Is my dad here already – the lesson went too fast!

Screenshot 2017-11-20 09.50.34

MarshMallows – one of the Literacy Shed’s amazing animated shorts  – is a huge hit with my Year 5 and 6 one-to-one tutees. A. is so impressed that students made the film that he’s decided he’s going to be a film maker himself! As usual, the children have seen far more detail in the film than I noticed, and been fascinated by so many different aspects.

D. was impressed by the technicalities  –  ‘how do they make the monster’s  eyebrows fly up?’ – and is now planning to email the film-makers to find out, my answer having fallen far short of satisfactory.  S. was saddened by the monster’s disappointment when his ‘marshmallow’ disappeared, while C.  thought it would teach him a lesson for being greedy and scary.

The film has no dialogue or voiceover, so the children are working on providing their own. Not something that can be accomplished in one hour-long tutorial, so this is an ongoing process.  After enough preparation time, once the children have a feel for their approach,  we record their voiceover or dialogue, spoken as the film is playing.  My method is a touch Heath Robinson, so all suggestions for improvement are welcome – I play the animation on a monitor via my Macbook, sound off, and record the voicing on Quicktime. We’ll add the finished soundtrack to the film ( assuming Literacy Shed is OK with my doing that. It’s not for public consumption, obviously).

I want the children to be able to respond spontaneously, without having to mediate their feelings through writing a script; speaking their dialogue or narrative as the film is playing is yielding great results. The children who are articulate but struggle to get their thoughts down on paper are particularly enjoying the project. The children who don’t ‘get’ the inference questions on the loathed reading tests, and can’t readily walk in someone else’s shoes when asked to do so in writing have shown impressive insights while ‘being’ the boy or monster as the film unfolds. And the children who like to plan out every word – yes, they do exist – are benefiting by loosening up. So far, all have decided their first effort needs improvement – more details, more expression, even a few ‘wow’ words …

The next step will be transcribing (and further improving) the voiceovers. More information on how the project went in my next post.

What doesn’t work?

Great addition to my resources for developing inference skills. Children who find it difficult to access non-literal meaning in words, and dread the reading comprehension tests in school, often relate more easily to visual material, and can practise the skills of inference and deduction without pressure. I think next week’s students will enjoy ‘reading between the lines’ of this wonderful picture by the Chilean artist, Oscar Ramos, entitles Does Not Work.  Thanks to the folks at Once Upon A Picture for their brilliant finds.


First Day

8.50 am. Infants and Juniors troop past our house on their way to school. The cat’s in the front window watching them, trying to get her head around the mystery that is children. Why are they not stopping to play with her? What’s with the new shoes and the too-long dresses?  Why are they poking each other with shiny new gel pens?



Yes, it’s the First Day Back. La Rentrée, as the kids lucky enough to have holidayed in France will know it; their gel pens came from Carrefour. But wherever these primary pupils sourced their new-term goodies, they’ll all be thinking the same. Will I sit by my friends? What’s Mrs X really like? Please don’t make us write about My Holiday …

Students ‘doing English’ with me know there’s often poetry in my lessons (frequently sourced from the fabulous Children’s Poetry Archive – see link below). Here’s a helpful poem for all the children wondering how to deal with their new classteacher.  And a message for my new Year Fives and Sixes – don’t try it on me!!


Heebie Geebie, Hurple Burple
 Time To Turn My Teacher. . . PURPLE!

Simply chant this magic spell
 soon your teacher looks unwell:
 purple cheeks and purple nose
 purpleness from head to toes

Feed her beetroot every hour
 see her fill with purple power
 bloomin’ like a purple flower
 how she’ll scream
 when in the shower!!!

How to Turn Your Teacher Purple and Other Sizzling Science Poems (A&C Black, 2011), © James Carter 2011

How to Turn Your Teacher Purple


This is also the First Day of my blog. English With Dr Julia Fowler .  There’ll be info and snippets for GCSE students and 11+ parents, links to stuff I like and find useful, and thoughts on literacy coaching.  Looking forward to hearing your thoughts too!