between the two families was not a difference in the stories that they had to tell but in the importance within the family of storytelling.

This then takes me to the Primary classroom and how we approach storytelling – during the morning we had talked a lot about adult led and directed storytelling but I wanted to consider how we support children in recounting stories. I am always embarrassed to recall finding out two weeks before the end of an academic year that one of the boys in my class was a local moto cross champion (something of which I had no knowledge whatsoever until late in the year.)

What expectations do staff have for children to share their stories with their peer group?
How do staff make time for developing oracy? I did then look at some of the issues about perceived time and curriculum constraints and how teachers should seek to ensure that children have time to talk, listen and respond to each other. Teachers need to trust that their children will provide evidence of the talk based work taking place in their class (on top of the fact that if children are given the time for oral rehearsal their writing will invariably improve.)

I then talked about a school which has trained adults who come into contact with the children as storytellers and storyreaders – in the school they try to flash mob reading giving children a couple of minutes’ notice that a story is about to be told – the extension of this is for children to then become the storytellers. This is about storytelling becoming a central part of what the school is and stands for – a place where stories are valued and create a buzz.

Screen recorder
I showed the use of the screen recorder within IWB  software from two schools as something that most teachers could introduce the next time they walked into the classroom. I also stressed the importance of getting the children to drive the technology and for teachers to concentrate on pedagogy. The use of the recorder tool allows children to record their oral rehearsal and also the teacher to record child feedback in the plenary (there will be a blog post on this coming). This is something that we have been talking about for more than five years but it does appear to be striking a chord with teachers I am working with at the moment. Schools are developing the use of mentors to train other children up so that teachers can concentrate on pedagogy and get the children to drive the board.

Children driving the technology
I talked about the importance of handing over technology use to children as much as possible (referring back to Tim Meek’s session from the morning and my hope that teachers who were put off by the interface of Kodu would hand it over to their kids. I posed the question Have we spent millions of pounds on putting technology in classrooms and leaving it in the hands of people who are not even trusted with the remote control in their own houses?
We need to get the children driving the technology and leave teachers to concentrate on which strategies would best suit their children and raise standards. I wrote a blog post on launching ICT mentors in February which can be accessed here.

I finished the session off with two examples of project work about which I have previously blogged.  I talked about the Jolly Postman project in Rotherham LA where I ended up videoconferencing with 19 classes dressed up as Burglar Bill. Blog post here

I then talked about the Giraffe class and their wonderful week of tweeting with comedian, Mark Olver. The blogpost with many of the slides from yesterday’s presentation can be found here.

Final Session
Tim rounded the day off with a call to arms for delegates to start using Twitter and promised to send out a list of people in the room who tweet.

He recommended linkbunch and visuwords which is a wonderful visual way of developing richer vocabulary.
Other sites recommended:
Tagxedo – a more beautiful and sensuous version of wordle.

Tim then talked to us about his work bringing role play to children who simply don’t “want”to learn – he got them to arrange their seats as a rollercoaster and took them on ride using clips from Myst.

Sarah then joined Tim as he talked about his favourite artist Norman Rockwell and how teachers can draft writing in the presentation mode in PowerPoint. It was excellent to see how wonderfully they had made a device which is so often poorly used.

In order to do this you have to put in a text box – the instructions on how to do it are here and here.

Finally Tim launched into recommendation of:
Lulu – free web publishing
Zooburst – a great place to publish children’s books.
Tapestry Cartoon Maker

All of the links for this session can be found at

Posted by: Bill Lord | September 18, 2010

Wilderness Downtown

Wilderness Downtown

Earlier this week I put a call out to my PLN on Twitter for an inspirational video to show at a the digital conference (about which I blogged yesterday.)

I had two suggestions made to show. The first was the video clip of the Mythbusters, Jamie and Adam, painting the Mona Lisa using a huge paintball gun!This was suggested by Danny Nicholson (@dannynic)

The other suggestion was made by Nick Jackson (@largerama) which is something of which I had no knowledge. The website is called Wilderness Downtown and was created to show the capabilities of the Google Chrome browser and how recent developments in web technologies and browsers have allowed for a completely new breed of use to be designed. It comes from the makers of the Johnny Cash Project

It is accessible at

The whole package was designed to accompany the song “We used to wait” by Canadian band Arcade Fire. Viewers begin the experience by providing their childhood address. The video experience then unfolds in multiple windows, taking viewers on a tour of their hometown to the tune of the track. Users can also write a note to their younger selves in a tree branch-inspired font that is incorporated into the video.  It is truly wonderful as you watch the main character running on an unidentified street which then uses images from google earth and street view to bring the location of your choice into the video.
It moves through the eight different pages in random order combining moving video, animated birds moving across all screens, the ability to draw on a screen, aerial shots of the location and use of the street view.

Wilderness Downtown

So why is it significant? I think that it is significant because it presents something that has been known for many years in a new and different way. If you take that the study of multiliteracies consider is the way technology and multimedia is changing how we communicate. This is another step forward in showing pupils what is possible and could lead to highly innovative work using already used applications. Could the use of frames lead to children completely rethinking the way in which they use something like PowerPoint? How often do we see poorly construcuted presentations by children who have not been shown high models of presentation? This could inspire children to greatness.

Here are some interesting blog posts on Wilderness Downtown.

Street view and the Wilderness Downtown

The Making of the Wilderness Downtown

Posted by: Bill Lord | September 16, 2010

Digital Media Conference

Today I am delivering a keynote at the Lincolnshire Digital Media Conference and promised the delegates that I would blog about what I showed them today.

Digital Mapping
Google maps allows the user to put placemarks on specific places on a map. I made a google map which was linked to Streetview and used the information already posted for the hotel. This was not a difficult thing to do but these help pages will help greatly.

These two blogs have examples of how they can be used in maths but there is also great potential for use in other areas:

Tom Barrett
Jan Webb

Video clips
In the keynote I used some videos to warm the audience up – one was the Extreme Shepherding video to underline my points about giving children a sense of playfulness in the curriculum.

Continuing the Mona Lisa theme I used the wonderful film (suggested by @dannynic) of the Mythbusters painting the lady using a massive paintballing gun)

The other one was the clip of Stephen Heppell, one of my modern heroes,  reflecting on schools today.

I talked about the negative impact of the rollercoaster of expectation and opportunity for children in schools where there is a wide range of use of ICT. The blog post deals with some of the ways in which schools can support members of staff who are not using ICT very much at all or are lacking confidence to develop their practice.

ICT mentors
The post on using ICT mentors may also be useful (including some very helpful comments from teachers citing their experiences with the same approach)

I quickly referred to the work of Mishra and Koehler in developed Lee Shulman’s PCK (pedagogical content knowledge) work to include the use of technology. This page gives great detail into the vision behind.

Unfortunately I cannot display the videos of children working on the web but much of the work is taken from the UKLA publication ‘I know what to write now!’ Engaging Boys (and Girls) through a Multimodal Approach) which is available from UKLA or Amazon

I referred to the use of Web 2.0 applications – Terry Freedman’s wonderful FREE ebook is definitely worth a read The Amazing Web 2.0 projects book.  I would also recommend Mitch Squires’ list of Web 2.0 applications and will add to this list after the presentation.

I talked about the value of picture books.
The books focused upon were:
Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (This is going to be released as a film directed by Martin Scorcese in 2011 starring Jude Law, Emily Mortimer and a host of other major stars.)

Once upon an ordinary school day

Once upon an Ordinary Day by Colin McNaughton & Satoshi Kitamura. This book sums up my beliefs about primary education and how I want the school I eventually join as Head teacher to approach teaching. (Readers may recognise Kitamura’s illustrative style from books such as Angry Arthur and Millie’s Marvellous Hat

“And as the music grew and swooped and danced and dived once more the ordinary boy began to write. He used words he didn’t fully understand and his story made no sense but it didn’t matter and he didn’t care. And he wrote as fast as he could but it would never be fast enough – there was just too much to say. It was as if a dam had burst in his heads and words just came flooding out…”

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

The Arrival

Tan’s fantasy tale of immigration has many images which will remind the adult reader of the arrival of migrants to 1930’s New York. Indeed there are many links which could be made to When Jessie travelled across the Sea. The story revolves around the central character, a father and husband, who travels ahead of his family to set up home and raise the finances to create a new life for them all in the new country. Surrounded by fantastic animals and scene he takes the reader through the bewilderment and fear felt by many migrants. Again, like so many Shaun Tan books the reader could spend a significant amount of time reader the end papers before entering the book.

The Flower by John Light I have referred to this book previously in this blog suggesting links with the Delivery and Varmints. It tells the story of one person going against the system to produce

The Flower by John Light

something of beauty. In this story Brigg is not immediately aware of what he is dealing with but the messages of acting on your instincts and not giving into apathy are strong no matter what the age of the reader. Here is an extract of my blog on Books into Films

In terms of use in the classroom my personal recommendation would be two lower profile releases from this year both of which are linked to high quality picture books.
Helen Ward’s book ‘Varmints’
is a beautiful but dark story of a creature’s fight against a dull and industrial world. In this world all traces of greenery and wilderness are eradicated and we discover our main character (a cute animal) who strives to save the last relics of the beautiful area and plant the seeds of change before it’s too late. The book contains strong environmental messages without lecturing and is thought provoking for young children. It was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway award in 2009 with a judgement that it is a ‘A breathtaking and magical piece of work, that is wholly original and allows your imagination space to work.  Craste (the illustrator) makes outstanding use of light to haunting and often poignant effect.’ The book was brilliantly translated into film by Studio AKA earlier this year and is available for download from iTunes or from the Studio’s website. There are links which could be made in Key Stage One to the wonderful book The Flower by John Light and moving up into Key Stage 2 Shaun Tan’s fantasy The Arrival could enable pupils to study alternative worlds or settings. The theme of one individual fighting against environmental decay could be explored with the thought provoking Till Nowak short animation The Delivery which has already been used in Upper Key Stage 2 classes.

FArTHER – Grahame Baker Smith (also see Leon and the Place Between by the same author)

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs (the book upon which the animated film was based)

The Island A very powerful book which should only be used with older Primary children and in the right circumstances. I find the book always gives the children something different to pull out with superb use of illustrations to strengthen the story

How dogs really work! & How cats really work! by Alan Snow These two books with cross-section illustrations reveal the astonishing truth about dogs and cats. Dressed up as a hilarious spoof pet-owner manual is similar to Until I met Dudley by Roger McGough and wonderful individual readers or for use with a whole class.

The Tin Forest by Helen Ward and Wayne Anderson From the author of Varmints another book which will provoke thought and discussion

The Ice Bear by Jackie Morris – Jackie is one of my favourite illustrators and I  had to get this book when it was released only two weeks ago!!   It is magically illustrated with a deeply spiritual story. Buy it!

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems. From the author of Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus (and other pigeon stories) This book tells the story of a trip to the laundromat and the loss of a favourite cuddly toy. You can also find the actual laundromat and streets featured in this book, made up of photographs with illustrations superimposed, using Google Streetview.

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers All schools should have at least one Jeffers book. This is a favourite as it can be accompanied by the animated film (narrated by Jim Broadbent) but could be used as a prelude to The Way Back Home

Coraline – Neil Gaiman A strange and, at times, a scary book but like so many of Gaiman’s one which needs to be read by children. (Also see The Wolves in the Walls and The Graveyard Book)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney – the story of a wise vcracking 6th grade boy told in cartoon format. This has also just been released as a feature film.

Once – Morris Gleitzman
This book and the two sequels are inspired by members of Gleitzman’s extended Jewish family who lived in Krakow in Poland. Whilst it is a fictional account of the life of a young Jewish boy, Felix,  after his parents place him in an orphanage as a safe haven during the war.  The book is told in first person narration by Felix as he decides to run away to find them and so begins the trilogy. On the journey he finds Zelda (a 6-year-old girl) who takes under his wing and who he has to placate with stories on regular occasions during their ordeals. A book which allows you to step into the mind of a young boy in perilous circumstances.

Question and answer session with Morris Gleitzman on the BBC Newsround site

Hear the author read the first chapter

Then – Morris Gleitzman
In this sequel to Once, Felix finds refuge for a time with  Zelda. Grumpy turnip-digging Gernia takes them in to her farm as nephew and niece, bleaching their hair and re-naming them as non-Jewish-sounding Wilhelm and Violetta.

Hear the author read the first chapter

Now – Morris Gleitzman
Gleitzman brought the story to the present day by visiting the Felix’s grand-daughter, Zelda, and her life. This time Gleitzman based his story during the appalling bushfires of February 2009 when several townships near Melbourne were totally destroyed by fire. Although not set in the Second World War it would be wrong not to complete the trilogy and experience more of Gleitzman’s powerful writing.

Hear Anne-Marie Fahey read the first chapter
Read the first chapter

Morris Gleitzman cites a range of texts as the inspiration and texts he read on his journey to writing this trilogy. (These are of interest to the teachers rather than being intended to read to children)

Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce A wonderfully funny yet poignant tale by Boyce. It tells the story of a small Welsh village which is transformed by the introduction of art into its life. Inspired by the storage of the artwork from London’s national gallery inside a Welsh mountain during the Second World War this is a hard to put down book.

Cloud Busting by Malorie Blackman: The oldest of the books in the list this book is told entirely in verse. It covers suspicion, bullying, friendship, jealousy and growing up. It provoked a huge amount of discussion, engagement, laughter and even tears with a class of Year 5 I recently taught.

Graphic Novels
Silverfin The graphic Novel by Charlie Higson and Kev Walker: The graphic novel version of the first book in the Young Bond series combines Higson’s excellent writing with the illustrations of Kev Walker who has made his name drawing for 2000AD and Warhammer comics. This book is one of a growing number of high quality graphic novel translations of well loved texts – Artemis Fowl, Alex Ryder – and should not be considered purely as a boy friendly text.

Stormbreaker, Skeleton key and Point Blanc by Anthony horowitz and Anthony Johnston. These three graphic novels are derived from the best selling Alex Rider books written by Anthony horowitz. Those who saw the books at the conference today were all highly impressed with them. The original books are fast paced and exciting whilst they have been made even more appealing through the use of full colour manga style art.

Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin Another great adaptation of a highly popular novel. The illustrator has worked for DC comics and creates a very stylish and appealing graphic version of the original.

Howl’s Moving castle – Diana Wynne jones and Hayao Miyazaki

World of Books
I talked about the World of Books google map which show the location of well known books. You can access it here.

Read for joy

You can also locate the read for Joy wiki here.

Finally I talked about the use of Web 2.0

I showed the latest presentation on the work of the Giraffes –

Audioboo is available here.

Twitpic is available here.

Wordle is available hereto create word cloud simply paste the text in

I also extolled the virtues of Voki I have recorded a message using one of the characters to show how easy it is to use.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

At the end of the morning the delegates were shown the amazing Engage me film made by the pupils of Robin Hood Primary in Birmingham.

Posted by: Bill Lord | July 23, 2010

Sorry I’m Late Tomas!

I have had a link on the right hand side of my blog to the film Sorry I’m Late ever since I started posting on it but haven’t written about it. It is not a film that I have seen used in schools and is one which I think would inspire children in their own film making. I have been meaning to blog about it for a year – hence the title of the blog!

Tomas Mankovsky

The film was made by Tomas Mankovsky and is the most amazing piece of stop animation movie making – it should be an inspiration children before starting a film project of their own.  The film tells the story of a man (played by Simon Carroll Jones) who is late and follows him on his strange journey. All of it was filmed from above as he lay on the wooden floor of the Amadeus centre in London. The film is available to watch on Youtube but do make sure that you click on the link below to the website which gives details of the process they went through to make the film.

Sorry I'm Late web site

Other projects

When reminding myself of the film I looked the web site Tomas Mankovsky Projects which details other films made by Mankovsky.

Little Big Love
This award winning filmabout unrequited love tells the story of a tiny robot who falls in love with an electric kettle. It only cost £300 to make – you can see how it was made here. The film has a wide range of techniques and use of angles to tell the story but not all children will like the ending.

Music Pieces
Many of you may remember the advery for Sony Walkman in which more than a hundred musicians joined together to play a piece of music but only playing one note each.

Miami – Foam City
Tomas Mankovsky was part of the creative team behind the Sony advert called Foam City. The unleashed a 60 foot wall of foam on the city of Miami to film an advert but encouraged Sony camera and video camera users to take part in the advert taking images. It is simply a beautiful advert.

The advert is here

The making of the advert is here

As a beautiful advert is could also be linked to these adverts created by other directors and creative teams.

Bouncing Balls


I think that my next blog post will be about more beautiful adverts – any suggestions would be gratefully received.

Posted by: Bill Lord | July 19, 2010

UKLA second set of Boos

I have managed to finish off my books from the excellent UKLA 2010 International conference which took place in Winchester last week.

My final two boos are about two workshops I attended on the Saturday.

The first was led by Dylan Yamada Rice a PhD student at Sheffield University. It was a fascinating session as it was describing the formation of a paper rather than the presentation of final results. Her title will be New media, New literacy, New environment – the focus of which is to compare urban landscapes in central Tokyo and central London considering the relationship between text and images in the two countries.

Audioboo is here

The second workshop was led by Murray Gadd a literacy consultant from Auckland, New Zealand. His presentation was Effective teaching of writing for Year 5 – 8 students within the New Zealand context: What teachers who make a difference know and do.

I was impressed by the fact that he was attempting to identify the key characteristics of successful teachers of writing. Hopefully Murray will be presenting a paper soon.

Audioboo is available here

Posted by: Bill Lord | July 18, 2010

Second World War resources

I have been working with some teachers recently looking at supporting them in their planning for forthcoming topics.

IWM London

I have decided to extend this work to develop a slightly more cross curricular set of links to resources and web links although as ever the main thrust will be Literacy and ICT but I have sought to include resources for a wider curriculum.

In this post I am looking at the Second World War.


My secret war diary – Marcia Williams: It is almost impossible to describe the wonder of this diary. It is of such quality that it really could be the true diary of Flossie Albright recounting her war years, as the daughter of a soldier fighting in France, whilst she lives on a large estate encountering rationing, evacuees, land girls and other key elements of World War 2. With photographs, captions, diagrams and illustrations the book is as powerful a non fiction tool for study of the period as an enchanting read.

The Greatest Skating Race – Louise Borden A beautifully illustrated book telling the true story of Piet who has always wanted to skate in the Elfstedentocht ice skating race on frozen canals. It is 1941 and he  finds himself skating taking two young Jewish children to safety away from occupied Holland.

The Little Ships – Louise Borden and Michael Foreman Another beautifully illustrated Borden book telling the story of the little ships and their evacuation of a third of a million troops from the beaches of Dunkirk.

Across the Pacific – Louise Borden This time Louise Borden tells the story of her uncle and his war-time experiences serving on a submarine.

Rose Blanche – Ian McEwan and Roberto Innocenti I am sure that most people reading this blog will be aware of this wonderful book by Ian McEwan with the evocative illustrations by Innocenti. This is one of those books which could support  some incredible dialogic work around war-time experiences.

Erika’s Story – Ruth Vander Zee and Roberto Innocenti Translated from the original Dutch this book is another picture book brought to life by Innocenti’s illustrations. Erika and her family are sent to almost certain death in a cattle rail truck and they try to save her life by throwing her to safety. Erika was taken to a woman who risked her life to care for this baby giving her a new life and safe identity. This is Erika’s story of survival and courage during World War II. This would need some discussion and time but a great book for older junior children.

World War II – Simon Adams Another book which is probably known to many British readers but a good staple non fiction book with excellent images as well as text.

The Boy in the striped pyjamas – John Boyne A book which would also go into the list for excellent transition from book to film. A wonderful book to read to children  not to study, not to deconstruct but to simply to listen to and be transported to another world.

Party Shoes – Noel Streatfield An old classic written more than forty years ago telling the story of Selina who is evacuated to live with her aunt and uncle. The story is set with a background of the war but centres around her receipt of a party dress and shoes from her godmother in America.

The Machine Gunners – Robert Westall Another classic of the Second World War which should not be overlooked. This is an edgy book which should be matched carefully to the right child. It tells the story of Chas McGill who lives in the North East and whose life revolves around moving up from having the second best collection of war souvenirs in his town of Garmouth. Then one night a German plane crashes into the woods and Chas adds the shiny, black machine gun to add to his collection. This story works on a whole range of levels and covers many of the issues of living in war-time England. It also includes the wonderful quote “Some bright kid’s got a gun and 2000 rounds of live ammo. And that gun’s no peashooter. It’ll go through a brick wall at a quarter of a mile.”

The book was dramatised by the BBC schools department for radio transmission in 2008. It is available with teacher notes here.

I have found some wonderful clips on YouTube from the BBC dramatisation of the book which was made in 1993.

Episode One Part One

Episode One Part Two

Classic moment from the series and book

Fathom Five – Robert Westall The sequel to The Machine Gunners finds Chas and many of the characters from the first book suspecting that there is a German spy in Garmouth.

Linked website – Westall’s War.
Steve Bunce of Vital very kinded tweeted me a link to this wonderful site created by the Tyne and Wear Archives Service and the Gateshead Grid for Learning.

At 11.12 pm on Saturday May 3rd 1941 the Air Raid Alert sounded over North Shields. Locals hurried as usual to the air raid shelter beneath Wilkinson’s lemonade factory. At midnight, a single bomb from a lone German raider scored a direct hit on the three storey building. Walls, machinery and debris collapsed into the shelter. 107 people, 41 of them children under 16, were killed. It was the worst bombing incident in North East England during World War II.

The site is the most incredbily detailed recount using a range of sources and archive materials to allow pupils to research what happened, the implications and the impact. A highly recommended resource even if your class is not in the North East.

Westall's War

The D-Day Experience – Richard Holmes (in association with Imperial War Museum) This box set written by Professor Richard Holmes in conjunction with the IWM and with access to many of their resources and archives. This will bring to life the enormity of the D-day invasion  through to the liberation of Paris with facsimiles documents. The box set has a detailed book and then copies of many different resources including maps, RAF pilot’s flying logs, copies of soldiers note books, letters and guarantees of Safe conduct for surrendered German troops.

The book could be used in conjunction with clips such as this below from the History channel

Johnnie’s Blitz – Bernard Ashley I love Bernard Ashley’s writing and don’t think he ever gets it wrong! This book tells the story of blitz torn London and a young boy called Johnnie branded a thief and on the run who takes on the care of a traumatized three year old girl called Shirley. She has no-one to look after her and he takes her to safety meeting a range of people.  Like so many of these books the war provides a strong setting to explore the human spirit and how people react at times of crisis.

The War and Freddy – Dennis Hamley This book tells the story of Freddy and how he is affected by the war at the age of 3. This book works very well with lower juniors (aged 7 to 9) in bringing to life the enormity of the effect that the Second World War had on everyone in Britain.

Hitler’s Canary – Sandi Toksvig Another book which could be used with Lower Juniors this tells the true story of the author’s grandparents. It is a warm and realistic recount of how life in Denmark was completely changed by the war and how the Toksvig’s eccentric family took part in one of history’s most dramatic rescues – smuggling Denmark’s Jewish population, across the water to Sweden, and safety.

Friend or Foe – Michael Morpurgo A fantastic book for reading aloud but also one which could drive a topic in Lower Juniors. It tells the story of two boys who are evacuated from London to the safety of the countryside well away from the war. Then one they hear the noise of an air raid and then the war comes to them and brings them face to face with their hated enemy. It also forces them to consider whether they can overcome their hatred.
The book gives great opportunities for speaking and listening activities and taking this into drama. This could include recreating the scenes of the children leaving home and arriving at the village hall prior to finding out who they would live with. After role-playing this in detail and taking images of the drama work and making sound recording this could be taken in work on plays creating a class playscript.

Billy the Kid – Micheal Morpurgo and Michael Foreman A book, told in flashback,  where Billy the Kid is 80 today, and looks back over his life. His adventures include going off to war, living rough as a tramp, and best of all, being picked to play football for Chelsea. A perfect mixture of Morpurgo’s prose and Foreman’s sublime artwork.

The Silver Sword – Ian Serraillier A classic novel from 1957 about the flight from Warsaw of three children whose parents had been taken away separately. It is a tale of hope, friendship, character and love. They travel together towards Switzerland, where they believe they will be reunited with their parents, they encounter many hardships and dangers. This extraordinarily moving account of an epic journey gives a remarkable insight into the reality of life in war-torn Europe.

Goodnight Mr Tom – Michelle Magorian This book is now almost 30 years old and is known and loved  by many readers across the world.  The book in simplest terms tells the story of Willie Beech evacuated to live with the eponymous Mr Tom who neither knew that he was going to receive a child nor wanted to do so. The book is a real journey as we see Willie develop under the care and love of Tom. This is not a comfortable read and should be saved for Upper Juniors or older.
The reach of the book was also widened by the ITV adaptation of the book for a TV drama in the UK starring John Thaw. The film was well received but did simplify the book omitting some of the important sub plots and agendas. It is important that, where the book is used, children experience the whole text before accessing the film. It is also important that they do access the whole book and that the film is not used instead in order to show extracts from the book in isolation and out of context.

These clips from the TV film may be useful to accompany reading the whole text.

Interview with Michelle Magorian

War Boy: A wartime childhood – Michael Foreman
Michael Foreman tells the story of his own childhood growing up in a quiet seaside town in Suffolk, right in the front line of the German bombers in World War Two. There’s the gang life as the Hill Street gang try to outwit the Ship Road gang, there are games to play with gas masks and, above all, there’s the delight of giant gobstoppers. A glorious portrait of a childhood from an extraordinary time.
A clip of the author reading an extract

After the war was over – Michael Foreman This book is the sequel to War Boy and sees Foreman living in a world where the war is ending and the country moves forward. The Victory celebrations give way to a clear up (of bomb sites and defences) and big changes in lifestyle for the nation. From Foreman’s viewpoint as a young boy we see him growing up and discovering girls, music, football and art. This book provides a wonderful introduction for children to this historical period.

Carrie’s War – Nina Bawden Another story of evacuation which studies the relationship of the characters within it. The three evacuees of the story Albert, Carrie and Nick find themselves in a strange world of which they try to make sense and to make better. The story is narrated by the adult Carrie to her children as she remembers the events and her actions from years before.

The play adaptation of the book is touring the UK in the autumn on 2010. Details

Interview with actors and author before the opening of the stage adaptation.

The Lion and the Unicorn – Shirley Hughes No list of books about the Second World War could be without this beautifully illustrated book by Hughes. Lenny’s father goes off to fight in the second world war and he gives his son a brass badge with a lion and a unicorn on it. Lenny keeps it with him when bombs are dropped on his street and when he has to be evacuated to a big house in the country. During his unhappy time he escapes the misery through visiting a secret garden which has a stone unicorn. A touching and challenging story.

When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit – Judith Kerr The true story of  young girl and how her understanding of the world and her life is changed by the onset of war. It is the story of a childhood which can never be the same and falls into the must read category as combined with the historical setting, the reality of the situation there is a warmth and humour which captures children from right at the start until the end of the book. A great read aloud.

Once – Morris Gleitzman
This book and the two sequels are inspired by members of Gleitzman’s extended Jewish family who lived in Krakow in Poland. Whilst it is a fictional account of the life of a young Jewish boy, Felix,  after his parents place him in an orphanage as a safe haven during the war.  The book is told in first person narration by Felix as he decides to run away to find them and so begins the trilogy. On the journey he finds Zelda (a 6 year old girl) who takes under his wing and who he has to placate with stories on regular occasions during their ordeals. A book which allows you to step into the mind of a young boy in perilous circumstances.

Question and answer session with Morris Gleitzman on the BBC Newsround site

Hear the author read the first chapter

Then – Morris Gleitzman
In this sequel to Once, Felix finds refuge for a time with  Zelda. Grumpy turnip-digging Gernia takes them in to her farm as nephew and niece, bleaching their hair and re-naming them as non-Jewish-sounding Wilhelm and Violetta.

Hear the author read the first chapter

Now – Morris Gleitzman
Gleitzman brought the story to the present day by visiting the Felix’s grand-daughter, Zelda, and her life. This time Gleitzman based his story during the appalling bushfires of February 2009 when several townships near Melbourne were totally destroyed by fire. Although not set in the Second World War it would be wrong not to complete the trilogy and experience more of Gleitzman’s powerful writing.

Hear Anne-Marie Fahey read the first chapter
Read the first chapter

Morris Gleitzman cites a range of texts as the inspiration and texts he read on his journey to writing this trilogy. (These are of interest to the teachers rather than being intended to read to children)

Tail end Charlie – Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom From one of the better pairings of author and illustrators in the UK we have Manning retelling the stories he heard in his childhood from his father who had served as an RAF airgunner in the Second World War. They have lovingly recreated each of the stories for their children (Charlie’s grandchildren)  and children all over the world.

Memorial – Gary Crew and Shaun Tan A Moreton Bay Fig tree, planted as a memorial to Australian soldiers killed in World War I, looks set to be cut down by the local council. A young boy tells the moving story of the tree, as related by his great-grandfather, grandfather and father, each of whom has participated in wars over the years. Whilst the book commemorates originally the sacrifices made in the First World War it explores the service of Anzac soldiers since then and how communities remember their fallen.
Poetry (Please use these for reference rather than sharing with children due to the adverts on the sites)
Poems for Remembrance Sunday World War Two poems

The National Archives

The National Archives provide wonderful source materials and resources to use during history topics and should be an early port of call for any school looking to study British or Commonwealth history.

Here are some of their resources which could bring a World War II topic to life:

The Art of War

The Home Front

Lesson resources
There are three sets of resources designed to get children using primary sources to come to conclusions about events in WWII.

The British response to V1 and V2 rocket attacks

Evacuation to Shropshire

What was it like to be an airman in WWII?

Squadron Leader Mahinder Singh Pujii

The amazing story of an Indian Sikh who decided to travel across the world to fight in the Royal Air Force as a fighter pilot.

Mahinder Singh Pujii


Chotie Darling A wonderful blog project where the love letters of Lt. R.K. Williams to his wartime sweetheart are being released in real time 70 years to the day of their writing. A wonderful resource and insight into war-time experiences.

Click to open the site

Additional film resources

World War Two told in 80 seconds

Rare colour film of the D Day invasion

Videos of evacuees

The evacuation of shipbuilding town of Sunderland – one of the most bombed places in the UK.

Peace in our time

Chamberlain’s declaration of war

Churchill speech “We shall fight them on the beaches…” (post Dunkirk evacuation)

Churchill speech “Never in the field of conflict…”

Churchill speech on German surrender

World War Two sites on Google Earth

Second World War Art

Propaganda Posters

Propaganda posters

Keep Calm and Carry On

Keep Calm and Carry On

Book Chook suggested the web site Keep Calm and Carry On website which allows you to create your own poster – unfortunately you do need to be careful with the use as it does archive previous posters by other users some of which may contain swearing so the site will need to be supervised for children’s use.

Second World War Music

Vera Lynn – When the Lights go on again

Vera Lynn – White Cliffs of Dover

Vera Lynn – We’ll Meet Again

303 Squadron

This wonderful online game from Channel Four  brings to life the story of 303 Squadron: 34 Polish fighter pilots who overturned RAF prejudices to earn their chance to fight in the Battle of Britain, in which they shot down 126 Luftwaffe aircraft.

The game is here

Further details

Museum websites

Imperial War Museum
The Imperial War Museum is the source of many resources and artefacts. They have digitized many of them and made them available online including the art work of Edward Ardizzone. By clicking on the image on the site below you will be able to access the collection.

Imperial War Museum Collection

It is important to remember that the Imperial War Museum has several locations which could be locations for school visits. They also have more specific resources on their websites.

IWM London

IWM HMS Belfast

IWM RAF Duxford

IWM Churchill War Rooms

IWM North (Manchester)

Stockport Air Raid tunnels

Did you know that Stockport sits on top of mile upon mile of tunnels? The network of tunnels, nearly a mile long, was hewn out of the red sandstone hills on which Stockport stands, to provide air raid shelters for 6,500 during the Second World War. The link will take you to the website of the museum which has some amazing facts and images.

Stockport Air raid Shelters

The RAF Hornchurch Project
Website of one of the most significant British war time airfield (for both WWI and WWII).

What was life like in the Second World War?
An excellent resource aimed at Junior aged child to use independently or as a whole class.

The Second World War Experience Centre
A website which collects and collates the personal experiences of people who lived or fought in the Second World War. A good resource for teachers.

The Second World War in Northern Ireland
This website lets you explore how the Second World War affected people in Northern Ireland.  It provides access to objects, documents, images, audio and film that bring their experiences to life and testify to their courage.

Johannes Koelz

The artist who refused to paint Hitler
This is the online version of a popular exhibition by Leicester City Museum Service. Fragments of a Koelz triptych were given to the City by Koelz’ daughter who lived nearby. This generous act began a growing exhibition project which has resulted in a re-appraisal of the work of a courageous and significant German artist.

The Battle of Britain
MSN has teamed up with Shoothill to present an interactive overview of the Battle of Britain. Zoom into a mosaic of archive images and documents; compare present-day maps with maps and charts showing bomb damage during the Blitz; and view high-resolution Photosynths of iconic RAF aircraft.

Redcar becomes Dunkirk
In 2007 the film ‘Atonement’ based upon the book by Ian McEwan was released. It depicts, at one point in the film, the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. The town of Redcar in the North East of England was selected as the most appropriate location to take back 60 years with more than 1,000 extras.

This website shows how they recreated Dunkirk using explanations, photographs and interviews.

Turning Redcar into 1940 Dunkirk

Purple Mash

Purple Mash

I was contacted on the comment section of the blog by Anthony Evans of 2Simple who has shared some of the new Purple Mash resources to support work on the Second World War.

Evacuee letter writing

Rationing in the Second World War

Newspaper report on the blitz

Blitz poem

War on Film (National Archive)
This resource is a wonderful collection of films about war time. You can download the films or stream them from their website.

Carve her name with pride

The Longest Day

The Great Escape

The Man who Never was (Story of Operation Mincemeat)

Hope and Glory

Useful educational web links


Woodlands Junior School site

Posted by: Bill Lord | July 11, 2010

UKLA 2010

Last week I attended the International Conference of the United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA) at the University of Winchester, England.

It is a wonderful place to meet with teachers, advisers, academics from all over the world. It is a chance to catch up with old friends and make new connections.

I will add to this blog over the next few days but to start off with I have recorded four audioboos.

The two days for me started with the keynote speech by Gunther Kress which was entiteld Some thoughts on the future of alphabetic writing. My thoughts and reflections on his keynote are here.

My first workshop was The creative use of Picture Books with KS2 children with Stephanie Laird and Kerenza Ghosh of the University of Roehampton showed us the results of project work with two KS2 classes using Leon and the place between by Grahame Baker-Smith and The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon by Mini Grey. My audioboo is available here.

My second workshop was Design literacies: Learning and Innovation in digital environments presented by Mary P. Sheridan of  University of Wyoming and Jennifer Rowsell of Brock University. This was a very enlightening presentation and I recommend highly the book Design Literacies released earlier this year. Their research led to them to search for new and digital media producers and investigate how they engage in contemporary creativity and innovation. They sought to find out their logic and their stories. My audioboo is here.

Finally on the first day I went to see Rose Flewitt of the Open University who talked about project researching the use of technology with young children.  The session was entitled Young children developing multimodal literacies in print and digital media. She focused on children of three and four years of age in non maintained settings. There were some significant issues about the provision of the use of technology by practitioners. My audioboo is here.

Posted by: Bill Lord | July 6, 2010

Story England

I posted earlier this week in the post World of Books about the google map idea which is developing nicely. Today I received a tweet from @JenniferMichie telling me about the wonderful Storybook England website which places well known books set in England on a map.

This is a slightly different map to the one we are building together on google maps but it is definitely worth a look – as someone who lives in the East Midlands I was unaware that the locations of books I love are so close to my house.

Storybook England

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »