Advent Book Review 12: The Big Christmas Book

big book of christmas

The Big Book of Christmas is a compilation of stories, songs, scripts and rhymes chosen by Gaby Morgan. I love her collections, Read Me 1 and Read Me 2, and read them to Esther and William every day when they … Continue reading 

Edspire Festive Forecast: Orchard Toys Review and Giveaway

066 - Copy

Today on the Edspire Festive Forecast we have two great products from Orchard Toys, a British brand very popular in primary schools and homes across the UK. I have used their games in maths lessons with my old year 2 … Continue reading 

Fudgy Comes to Stay: A Review


Esther and William will be 7 months corrected age next week. Developmentally they are at the stage where they love cuddles with people and stuffed toys. They are starting to develop preferences for certain toys and stories. They are beginning … Continue reading 

Book Review Owl Babies

This book by Martin Waddell I adore. It is such a simple, repetitive text but with much that can be read beween the lines. In our house this book is often performed with finger puppets! I find this text perfect for performing or reading aloud, gving each owl baby a distinct voice and character of its own. The text in parts is poetc and reads much like a lullaby. It is a classic bedtime tale.

Three owl babies, Sarah and Percy and Bill, are waiting together for their Mummy to come home from hunting. They are worried that she might not return and Bill in particular really wants his Mummy. Together they wonder where she might be and when she will be home. They huddle together for warmth and comfort until soft and silent Mummy swoops through the trees to Sarah and Percy and Bill.

This book is also perfect for use in the classroom for children aged 5 – 7.

My favourite activity is to use puppets or sequencing cards to retell the story.

You can split a class into three groups and ask each group to read the speech of one of the owls and try to imagine what that owl is thinking and feeling. The children could then extend their character profiles by using their understanding of the three personalities to try imagining how they would each respond to other situations, such as learning to fly, making a new nest and finding their own food.

During a shared re-reading of the story you can ask children to listen carefully to the babies’ speech and decide at the end of each page whether the owls are getting more nervous as the story progresses. A nerve chart/graph can be used to support visual and kinaesthetic learners. Understanding characters’ motivation for their actions is an important part of reading and understanding narrative fiction.

Ask children to think how a trio made up of their own friends and family would respond differently to various situations. Encourage children to think of times when they have been scared or excited and when they have reacted differently to a family member or friend. Think about actions, words and feelings. Role play could be used to explore different situations.

A great tool for the classroom is Role on the Wall. Draw an outline of each owl baby on the wall and then write key words about their character on to the outline. What they look like on the outside and what they think and feel on the inside of the outline. This is a good plenary activity that can be used after characters have been explored through role play.

As well as being a beautiful simple story, Owl Babies also exemplifies theuse of a full ramge of punctuation marks in context. This book is a great resource for sentence level work in literacy. How many different words, for example, can children come up with to replace ‘said’?

For a book with so few words, there is so much to be gained from sharing this story wih children in your classroom or your home.

Why not try these ideas linked to the text?

Ask children to write a set of Keep Safe rules (procedural text) for the owls when their mother is a way or for themselves in a given situation – in the playground, in the classroom etc.

Compare Owl Babies with the first chapter of The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark to compare the feelings of the Plop with Sarah, Percy and Bill.

Ask children to compose a speech by the mother owl to make the owls feel better. The Owl Mother puppet can be used for children to deliver their speech through. This could be a good paired activity.

Make a class reference book called ‘All About Owls’, use the information text included as an introduction to the text type and as a model for children’s own text.

Incorporate the use of ICT and create a web page, ‘All about Owls’.

A fantastic resource and a right good read!

Mummy and Esther and Will!

When I Grow Up

When I was just a little girl,
I asked my mother,
What will I be?
Will I be pretty?
Will I be rich?
Here’s what she said to me …

From an early age I dreamed of being; never being any one set thing but each thing related to words. And now when I think about those childhood ambitions many of them remain the same to this day. I would still like to be an actress, a journalist, an English and Drama teacher. Added now to my list are the White House Press Secretary and my one childhood pipe dream, a professional ice skater, like my childhood heroine Katarina Witt.

So here in more detail are the things I would most like to be when I grow up.

Ice Skater
When I was younger I lived in Germany and I used to love watching ice skating on television. My favourite skater was Katarina Witt. She was a hugely successful skater and was jut gorgeous to watch. I loved her grace, her elegance, her costumes!! I loved watching her colour and creativity and sparkle on the screen. I used to dream of being just like her. In reality when I went ice skating as a child I had to hang on to the sides of the rink so as not to fall over. An ice dancer I was never going to be!

I tried so hard to make this dream come true. I was in every possible school production, I studied GCSE Drama and A Level Theatre Studies, I joined local drama groups and when we moved to areas that did not have a drama group then from as young as 9 I woud start one. Drama was and is my thing! I would have given anything to be a professional actress. When I was a child I was desperate to join Anna Scher Theatre School. I worshipped her and wrote her letters. I am fairly sure that she replied too. I also went through a phase of wanting to go to The Italia Conti Academy, none of this was possible as by this time we were living in Germany. I wrote to the BBC too and asked if I could be an extra. I also told the BBC about a book I liked that should be made into a TV series and I even offered to play the leading role myself. I was desperate! As I got older I realised that I needed to make the best of my amateur experiences as a professional role was probably not ever going to be mine.

Writer / Journalist
I tried hard to achieve this goal too. I was editor of our class magazine at school as a pupil and also ran the school newspaper as a teacher. At university I wrote short pieces for the TES and had an interview for ATL. In my late teens I had an interview for a job as a local news reader on BFBS Radio in Germany. They were very impressed with me at the interview but I was too young for the role. I loved the interview though, choosing what news needed to be given the highest priority and makng headlones and reading them out over the air. Such a great experience, I would have loved that job! Now as a blogger I am developing my writing skills and I also write articles about Zu3D for my fiance. I would like to write a book one day. I have been writing stories and poems for as long as I can remember. It is something that I find very easy, something that I love to do. Perhaps an educational children’s book will be in the offing one day.

English and Drama Teacher
I am half way to this one already as a primary teacher and literacy subject leader but when my own children go to school I would like to work as a secondary school English teacher. I want to be like Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. That is my dream job. That is the dream I am going to strive to achieve next and I cannot wait!!

White House Press Secretary
This is my fantasy dream job after becoming a little obsessed with The West Wing. I think I could be a good Press Secretary, I would love to give it a try!! I love the patriotism and passion in The West Wing. I am not American but The West Wing makes me want to serve at the pleasure of the President. Of President Bartlett anyway!

So there you have it, what I would be, if I could be, should I ever ever grow up.

Please hop on over to Manana Mama who is hosting this week’s listography to explore other people’s hopes, dreams and fantasies.

Tots 100 Learning Through Play

Zu3D – Learning Through Play in the Early Years

For this month’s Tots 100 Blog Hop I am submitting the post above. It tells how animation and Zu3D software in particular can be used throughout the early years curriculum to encourage and enhance learning through play. Animation can be seen as digital role play for children of all ages and is a great way of using technology with small children. It is easy to do at home as well as at school. It fosters sharing, team work, speaking and listening skills.

This month’s Tots 100 Blog Hop is being sponsored by MEGA Bloks. These kits would make great animation models providing children with characters and props for their stories and even plot ideas.

To find more ideas to help children learn through play, hop on over to Tots 100 to read the other entries in this month’s Blog Hop.

And please don’t forget to read the post I have chosen to submit this month:

Zu3D – Learning Through Play in the Early Years

Books and Babies

This is a fabulous listography from Kate Takes 5 this week, an opportunity to share books for babies. One of my favourite topics! As a mother and a teacher books are one of my best loves and I have been reading to Esther and William since before they were born. I read to them in the womb, beside their incubators and their cots, I read to them now on my knee and they have started to turn the pages themselves. They love to look at pictures and they enjoy watching my face as I read. I am certain that they recognise the pattern and intonation when I read certain books. Their favourites. Our favourites.

I have already blogged about some of these books and will link to them rather than write about the same books again.

The first books that we bought Esther and William are written by Oliver Jeffers and you can read about them here.

Our most read book, by far, is Eric Carle’s Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? which you can read about here. This one has an audio link too!

Our best bedtime book is I Love You, Sleepyhead and that can be read about here.

We also love Hairy Maclary and share our thoughts about these fab books here.

And here are 5 other books for babies, books I have already chosen as perfect for babies of my own.

The Gruffalo
This is a magical story that rhymes and encourages children to really use their imaginations as they try to picture in their minds the monstrous Gruffalo. It lends itself to being read aloud or acted out with a range of voices. It is a great story to animate too. I love this book and so do Esther and William. We read this a lot and sometimes watch the animated version on You Tube whilst waiting for our tea.

The Rainbow Fish This is a lovely book with beautiful illustrations. It tells a story with an important message about friendship and sharing. Again it lends itself to being read aloud and provides real inspiration for arts and crafts activities. (Always the teacher!)

Click Clack Moo Cows That Type
Children’s books have to be enjoyed by the adults that read them too and I find this book hilarious. It is a comedy sketch, well written and simply illustrated. Though Esther and William are still too young to understand the humour of the book they love the differnet voices and sound effects of literate cows and ducks taking over a farm. A great, fun read.

A Cultivated Wolf
A book about the importance of books and reading. A story of friendship that appeals to all the family. Great moral too, that anyone can change their ways if they want to.

Tanka Tanka Skunk
Two animals who together sound like drums! This book is great fun to read and shout out loud over and over again. I do it with increasing vloume and speed til me and the babies collapse in fits of giggles. It is great fun! Great in the classroom for teaching about rhythm and breaking words up into syllables. A book that encourages you to really play with words and have fun.

And books for another time … The Silver Sword, I Am David, The Machine Gunners, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Children on the Oregon Trail, The Secret Garden, Private Peaceful … I could go on and on.

I hope that we have another book listography soon, in the meantime, come and join in this one. I have read everyone’s posts with my Amazon account open and we will have a lovely large box of books on the way come Friday. Thank you everyone!

World Book Day – The Silver Sword

The Silver Sword is a book that has stayed with me all of my life, or at least since I first discovered it in primary school when it was read to me by my teacher, Mrs Foster.

The Silver Sword is a story based upon true fact that touches my heart every time I read it.
It is an inspirational story of tremendous courage, hope and determination in a terrible situation. It is the tale of four children’s struggle to stay alive as they journey through war-torn Europe, during the years of Nazi occupation.
This is a book that I will definitely hare with my own children and one that I have used in my teaching with children from Years 5 and 6. As well as being a story to share for its own sake it can also be a powerful text to use as part of a literacy or history lesson.
Personally I would incorporate the novel into a half term topic about war and conflict focusing on children and refugees. I believe that this would enhance the children’s understanding of the setting of the story, time and place, and help them to empathise with the characters and their situation. It would also give opportunity for looking at war poetry and other related texts such as When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and I Am David, two of my other most favourite books!!
I believe that The Silver Sword is a strong story, appealing to both boys and girls. I also feel that it is a novel that children can become really involved with and feel passionate about as the main characters are the same age as them and share similar likes and dislikes. They can really try to put themselves in their shoes.
At different points in the story children can further their understanding of and empathy for the characters by using hot-seating. One person would assume the role of a character from the novel and the other children would ask them questions about how they are feeling at a certain time, what are their fears, their worries, their thoughts about the other children and characters in the book. This would be a good way of considering what happened to Edek before the other s find him and or to Jan before he finds the others, or to the mother. It helps to enhance the understanding and enjoyment of the story by encouraging children to really read between the lines and think what could have happened based on what they already know about the novel and the war situation. It also helps to ask children o try to relate what they are reading to their own lives in some way, perhaps through emotions and feelings. When have you felt sad and lonely? Who is your best friend and why? If you had a treasure box like Jan’s what three objects would you put into it and why?
This book lends itself to being a platform for discussions about refugees and children’s experiences of war. It would be interesting to work with different charities such as The Red Cross to really develop understanding and compassion in this area.
On a creative note it would be good practice to watch the television serialisation of The Silver Sword, with children at home or at school, and notice and discuss any points that are different from the book. This would include evaluating the performances of the actors playing the main characters. Is it well cast? Do the characters loo as you imagined them to? Who would you cast in each role?
With my own children at home and pupils at school I would ask them, at the end of each reading session, to make a prediction of what they think might happen next in the story. Anticipating what might happen next in a text is an important part of reading, it is how we link what we know, what we think and what we have read together. It helps us to make sense of what we are reading and it uses imagination and creative thought.
I believe that as well as being great to read The Silver Sword provides a springboard form which many forms of writing can be launched (or sprung! ) – diaries, letters, stories, poems, reports, recounts, information texts, arguments and many more. The book has strong characters and a good plot with some chapters that could potentially lead to very powerful, creative interpretation, particularly Chapter 27, The Storm.
This book gets me so excited!
English is a subject that I have always been passionate about and I hope that through this passion, my knowledge of children’s literature and my ability to meet educational objectives through that literature, I will be able to inspire my own children and the pupils that I teach in my classroom to love English and books just as I do.
The story of The Silver Sword takes children on the journey of The Balicki Family but it is also a very personal journey where it is possible to discover many new ideas, new words, new thoughts and new inspirations. I truly believe that children take something from every story they read that moves them a little further on in their journey of discovering exactly who they are and what they want to be.
On this World Book Day 2011 I recommend this book as a winner with children aged 9 – 99.
Every journey begins with a single step so perhaps reading The Silver Sword could be yours.

Brown Bear Book Review … with a link to audio!

Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? by Eric Carle

Brown Bear Brown Bear ... again!


Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? by Eric Carle has become a firm favourite in our household over the last few weeks.  The babies, aged six months, love the words and looking at the brightly coloured pictures.  They are engrossed in the story from start to finish, sometimes looking at the pages but often looking at me as I say the words.  It is a wonderful experience sharing this book together over and over again.  We have enjoyed this story so many times that we actually no longer need the book and recite the text at any time, in any place and for any occasion.  Twice through it is the perfect length for a complicated nappy change and once through is enough to calm and sooth the most tired and tearful of babies.  Here in the Nairn Henley household, we love this book!

It can be used to learn the names of simple animals, for counting all the animals that have been seen.  It can be used to learn animal noises and the colours of the rainbow too.  We often complement the text by singing I Can Sing A Rainbow afterwards.  Esther tries really hard to join in the singing which is just sooo cute!

I really recommend this book as a first try if you are not confident at reading aloud.  The text has an easy rhythm and lends itself to being read aloud.  The babies soon learn the rhythm of the text and the intonation of my voice.  They can almost anticipate what is coming next and always giggle in the same places though I know they do not recognise the actual words.

A final tip that makes the enjoyment of this story even greater for my two is that instead of seeing just children at the end our monkey specifically sees Esther and William, and they love hearing their names in the text. 

I hope that you will try out this book for yourself if you have little ones like mine, I am certain that they will love it and you will find many uses for many ages so that it can be enjoyed time and time again.

This link will take you to a video where you can hear me reciting the text to William and singing a rainbow with Esther.