Under the Sea!

Under the Sea was a week of wacky and wonderful sea creatures. We were inspired by Yuval Zommer’s Big Book of Blue (Years 1-2 and Years 3-4) along with The Secret of Black Rock and the sea creatures in Myth Match (Years 3-4). 

These were the stages to our work: 

  1. We looked in detail at The Big Book of Blue. We learnt many things, including: Flying Fish fly for 45 seconds…Pufferfish are the second most deadly animal in the world (can you guess the first?)…Anglerfish have light bulbs having from their heads to lure victims into their traps!
  2. We played a game of mixed-up sea animals and, from these, got ideas for our Under the Sea puppets. 
  3. Out of shoe boxes and many other materials including paint we created sea worlds for our puppets. 
  4. We talked about and smelt our favourite smells and our least favourite smells, and imagined what it smelt like in the sea world. Some of the smells we came up with / brought in: a fish oil capsule; a benecol bottle with vinegar in it; lavender oil; flowery soap; chocolate milk; bubblegum; candy floss… 
  5. We wrote up the beginnings of our stories.
  6. We brainstormed ideas for what could happen Under the Sea… we came up with: tidal waves…darkness descending…evil vampire squids…arguments between sea creatures…sea creatures stealing each other’s jewels…
  7. We played a simile game about the problems of the sea creatures.
  8. In the Years 3-4 class we used the Sea World shower curtain as a backdrop to do some acting against with the puppets, imagining the problems that could happen in the sea worlds.
  9. We wrote up the middles of our stories.

Here are some samples of the art and writing from the week!





Touring Toys: Magical Toyshops

It’s been a great week of ‘Touring Toys’ which I’ve now renamed ‘Touring Toys: Magical Toyshops’ due to the content of our stories as they evolved…

We started out by looking at some older toys from the 1985 Encyclopaedia of Toys! From this, and from a game of mixed-up toy consequences, along with discussions about our favourite / least favourite toys, we came up with some new toys and made puppets of them. We started filling in our puppet passports…

We then started thinking about where our toys would live and toyshops in general. We watched the trailer to Mr Magorian’s Wonder Emporium and brainstormed the different sections that toyshops could have:

We started to plan our own toyshop. We divided up a huge piece of communal paper into different rooms in the toyshop and all students worked on all the rooms, taking turns to go in different areas. We listened to music about toys coming to life and we painted, and as we painted we talked about the toyshop and what was happening in it. Here are some photos of the in-progress magical toyshops…

IMG_6582-1 (dragged)

IMG_6587 2

We imagined what it would smell like in the toyshop, and played a game of smell tests…

We then wrote a description of the toyshop using sounds and smells, so that the reader could really imagine they were there. This would be the introduction to our stories. Here are a couple of examples:

Finally, we started to plan the problem / exciting middle part of our stories, thinking about how our puppets would be involved in them. 

The Years 1-2 class planned a burglar story with thieves coming in to steal the toys. The burglars went on a long journey in the toyshop and we acted out what they did in each room. We then drew the actions of the burglars onto the painted toyshop (such as stealing all the toys in the Scented Toys Room / posing in front of mirrors) in between writing sessions. Some of the stories ended up with the burglars escaping, some with them being captured.

The Years 3-4 class planned two different stories: one involving a pod crash over the Sea of Imagination (the sea which connects the different rooms of the toy world) involving a muscular lifeguard running off to the Fire Room, and another the ‘Sweet of Neverendia’ involving a quest through the Water Room and a trek through the desert bordering the Sweets Room. We drew the two storylines onto the painted toyshop in between writing sessions. 

Here are some samples of writing from the middle of the stories:

And here are the final group artworks:




Heroes and Villains, Myths and Monsters

It’s the end of a really creative week and the intensive course: Heroes and Villains, Myths and Monsters! There were two classes: Years 1-2 and Years 3-6. 

These were the different parts of our week (I’ve put a sample of work below the relevant stages):

1. Discovering myths and mythical creatures using books such as Myth Match (both classes); Arthur and the Golden Rope (Y1-2); Orpheus and Eurydice (Toon Graphics) and short films / clips such as Midas from the Literacy Shed and The Alchemist’s Letter (Y3-6)

2. Designing our own mythical creatures as a mixture of different animals; painting these creatures and making them out of air-drying clay

3. Mixing colours for our creatures and naming these colours

4. Creating the world for our creatures and mythical stories out of recycling materials and paint

5. Simile games to help us imagine our creatures

6. A lot of talking and brainstorming and imagining: what did it smell like in our world (we did some smell experiments too)…what sounds could we hear…what might happen to our creatures (both classes)…which stories that we’d read did we like / which did we not like and why…what did we want our stories to be like…what did our characters want (Y3-6). We then planned the stories using comic strips / story boards and a lot of group brainstorming. 

7. Writing the stories






Alien Worlds and Short Burst Writing

In the first half of the summer term we were looking at space in the Y3-4 class. We did a variety of different exercises responding to texts I read aloud or we read together, e.g. The Girl who Drank the Moon (Kelly Barnhill); The Jamie Drake Equation (Christopher Edge); 100 Things to Know about Space. Usually we work on one story per half-term, and plan it in Week 4 of our classes. This time, to change things up a bit, I decided to do lots of different short bursts of writing (we did 3-4), and then plan a longer story in the second half of term. The results have been really good and we had a very enjoyable first half of term! I’m looking forward to the longer stories too, which might come out of ideas from the shorter bursts of writing we’ve already done. 





Touring Toy: Adventures of Ordinary

Touring Toy is a project I set up for my classes in Easter 2018. It was based on the idea from the film Amelie of taking something travelling around the world (in her case a gnome) and photographing it in different places. I came up with the idea of Adventures of Ordinary: making ordinary life into an adventure for a small toy. I realised this could be a really great stimulus and structure for art and story-writing. 

The project was really popular with the children (and with me!) and produced some great language and images, so we are now continuing it this June half-term. I have also set up a twitter account: touring_toy

These are the initial photos I took for Touring Toy to model and explain the project to my classes: 

I captioned these photos with short text phrases. These either were showing how the ordinary landscape had become a scene that might be in an adventure story, e.g. ‘The Boulders of Boot’; ‘The Valley of Vitamins”, or they showed the character’s feelings when faced with this adventure landscape. I wanted the language to be fun and accessible so in my examples I combined using alliteration / metaphor with everyday words that might appear in stories in the characters’ inner thoughts. Here are two examples: 


I gave the students each a ‘Touring Toy Diary’ and asked them to take their toys on adventures with them over Easter, and to take minimum 6 photos of their toys having adventures. The key for the project was for them to understand that the adventures didn’t have to be in ‘special’ places; the toys could go on adventures in their kitchens. It was all about making adventures within the ‘ordinary’. 

I then continued taking photos for Touring Toy and captioning with phrases such as: “Path of the Hero!” “Watching Metal Monsters” “Acrobat in Training” “The Glowing Ring” (guess which applies to which photo…)

These are the amazing results from the students’ touring toy diaries:  

A couple of students created continuous stories with their Touring Toy diaries: 




This half of term with the 6-7 year olds we have been focusing on dragons. There were a few different stages to the work: 

  1. We read some books about dragons together and talked about them (George and the Dragon, The Egg, Show me a Dragon, The Dragon Machine), roughly one a week
  2. We modelled dragons out of clay and painted them
  3. We made houses for our dragons 
  4. We wrote letters to our dragons to ask them to come back when they disappeared
  5. We talked a lot about how we met our dragons; why they went missing; how we got them back. We then made this into a story.
  6. We will edit and finish off our stories next week…

Here are some photos of the students’ work!

Choose Your Own Adventure Stories, November-December 2017

This half of term term we have been looking at quests where the reader gets to choose their own adventure (the stories have multiple endings based on choices the reader makes throughout the stories). 

For inspiration, we read a wide range of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ (CYOA) stories across the classes, as well as quest stories. Stories that we read include The Super Happy Magic Forest, Matty Long (all ages); Quest, Aaron Becker (all ages); the iHero books (9 years +); Meanwhile, Jason Shiga (all ages); Your Very Own Robot (R A Montgomery) (6-8 year olds). We also watched some short animated films on the theme of quests and learning: First Flight / Adventures Are The Pits and Soar. We talked a lot about what characters learn in the different stories. 

Alongside the reading, we started writing a very short practice ‘choose your own adventure’ story on cards, either based on the films or the books we had been reading.

We chose places where we wanted to base our own CYOA story, collecting pictures from magazines / newspaper cuttings / real life photographs, etc. We then made artwork of our story worlds in different styles of papier mache boxes, imagining ourselves jumping into them and what we could see / taste / hear / smell / touch in those worlds. We started our longer stories last week, which will be finished over Christmas at home. Here are some of the lovely results: 

Castles, September-October 2017

It’s been a great start to the school year. We have been inventing our own castles this term,  inspired by Colin Thompson’s book ‘Castles’. I have been amazed by the quantity and quality of ideas produced across the different groups I teach. We are now moving onto writing our quest stories (where the castles will obviously feature!). The castles are here:

The start of the quest stories are here:


Beautiful Underground Worlds, 23-25 August 2017

It’s the end of my summer classes for another year! In the final week we were Under the Ground! These were the stages to our work:

1. Read and discuss The Street Beneath My Feet by Yuval Zommer
2. Make collaborative murals of underground worlds and start on our individual worlds
Gather things from home that could fit into our worlds
4. Read and discuss The Something by Rebecca Cobb and pictures of huge pits, holes etc.
5. Write personification poetry imagining we ARE the worlds 
6 Write stories for our worlds

Lovely work from Fantastical Creatures! 9-11 August 2017

Just had an amazing 3 days doing art and creative writing with the theme of Fantastical Creatures. Here is a snapshot of the lovely work below. Our 3 stages were:

  1. Create our fantastical creatures and their home, the “Wonder Garden” (inspired by Jenny Broom)
  2. Write simile poems for our creatures 
  3. Create word maps for the garden and write stories