This was a really successful project I did in literacy with my Year 6 class. We started by watching ‘The Silence Beneath the Bark’, a short film on YouTube which helped to hook the children into the project. We then went outside so that the children could build the creatures a home in our nature area. I have done this in all weathers and it works well each time. Following this (and still outside) the children created designs and wrote a whole variety of genres of writing; stories, estate agent descriptions, fact sheets and letters to the creatures.
To help facilitate the writing I hung Year 6 appropriate modelled vocabulary in the trees around the area in which they were working. I also spent time looking at each house with the children and talking and describing them encouraging the use of ambitious vocabulary. On returning to the classroom the children wanted to make clay models of the creatures and read stories they had written to the creatures. Following this piece of work our Reception class used the houses as a stimulus for their own work involving fairy houses.
You might think ‘Fairy Houses’ would turn off year 6 boys but because the lessons were so active and free the opposite happened and some of their best pieces of writing were stimulated by this project.
D.T. or Literacy?
As you know I have just completed my NQT induction year. I was recently flicking through my evidence file when I came across some photos that I thought I would share.
First let me set the scene. It’s second term of my NQT year. I’m tired, stressed and up to my eye balls in assessments and the numerous other facets that make up our job as teachers, when observation time comes around again. The year group: Year One. The lesson: literacy. The topic: houses and homes. My children need to work on their descriptive writing, so what can I do to encompass all of these?
My frazzled brain’s first thought: “I know! We can design a dream house, draw it, label it and write about it.” Sorted, right? Wrong! Whilst that probably would have been a perfectly okay lesson for the few children who enjoy drawing and writing, how was it going to engage the children who don’t enjoy sitting down and writing or hate drawing or just generally have no interest in the topic?
So I opened up my trusty Pie Corbett ‘Talk for writing’ book for some inspiration and re-read the ‘warming up the word’ section for possibly the hundredth time since starting my teacher training. And then it came to me. Why DRAW the houses, when we could BUILD them?
So here’s how the lesson went. We started by looking at some amazing houses from around the world: fairy tale castles, desert island paradise, jungle tree houses, bat man’s house…the list went on. In the background I played the song ‘Little Boxes on the Hillside.’ After thought-showering the describing words we had thought of so far as a class, off the children went. The challenge: make your dream house. I laid out the classroom with natural resources, junk modelling, gardening resources, paper, pens, post-its; the works. They could choose how to present their dream house either through drawing, collage, junk modelling, small world… the choice was theirs. The floor was covered with ground sheets for those that wanted to work on a larger scale. The only condition: their model had to include labels and adjectives ready for their ‘Big Write’ the following day. What followed was a morning of creativity, discovery, collaborative working, problem solving, language and vocabulary development and all-round enjoyment (from children and staff!)
The photos below show just some of the work that was produced that morning. The writing that followed the next day was descriptive, creative, and a true reflection of what those children could do when given the chance to engage with something and the time to ‘warm up the word’ properly.
So in answer to the title question: ‘D.T. or literacy?’ I say, “Why choose?!”