Exciting Writing: Activities for 5 to 11 Year Olds


Jacqueline Harrett

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Copyright

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    About the Author

    Jacqueline Harrett is a freelance writer, inspector and educational consultant, with extensive classroom experience in primary, secondary and higher education. A former teacher and lecturer, she has spoken at national exhibitions and conferences as well as working extensively in schools. Jacqueline is currently undertaking research for a PhD on the responses of children to storytelling and story-reading. A passionate advocate for literacy, she is the Welsh representative for the United Kingdom Literacy Association and has written a number of articles and books on literacy and storytelling including Welsh Tales for the Telling, More Welsh Tales and Tell me Another … Speaking Listening and Learning Through Storytelling. Jacqueline was born in Northern Ireland but now lives in Wales with her family.


    To my parents, Norah and Andy, and my family, Doug, Douglas and Felicity, whose love and encouragement are the foundations of my life.


    My grateful thanks go to the staff and pupils in all the schools I have taught in over the years, especially schools involved in the project.

    Pupils whose work is featured in the book are from the following schools:

    Howell's Junior School, Llandaff

    St Peter and St Paul's Catholic Primary School, Preston

    Pontlottyn Primary School, Fochriw

    A special mention for Sandra Farmer, Bernadette Woods and Helen Leaman who were really able to pull the rabbit out of the hat!

    Last, but not least, a thank you to my husband, Doug, whose artistic eye provided the photographs of the door and castle interior.

    How to Use This Book

    This is a book written for student teachers, the people who teach them and practising teachers. This book hopes to provide some ideas for them to use as a springboard. The introduction, chapter one, is a brief overview of my reasons for writing the book and my personal viewpoint of literacy teaching, both as an observer and practitioner.

    The second chapter, called ‘Pictures in the Head’ is about storytelling and the use of visualisation to lead children to plan and write more imaginative narratives. I am a firm advocate of oral storytelling and have always found telling and retelling stories in the classroom useful for speaking and listening activities but also as a precursor for writing. It allows children to plan orally before having to write and they find it fun!

    The third chapter concentrates on the work of Lowry, Van Gogh and Renoir as the basis for writing and other linked cross-curricular activities. The ideas may be adapted for any artist but as these artists are familiar to most schools it gives a starting point. An introductory biography of the artists is followed by writing ideas linked to various famous paintings - familiar to most teachers.

    The next chapter looks at picture books now regarded as another art form. There are so many beautiful picture books available these days that it would be possible to write an epic on this topic. I have chosen two books to concentrate on. The text selected for Key Stage One is Martin Waddell's Once there were Giants. The patterned text is ideal for young children and it appeals to both children and adults.

    At Key Stage Two the focus is Chris Van Allsburg's, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. This is a picture book with a difference and never fails to arouse discussions and imaginative ideas. Anyone who is unfamiliar with this one will be hooked by the beautiful black and white illustrations.

    Photographs are central to the fifth chapter and examples of photographs and some linked ideas are included in this. Digital photography is often used by teachers these days and this chapter encourages use of photography by the children as well. Photography is an art form and the Talking Pictures' pack, designed for art-work, is a wonderful resource for narrative writing.

    Following on from this the final chapter examines the media and the use of television, video, DVDs, newspapers and even comics. Teaching ideas and some photocopiable material is provided. Nowadays there is a wealth of information available and it is difficult to know what is fact and what is opinion. Examination of the way the media works should give children a more measured approach to thinking about, and writing about, events.

    References and resources are listed to help the busy teacher find what is needed. This is a ‘dipping in’ book, not a definitive guide.

  • References and other Information

    Chapter One: Introduction

    (Web addresses correct at time of publication.)

    Kress, G. (1994) Learning to write. London: Routledge.
    Chapter Two: Pictures in the Head
    DfEE (1998) National Literacy Strategy. London: DfEE.
    Duffy, B. (1998) Supporting Creativity and Imagination in the Early Years. Buckingham: OUR.
    Maddern, E. (1992) A Teacher's Guide to Storytelling at Historic Sites. London: English Heritage Publications.
    Maguire, J. (2002) The Power of Personal Storytelling. New York: Tarcher/Putman.
    Pinker, S. (1998) How the Mind Works. London: The Softback Preview.
    Further Information


    This is a website run by Heather Forest with various information for storytellers, including lesson plans and links to other sites.


    In Britain the Society for Storytelling has a variety of information about storytelling circles across the country. They also have resources for sale.

    Chapter Three: Art as a Start
    Ahlberg, A. (1999) Jeremiah in the Dark Woods. London: Puffin Books.
    Corden, R. (2000) Literacy and Learning Through Talk. Buckingham: OUP.
    Doonan, J. (1993) Looking at Pictures in Picture Books. Stroud: Thimble Press.
    Graham, J. (1995) Pictures on the Page. Sheffield: National Association for Teaching of English (NATE).
    Grainger, T. and Pickard, A. (2004) Drama: Reading, Writing and Speaking Our Way Forward. United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA) Royston, Herts: UKLA.
    Swain, S. (2004) Once upon a Picture. London: Frances Lincoln Publishers.
    Further Information

    Edward Hopper: A short biography and examples of his paintings are available from http://www.artchive.eom/artchive/H/hopper/mansard.jpg.html

    Tate Gallery: Visit the Tate online at http://www.tate.org.uk for a variety of resources and online courses.

    Jack Vettriano: Try http://www.jackvettriano-prints.com or http://www.vettriano-art.com for examples of the artist's work.

    Mitchell and Kenyon: Stills from their archive collection of photographs are available from http://www.bfi.org.uk/features/mk/gallery/r02_01.html

    Pierre Auguste Renoir: A gallery of his work and biographical details may be found at http://www.renoir.org.yu

    Vincent Van Gogh: Prints and calendars are widely available. Biographical details and further pictures may be viewed at http://www.vangoghgallery.com

    Chapter Four: Picture Books
    Burningham, J. (1992) Come Away from the Water, Shirley. London: Red Fox.
    Clarke, H.N.B. (2002) Welcoming address at opening of the Eric Carle Museum of Children's Art (available online at http://www.picturebookart.org).
    Dowling, M. (1995) Starting School at Four. London: Paul Chapman Publishers.
    Graham, J. (1995) Pictures on the Page. Sheffield: National Association for Teaching of English (NATE).
    Hill, A. (2001) The same only different’, Primary English Magazine, 7(1), October.
    Hughes, A. and Ellis, S. (1998) Writing it Right: Children Writing 3-8. Edinburgh: Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum.
    Matthews, S. (2001) ‘Quentin Blake in the classroom’, Primary English Magazine, 6(5), June.
    Meek, M. (1991) On Being Literate. London: The Bodley Head.
    Mercer, N., Wegerif, R. and Dawes, L. (1999) ‘Children's talk and the development of reasoning in the classroom’, British Educational Research Journal, 25(1), pp. 95–111. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0141192990250107
    More than Words (2004) A joint UKLA and QCA publication based on collaborative classroom research. Available from UKLA (http://www.ukla.org) or QCA Publications.
    Murris, K. and Haynes, J. (2000) Storywise: Thinking through Stories. Puriton: Dialogue Works.
    Pullman, P. (2005) ‘Common sense has much to learn from moonshine’, Guardian, 22 January.
    Unsworth, L. (2001) Teaching Multiliteracies Across the Curriculum: Changing Contexts of Text and Image in Classroom Practice. Buckingham: OUP.
    Van Allsburg, C. (1984) The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
    Waddell, M. (2001) Once There Were Giants. London: Walker Books.
    Wray, D. and Lewis, M. (1997) Extending Literacy: Children Reading and Writing Non-fiction. London: Routledge.
    Further Information

    Since writing this chapter I have found a web source for the Harris Burdick Mysteries, complete with pictures at http://www.sd35.bc.ca/lm/divmysteries.htm. Not only are there pictures to project from the internet on to the interactive whiteboard, it also gives examples of stories children have written in response to the pictures - all American based.

    Chapter Five: Photographs
    Andrew, M. (1996) Paint a Poem. London: Belair.
    Chambers, A. (1993) Tell Me : Children, Reading and Talk. Stroud: Thimble Press.
    Hobbs, R. (1996) ‘Expanding the concept of literacy’, in Media Literacy Review at http://interact.uoregon.edu/Medialit/mlr/readings/articles/hobbs/expanding.html.
    Jones, P. (1988) Lipservice: The Story of Talk in Schools. Milton Keynes: OUP.
    Kendrick, M. and McKay, R. (2001) ‘Revisiting children's images of literacy’, at http://educ.queensu.ca/~landl/archives/vol51papers/0304_ken_mck/.
    Phillips, T. (2000) A Postcard Century: Cards and their Messages. London: Thames and Hudson.
    Unsworth, L. (2001) Teaching Multiliteracies across the Curriculum: Changing Contexts of Text and Image in Classroom Practice. Buckingham: Open University Press.
    Welch, R. (1999) The Gauntlet. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Wilde, O. (2004) The Selfish Giant. London: Puffin Books.
    Further Information

    The National Geographic site at http://www.nationalgeographic.com has a range of photographs of people and places and even video clips of animals.

    Other free photographs are available at http://www.freefoto.com or http://free-photographs.net. You need to have some idea of what you are looking for, for example castles, or you could spend hours happily surfing through a wealth of photographs.

    ‘Talking Pictures’ is available at http://www.teachthinking.com. For further details click on online catalogue for information about the photograph pack available.

    Chapter Six: Media
    Considine, D. (2004) ‘Critical viewing and critical thinking skills’, at http://www.medialit.org/reading_room/article202.html.
    Goleman, D. (1996) Emotional Intelligence. London: Bloomsbury.
    Graham, L. and Johnson, A. (2003) Children's Writing Journals. Royston, Herts: UKLA.
    Marsh, J. (2004) The techno-literacy practices of young children’, Journal of Early Childhood Research, Vol 2(1) pp 51–66. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1476718X0421003
    Tainui, B. (2003) Comic Illustrators. Oxford: OUP Oxford Reading Tree Fireflies.
    Further Information

    Web Based Sources


    Wonderful resources with online cartoons and great links to other material to use in the classroom.

    http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id= 188

    Linked to the International Reading Association and gives step by step guidance on how to use these lessons.

    Check out reports at http://www.literacytrust.co.ukhttp://www.bfi.org.uk

    Visit the British Film Institute site for a range of ideas and resources, including ‘Show us a Story’ and ‘Story Shorts’.


    Film Education has a number of resources, some of them free, to use with all ages. Sign up with it to keep up to date with what is happening in the world of film education.


    Materials are available online for use in the classroom. This programme was so successful in Dan Tandarich's school that it has now spread to other areas.

    See Comic Books Blog at http://comicbooks.about.eom/b/a/153699.htm for information and resources.


    This site is about using comics to aid visual learners.


    For colleagues who are unfamiliar with the British educational system the following explanations may be of some use.

    Key skills: Children throughout their schooling are now assessed on the key skills of communication, mathematical skills, Information Technology, Personal Health and Social Education and problem solving skills.

    Key Stage One: This refers to children between the ages of five and seven years old. The key stage is divided into two separate year groups. Year One consists of children between the ages of five and six. Year Two children are between six and seven years old. In England the children in Year Two are given tests of attainment in literacy, mathematics and science at the end of this key stage.

    Key Stage Two: Following on from Key Stage One the children between seven and eleven are classed as being in Key Stage Two. There are four year groups in Key Stage Two: years three, four, five, and six. At the end of this key stage children are once again assessed before progressing to secondary school at age eleven.

    National Literacy Strategy: In 1998 the National Literacy strategy was introduced in England to ensure that literacy had a dedicated time in the curriculum. The Enhanced Literacy Hour became a requirement in every school. Practice spread to other parts of the U.K. but was not enforced in quite the same manner. Recent reports point to less stringent monitoring of ‘The Hour’ although many schools still have a strong focus on the ‘core’ subjects of English, mathematics and science as well as ICT. The frameworks for literacy and numeracy are currently under review. Futherninformation by be obtained by visited the Standards site:


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