In the decade which has seen the emergence of innovative ‘job-sharing’ and ‘time-sharing Books for Keeps is choosing to highlight the splendidly traditional concept of ‘book-sharing’. Joan Barker and I both place the sharing of class readers at the centre of our classroom practice: she in a primary school and I in a secondary: and we are delighted to have the opportunity to share some of our successes with BfK readers and to suggest follow-up work that might be pursued.
We both feel strongly that the shared reading experience leads to greater enjoyment and that there is much that is socially worthwhile in pupils. their contemporaries and their teachers joining together in the experience of a good book, well read. Less confident readers are being helped through a text which they might find unassailable alone and every child is being encouraged to exercise reading and listening skills. Of major importance is the fact that the teacher/guide is, as likely as not. introducing pupils to a range of material which they might not otherwise discover for themselves, both through the book itself and through the additional reading that often ensues. Finally, all of this sharing is, we feel, an essential contribution to creating a valuable and positive ‘book atmosphere’ in the classroom (and even perhaps in school at large) where books, sharing the excitement of print and engaging actively in story are all part of the same magnificent process.
In the succeeding six issues of BfK we will suggest class readers for the bottom, middle and top of the Junior school and for the secondary range, starting now with choices for the first half of the autumn term. Books will tend to increase in difficulty as the year progresses, especially in the secondary section. Users of this Lifeline should, of course, feel free to cross our fairly arbitrary year divisions as they see fit.
We doubt whether the follow-up activities will (or should) be taken up on every book throughout the year: indeed we hope that many books will be read for the sheer hell and enjoyment of it and not as a means to a worksheet. We’ve suggested nothing that has not been tried and tested and we are aiming overall to offer a variety of tasks that can be adapted and tailored to individual classroom needs.
We began by drawing up a list of criteria for making our choices which we would like to pass on in order to elucidate what we are aiming to offer.
In choosing the books we had in mind
A book enjoyed by and endorsed by the teacher. You are on to a dead cert failure if you attempt a book that you have either not read or not enjoyed.
A good story, well told, in which pupils can find or be encouraged to find points of personal reference
- Some books which do not duck such socially important considerations as racial issues, class divisions, generation differences etc. and. especially important at secondary level, sex-stereotyping.
- Variety in style, content and setting- historical, futuristic, fantasy. humorous, diary form, first person narrative, town and country etc.. etc. And of course in length and difficulty.
- A good selection of authors with some facility for cross-referencing an author’s work across the age groups.
- A concern. especially in Junior choices, for good relevant illustration and design.
- With economic constraints in mind we have recognised the need to select books which are readily available in paperback or less expensive school editions. Wherever possible we cite the paperback edition.
Our suggestions for follow-up were designed to offer
- A variety of tasks and responses which would make possible different kinds of writing using many styles and modes.
- A range of opportunities to explore ways of recording a reaction and response to a shared experience.
- Methods which require an essentially pupil participatory approach: we believe that this is the best route by which our pupils can come to enjoy and respond to literature, right up to examination level and beyond.
- Activities relevant to the pupils and to the book in question.
- These ideas are not envisaged as templates for use with all and every book in every situation with no room for adaptation and re-shaping: neither are they exhaustive since space is limited.
We would be delighted to hear from readers how these suggestions go down in other classrooms: and to hear about and share experiences of other titles. To see what we have chosen for starting in September just turn over the page. You’ve got all summer to get ready for the Year of Books for Sharing.
LIFELINE 3 – Books for Sharing
Books for Sharing is a list of books compiled for use as class readers in Primary and Secondary classrooms by Joan Barker and David Bennett. They are avid sharers of books with their classes and both convinced of the enormous benefits of reading together.
Here are suggestions for titles for the next half term along with ideas for follow-up reading and activities. We hope that readers will try out books wherever they are appropriate to their own school situation and will explore and experiment with some of the follow-up work, ideas for which are not intended to be comprehensive but more to give a flavour of what might be done to further excite and engage the readers who share the texts.
A Gift from Winklesea
Helen Cresswell, Puffin, 0 14 03.0493 4, 90p
When Dan and Mary go on the outing to Winklesea they want to find just the right present for their mum. It has to be a proper sea-side present and what they find is perfect, an egg-shaped, bluish-green stone with ‘A Gift from Winklesea’ painted on it in beautiful gold letters. Their mum thinks that it is beautiful too and puts it on the mantelpiece for everyone to admire. Each time Mary holds it it seems to have a living warmth as if it is an egg that is going to hatch out. When it does the family’s problems are only just beginning.
This is a delightful book to read aloud to lower juniors. It is fantasy firmly set in reality – a story completely accessible to this age range. There is no time wasted and the listener is drawn into the story right from the first sentence. I like to read this book in the Autumn term because after the summer holiday many children have been to the seaside and have their own immediate experiences to bring to the enjoyment of the story.
Things to Do
1. What will the stone hatch into:’ Think about size, shape, colour, food, behaviour. Write and illustrate your own idea. Read aloud in groups and choose the one you like most.
2. Make a class collection of words to describe the family’s feelings when they hear the tapping and then see the creature for the first time. Use a thesaurus to add to the list. Write a poem about the hatching.
3. The Loch Ness Monster. Cut out black monster shapes and mount on a marbled background. Clay models or collage pictures of the monster.
4. Design a poster for the Pet Show. Fill in an empty form for the Gift’s entry.
5. Write the newspaper report of the sighting of the creature.
More to Read
The White Sea Horse and other stories
Helen Cresswell, Chatto & Windus, o.p. but available from libraries.
Rosemary Manning, Puffin, 0 14 03.0297 2. 95p
How Tom Beat Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen
Russell Hoban, ill. Quentin Blake. Cape. 0 224 00999 0, £4.95
In the school where I teach picture books are in no way thought of as exclusively for the youngest children and every year I try to use one in detail with my class. The joy of using a picture book is that it suggests different approaches according to the age of the children and the same books can be used successfully at each stage of the Junior school.
I am convinced of the special value of providing a real audience for children’s writing and if classes of different ages use the same book their work can be shared with others as closely involved as themselves. Much of the work to be done can be fun. and preparing activities to be used by a visiting class can result in great involvement and an increased sense of purpose.
Captain Najork is an ideal book to use. It tells the story in words and pictures of Tom, a boy who likes to fool about on high up things that shake and wobble and teeter. Unfortunately he lives with his aunt Miss Fidget Wonkham-Strong who has other plans for him. She is a great believer in discipline and as Tom ignores her threats she writes to Captain Najork for help. He arrives bringing his hired sportsmen and they challenge Tom to three games: Tom, who has learned a lot from fooling around, is around, is more than a match for them. I like to start by reading the story without the pictures -. this means covering the jacket which is very striking.
Things to Do
1. Paint a picture of how you see Tom, Captain Najork, Miss Fidget Wonkham-Strong and Tom’s new aunt, Miss Bundlejoy Cosysweet. When the children do see the illustrations there can be quite a heated argument about whether Quentin Blake’s ideas are right or not.
2. Write a letter from a neighbour to Aunt Fidget Wonkham-Strong complaining about Tom’s behayiour.
3. Write the rules of the three games that Tom plays or invent. name and describe a nest’ game.
4. Small picture sequences: as a book or a strip cartoon showing Tom fooling around.
5. Write the script of a TV or radio sports commentary on one of the Tom Najork challenge games.
More to Read
A Near Thing for Captain Najork
Russell Hoban. ill. Quentin Blake. Cape. 0 224 01 197 9. £4.95
The Dancing Tigers
Russell Hoban. Cape. 0 224 01374 2. £4.95
The Enormous Crocodile
Roald Dahl. ill. Quentin Blake. Puffin. £ 1.25 0 14 050.342 0.
A Game of Catch
Helen Cresswell, Chatto & Windus. o.p. but available from libraries.
Kate and her brother Hugh are staying with their aunt for a few days before going to live in Canada with their parents. They visit the nearby castle and make friends with the caretaker. Finding the museum heavy with boredom they decide to go up onto the battlements where they begin a game of catch that takes them through the galleries of the castle. As Hugh calls Kate’s name it echoes round the walls and, among the echoes she hears another voice saying her name. At first Hugh says he heard the voice, later he is not sure and only Kate, insisting that nothing is impossible, becomes involved with Katherine and her brother who lived in the castle two hundred years before and whose portraits still hang there.
This beautifully written Story is my choice for the perfect first book to read with a new class. Although very short it provides a wealth of material for creative work of various kinds. The children become immersed in the language of the book which is at all times exactly right, and this focussing of attention on the power of words to create mood, and scenes provides an ideal basis for the rest of the years work. The test is referred to constantly in the following ideas for using the book.
Things to Do
1. ‘…like a bird with the whole vast air of the sky to choose from.’ If you could be a bird which one would you choose and why” Find out facts about your bird, then write a poem describing it.
2. ‘The freedom of endless choice. It was almost too much.’ Have you ever had so much to choose that you were unable to decide? Is it better to have no choice or too much”/p>
3. `That night it froze… it came combing softly down in the night through the trees. Write a poem or a description or paint a picture of frost.
4. ‘Winters he could remember with snow high as barn doors and ice you could light fires on.’ Collect reminiscences of grandparents or other old people about childhood winters. Tape record or write down as an interview.
5. ‘And as he stared . . . they swam into blurs in the snowstorm and were gone.’ Rewrite this episode as if you were Katherine or her brother.
More to Read
Tom’s Midnight Garden
Philippa Pearce. Puffin, 0 14 03.0893 8, £ 1.10
Up the Pier
Helen Cresswell, Faber. o.p. but available from libraries.
The Secret World of Polly Flint
Helen Cresswell. Puffin. 0 14 03.1542 X. £1.25
SECONDARY YEAR 1
Daredevils or Scaredycats
Chris Powling. Fontana Lions. 0 00 671897 3. 95p
I like to begin year one either with a book that is likely .o be familiar from Junior School – Stig of the Dump, Charlotte’s Web or Tyke Tiler or else with short stories, that are not daunting and generally have an immediacy and quick impact. This collection has proved popular at most levels in the first year. It takes a group of upper juniors and manages to convey the impression of familiar kids behaving in familiar ways in familiar surroundings.
There are nine tales in all, each fitting easily into a lesson. An Oscar for Godfrey always provokes a lively response as our theatrical hero is hoisted with his own petard by the not-so-dim student teacher on whom lie thought he was wreaking a brilliant revenge. Then we have a couple of eerie tales that elicit much discussion and surmise. Wednesday’s Werewolf and Pokerface. and the two poignantly- sad offerings Thingy and Mad Eric. Throughout all runs the theme of the title typified in Ice by Jimmy. who fears ice and snow’. and in Under the Mansions where the book’s mad-cap Teddy braves it just too far for once.
Things to Do
1. …And what did happen at Parents’ Evening and more importantly afterwards when Godfrey’s Mum saw the 40 pieces of writing in An Oscar for Godfrey – Write the script.
2. At the end of the school year Miss Manly sets the class to make a newspaper which reviews their activities and adventures during the year. In groups make that newspaper after reading all of the stories. Otherwise choose one or two stories for the same exercise e.g. Under the Mansions.
3. Your own adventures when you’ve played knock-at-the door-and-run-away. They could then be made into more mysterious accounts after studying the mysterious elements in Wednesday’s Werewolf. Record the stories on tape.
4. Miss Manly’s notes about characters and attitudes beside all the members of the class mentioned in the stories.
5. How night Lorna Penfold or Eric have told their own stories to a sympathetic listener’.’
More to Read – Other short story collections.
The Fib and other stories
George Layton. Longman’s Knockouts. 0 582 22221 4. 95p Fontana Lions. 0 00 671808 6, £1.00
Michael Rosen, Longman’s Knockouts. 0 582 20127 6, 95p Puffin, 0 14 03.1599 3. £1.00
(for both of the above books, cassette tapes are also available)
Dog Days and Cat Naps
Gene Kemp. Puffin, 0 14 03.1419 9. 95p
SECONDARY YEAR 2
Private, Keep Out!
Gwen Grant. Fontana Lions, 0 00 671652 0, 95p
Start the year with a chuckle as you lead your group through the riotous adventures of a humorous and accident-prone Nottinghamshire lass. The book is episodic and very fast-moving with masses of dialogue. which takes skilled and practised handling if it is to be read aloud successfully.
This secret diary is about working-class Worksop just after the second world war. but the adventures. scrapes and escapes are so timeless that modern boys and girls have no trouble in identifying with the writer. The sibling rivalry with ‘our Tone’. ‘our Lucy. ‘our Rose and ‘our Joe’, the interfering neighbours, dancing classes, school. Sunday school. and learning to ride a bike are as fresh as if they are taking place here and now. There’s a delightful zaniness in the accounts of throwing pebbles at a beached mine and clearing a whole beach or removing the plugs from the boys oil drum rafts, and the narrator’s questioning mind endears her to most kids -‘Did God make Gloria Hottentot as well?”, along with such gems as ‘Everybody s supposed to have a guardian Angel… All I’m saying is that mine must have the longest dinner hours in history because everytime I get into bother. it’s never there.’ That it’s a high-spirited girl who’s directing the action. makes a refreshingly welcome change.
Things to Do
l. Pupils make their own, personally decorated and bound secret diaries full of deliberately exaggerated and daredevil action.
2. Collect reminiscences of childhood from a variety of older people, Initially on tape, these could later be transcribed and then woven into long stories with a touch of realism. Or used as a basis for drama and script writing.
3. The heroine’s adventures from another point of view – Ruby Brown’s version of the dancing show or Miss Greybroom’s account of the Sunday school.
4. A Music English collaboration – ‘The Ballad of Calamity Hall’.
5. In groups of 4 pupils, decide on a list of I5 words which might describe different characters from the book. The list is passed to another group who must decide which characters are referred to y which words and back up their decision with an example. Then a ‘Private, Keep Out’ portrait gallery might be created.
More to Read – These adventures continue in
Knock & Wait
Fontana Lions, 0 00 671762 4, 95p
One Way Only
Heinemann. 0 43.1 94136 0. £5.95
The Lily Pickle Band Book
Gwen Grant, Fontana Lions, 0 00 672081 I . £ I .25
SECONDARY YEAR 3
Run for your Life
David Line. Puffin. 0 14 03.0430 4. 95p
Start the third year with an adventure. This was often referred to as ‘Soldier and Me’ for a while. when a T. V. serial of the same name was current. It’s a fast. fairly light-weight read high serialises well. mainly because the chapters are relatively short.
The two boy heroes are Woolcott, a down-to-earth likeable type and Szolda, a newly-arrived rather out-cast Hungarian youngster, who accidentally overhears a plot to kill an émigré. Their subsequent involvement leads them through such adventures as jumping from moving trains. being shot at by turkey farmers and spending Christmas Day hidden in a barn loft. whilst being pursued by a gang of desperate and very ruthless would-be executioners. All ends happily. but only just.
Woolcott himself tells the story in a believably adolescent tone. unlike many other such narrators who can be too adultly precocious. and the development of the relationship between the two boys. from the narrator’s take-it-or-leave-it to their mutual dependence and admiration is convincingly handled. There is no female character but you can promise to rectify that in other book choices for later.
Things to Do
1. A board game based upon the plot of the book. Work in groups and include the writing of precise rules and instruction.
2. Interview the boys on ‘Breakfast Time’ after their adventure and their return to London.
3. Select key incidents from the book and work in groups to present a tableau of that incident. The class can now ask questions of each participant in turn about his thoughts, his precious actions and future plans. which he must answer in character and from his knowledge of the text. (The teacher might prefer to be the magician kith the power to bring to life each character in the tableau).
4. Write the ensuing confrontation between the gang boss and the gang members after the interruption of the ‘trial in the school of languages (chapter 7).
5. Before reading it predict the end of the adventure from the end of chapter 17.
More to Read
Mike and Me
Puffin. 0 14 03.0784 2. 90p. also features Woolcott.
Under Plum Lake
Puffin. 0 14 03.1513 6. £1.25. by the same author. writing as Lionel Davidson.
SECONDARY YEARS 4 & 5
Paul Zindel. Fontana Lions. 0 00 671768 3, £1.25
Most of the best teenage material is American and this one. now in its 16th year, is the forerunner of much which was to follow. I use it mainly because its style is so unconventional in relation to that which youngsters generally cad – or are set to read
The central characters John and Lorraine write the store of their developing relationship both with each other and with an old man. Mr. Pignati. chapter by chapter. turn and turn about. They begin by describing each other and their individually problematic home life and then how a telephone prank led them to a lonely retired electrician who himself is not coping with the problem of bereavement. The trio find mutual comfort until the teenagers go too far and unwittingly contribute to the old man’s untimely death.
The novel repays close study before use with a class because it contains more complex material than at first appears or than I can give space to here. It would certainly make a worthy C.S.E. text for more traditional work but also is an excellent vehicle for a participatory creative approach. which I shall concentrate upon.
Things to Do
1. As a pre-reading activity what story does the very title suggest or what are class attitudes to aspects of loneliness and old age.
2. The book hinges on a telephone call. In pairs consider others that might have been made. e.g. Mrs. Jensen to Bore after the party. (chapter 13 14) or Kenny to Bore after the party.
3. A store detective’s report, after the Beekman’s episode (chapter 8) or the Policeman’s report (chapter 13 14).
4. Carefully select phrases and words from the text and re-arrange them as a poem to express Johns feelings as he lay on the tomb (chapter 7).
5. 10 years after, John and Lorraine meet by accident: they reminisce and catch up on news. Write the script.
More to Read
The Pigman’s Legacy – (a sequel)
Puffin Plus, 0 14 03.1454 7. £1.10
Pardon Me, You’re Stepping on My Eyeball!
Fontana Lions. 0 00 671904 X. £I .25
Confessions of a Teenage Baboon
Fontana Lions, 0 00 671951 1, £1.00
My Darling My Hamburger
Fontana Lions. 0 00 67 1800 0. £1 .00