To mark Shakespeare’s birthday on Monday, 23rd April, how about doing some of the Witches’ Spell activities I have placed FREE to download on TES resources? Based on the Witches’ Spell from Macbeth, there are sequence of lessons and activities, with lesson plans (with aims and success criteria included), worksheets, presentations, resource lists and all you need to get going on great sessions with children from EYFS to LSK2. There’s a little taste of everything there, from Drama (of course), to Maths, Science, Music, Art, Craft, PE… plus extension ideas too.
These have all been revised since they were first published and new additions have been made, so are well worth a second look if you have the time.
Clink on the links here for more information and the links to the TES resources:
I’ve just created two easy to use lesson plans based around the concept of asking and answering simple historical questions – why, when, where, what, who, how, can, do. Designed to get Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 children thinking about the key questions they should be asking when carrying out investigations about the past, these two lessons take the children, step-by-step through the process of thinking about why we need to ask questions, how to ask questions and how to answer them based on evidence. They aren’t period specific, so please feel free to adapt them to your circumstances.
Aims and success criteria are included, as are downloadable resources to help you construct a lesson, worksheets and interactive wall displays and further resources. All you need is here to get you going and start being creative with your thinking.
Download for FREE from TES resources by clicking on this link:
The second of my lesson plans designed to help teachers and TAs introduce the fundamentals of story writing to children in a straightforward and painless way!
A simple to use lesson plan, designed for teachers and teaching assistants to pick up and get going with straightaway, with hints and suggestions to make this a great lesson to use quickly and easily. This is an introduction to story writing for children, as it goes through the basics of identifying what makes a character interesting and then how to create characters , step by step. There are tips for the adults in how to deliver the lesson, aims, success criteria, an easy resource list, downloadable resources with success criteria included, and separate learning objectives for your assessment files. This is a lesson that has been tried and tested in the classroom and works! Adaptable across the primary age range, this lesson works best with Key Stage 1 and Lower Key Stage 2.
EmblaBee runs workshops on story-writing for children and adults, so you can book her to come to your school or setting, and she will lead a session like this one with you and your pupils or group. Please get in touch for more information, at emma@emblabee,org N.B. Special offers apply until the end of January, with an extra discount for the very last week of the month!
I love Spring Term. There are many reasons for this. One is that it is the shortest. But there is so much to love about this term.
It is the term of the unexpected. The moveable feast that is Easter keeps us on our toes and we’re never quite sure how long the term is going to be or how soon we need to start thinking of chicks and eggs and stuff, and getting our festive on. There’s Mothering Sunday, Pancake Day, Lent, Chinese New Year and National Saints’ Days for David and Patrick. Dear old Saint Valentine has his Day too, and the staffroom ponders his life story and how much if it is true, or not, or which of the myriad versions are the most correct. We come to some kind of conclusion, and then, THEN, someone up pipes that the whole thing was actually something else altogether, and that he might as well have come from Dagenham and been called Dave, and it was all made up by American card manufacturers and chocolatiers, and then we’re in a quandary again until we are distracted by a box of last Christmas’ chocolate biscuits, that were discovered under a pile of scrambled tinsel halos, when they were finally put away by a bored student TA.
We all know that Autumn is meant to be the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, but Spring is when children are most likely to come in from play time gently steaming from the rain, saying they forgot their coats or to put their hoods up. The least said about the mellow fruitfulness produced from noses and throats, the better, but, oh golly, you know a seasoned teaher because they always carry a tissue or four.
One thing I really love about Spring is the light returning to the earth. Hometime gets lighter and lighter, and we’ll hear children outside gadding about on bikes and playing, and annoying the old folks, all too soon. Plants spring into life and the world starts to grow again. Flowers show their faces and trees start to sway and swish, rather than roar and holler in the wind. I am lucky enough to live in a rural county and see the world flourishing around me. Already I have seen lambs in fields and snowdrops and buds ready to burst out. I can’t wait.
In schools too, wherever you are, this is a flourishing season too. I tend to think that the Autumn term is a great term for embedding and building skills that the children need to help them grow, of digging in the nutrients, of giving them what they need. The Spring sees that nurturing continue, the roots going deeper in and strengthening, but those buds of knowledge and skill really start shooting and showing their worth. The children have had time to adjust to what may have been upsettling for them in the autumn – new classes, new year groups, new schools, new towns, change, change, change; just as some plants are moved when they need to grow – and now is their time to fully grow.
At this time of year, we are filled with the joys of different festivals and celebrations. There’s Diwali, Halloween, and Bonfire Night all in a matter of weeks, but one of the most significant events is Remembrance Day. This is probably one of the most difficult areas to cover in schools, as it can stir up feelings and issues for children and adults that are emotional and complex. However, it is a significant event in our calendar.
Regardless of the age of the children you are working with, keeping to the facts and relating them clearly and with compassion is probably the best approach. Remembrance Sunday takes place on the Sunday closest to Armistice Day, which is always the 11th November. On this day, we think about the men and women that have joined the armed forces to look after the people in this country and other people that need our help. It is their job is to defend and protect people, and we are grateful for what they do now and have done in the past. The focus is not on glorifying war or acts of aggression, and that Remembrance Day isn’t a day to celebrate; it is a day to show our respect for service people. Sometimes their job is hard and difficult, and they might get hurt. Sometimes servicemen and women are away from their families for a long time, and that is sad for them. But they are willing to do this, because it is an important job that they do.
Millions of people give money to a charity called the British Legion and buy a poppy to wear. The poppy is a symbol, which is a sign of hope and peace, fragility and strength through troubled times, and is not a one of aggression, blood, political and religious affiliation. This point will need discussion at an appropriate level for the children – and very careful handling too.
When approaching Remembrance Day as a topic, always consider your audience – the children. I know that sounds obvious, but I have seen this handled badly in the past. Young children can be easily distressed and confused by the wrong level of information and imagery, and too often I have sat in assemblies with them that have left them feeling upset and puzzled. However, there are some useful resources out there for upper primary and secondary aged children. The British Legion and the BBC have some great online resources, including videos explaining key concepts, eyewitness testimonies from soldiers of the First World War and news from recent service people about the work that British Legion and the charities it supports do now.
Sharing War Poetry can be a bit of cliché, but it shouldn’t be overlooked for that. Over the past few years, good collections of poetry with a range of voices from different conflicts have been published, as well as letters and postcards. Comparing, for example, jingoistic poems from the start of World War One with the grittier poetry of the latter stages of the war gives a lot of room for discussion. Also, the school community is a great source of letters and photographs, and documentary evidence, so do ask parents, grandparents and staff to look out for what they have stored away. For older primary aged children and secondary school children, carefully selected examples can be useful in bringing the past alive and making what can seem very remote for children much more accessible. Research local links to famous service people, such as war poet Wilfred Owen (who had strong ties to his home area), and build that into lessons or assemblies for children and you have a good hook to catch their interest.
Depending on the age of the children, the history and significance of poppies can be brought into the discussion. With young children, I’d start with an explanation that there was a terrible war a hundred years ago. In France, the places where the war took place got so muddy and churned up that no-one thought that anything would ever be normal there again, but soon poppies grew again, which gave people hope that life would be better for everyone. People wore poppies to help them think about the people they’d loved that had been hurt, and hope that there’d never be another war.
Older children can be told the more detailed story behind Remembrance Day. Soldiers in the trenches during the First World War noticed that poppies grew amongst the devastation caused by battle and a Canadian serviceman called John McCrae wrote a poem called ‘In Flander’s Fields’, which has become a central part of many services of commemoration. The First World War ended officially at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, and that, for many, marked the end of the Great War, the war to end all wars. Three years later, the first Poppy Day took place on 11th November, where those wanting to remember the sacrifices made by those in the war wore poppies and raised money to help those affected by it through disability or bereavement.
Poppy wreaths and poppies can be made in the classroom, and special prayers can be written for assemblies. For me, formal work is secondary to discussion and acts of remembrance. It is far more important that the children fully understand why we commemorate Remembrance Day, than commit empty words to paper. As the 11th falls on a Saturday this year, the significance of the 11th hour, 11th day, 11th month will need to be covered in an assembly or lesson in the preceding week.
My first Halloween storytelling session has now taken place with a group of lovely children. They had two scary stories, games, songs (like a wolf) and treats, and we all had fun.
First Review in…
“You were awesome! Everyone really enjoyed it. It’s lovely to see the art of storytelling in all it’s glory! I don’t think we spend enough time telling stories when children get a bit older and you bring it to life so magically.” Annie F-M
I’ve collected some images for the artistic among you all to inspire your own Day of the Dead art work…
For teachers, there are also some worksheets for lower primary aged children, based on the skull decorations often seen during Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico and America. These are available on request from me directly here.
The first sheet provides illustrative examples of skulls for the children to look at and discuss (as a class. group, talking partner etc), the second sheet is a very basic colouring in (that can be added to with the children’s own design and flowers etc), and the third is the basic skull shape, which is up to the children to design (and again flowers etc can be added). The children’s skull pictures can be printed or stuck to card and made into masks by cutting out the eye holes and making holes at either side of the face.
A long, long time ago, in the time before the time my grandmother’s clock was new, there was a beautiful village on the shores of Ireland, where fishermen watched the skies and dreamed of sunshine and flat seas. There were farmers too, in their farms, scattered on rolling hills and darkening valleys. In the village itself, there were little cottages curled around the small parish church, a rushing brook, and a hide-and-seek wood.
The one thing that everyone did, whoever they were and whatever else they did, and that was to grow turnips. Every farm, every garden, was full of turnips. Everyone loved turnips and one man loved them most of all, and his name was Jack.
Jack was mean, and never helped the poor. Jack was grumpy, and not just in the mornings. Jack was lazy, and not just on sunny, summer afternoons. Jack was a cheat, and a thief, and a whopping great liar. Once, he tricked an old lady out of her golden tooth. More than once, he stole a kiss of a pretty girl. More than twice, he cheated at cards and drinking games with the men at the inn. But worst of all, he NEVER planted any turnips of his own and ALWAYS stole them from other people’s gardens, trampling all over their plants and flowers and ruining them. All the people of the village and farms called him one thing, and that was WICKED JACK.
A man so wicked was bound to catch the notice of the Devil, and one day they met on the edge of the deep, dark wood. ‘The time has come,’ announced the Devil, ‘for you to pack up your soul and come away with me.’
Wicked Jack wasn’t sure about that idea. He was very fond of being alive. ‘As I am about to go away, Devil,’ he replied, ‘would do me the honour of asking for one little last request?’
‘I may be the Devil, but I won’t have people saying I’m unkind, so go ahead.’
‘I’m assuming that it’s a long way to that fiery place that you call home, as I haven’t a whiff of smoke right here or the vaguest notion of a scream in my ears, and as I am fearful hungry already and I’m only going to get more famished on the way, I was wondering, if you don’t mind, that I might have some of the apples from that tree up there?’
‘Err…yes, fine. Go on, then.’
‘Ah well, that’s where there’s a problem. I put my back out last week dancing with a certain young lady; she was a beautiful young lady I must tell you, and she was well worth the trouble and the pain of it, but I bet you know all about that, and her too for that matter!’ Wicked Jack waited for the Devil to laugh with him. He didn’t. Wicked Jack went on, ‘and now my poor bones can’t be climbing up trees for apples. I think it best if I save my energy for the long and arduous journey ahead of me, especially as it is to be my very last, if you’ll forgive me.’
The Devil sighed, gave Wicked Jack a hard stare, and climbed the tree. It wasn’t easy for the Great Horned One, Devourer of Worlds. After all, he had horns, cloven hooves and little experience in climbing apples trees. However, he soon got to work and had loads of apples in his arms. He started to get down to the tree, but found out that the Master of Underworld and Lord of Lies (that’s him) had been deceived by Wicked Jack. While the apples were being gathered, Wicked Jack had been covering the ground around the bottom of the tree with crosses, so that he could make a trap for the Devil.
This did not please the Devil. He sat down on one of the branches of the tree, with difficulty, because of his arms being full of apples, and ate an apple. And then another one, throwing the cores at Wicked Jack’s head. The Devil sulked for three whole days and nights in the tree. He threw the last of the apples at Wicked Jack and got him right on the back of his greasy head. ‘Right then, I’ve had enough of this,’ he said, ‘take all those crosses away and let me come down, I’ve got better things to do than sitting here taking pot shots at you, you foul thing.’
‘Well, no, I won’t be doing that, because you’ll then be taking me and my soul, and don’t fancy the idea of that as I am so terribly fond of being alive, and all that,’ said Wicked Jack, which, for once, was actually true. ‘Unless… what I propose is this, I let you down and we just forget about all this soul taking business and you go your way and I go mine and you promise to never trouble me for my soul again.’
The Devil agreed, grumbling the whole time, but agreeing never-the-less and went on his way. Wicked Jack watched him go, and then went on his way, to be wicked, over and over again, for years and years.
Until, of course, one sunny autumn day, not at all like today, when Wicked Jack died. Arriving at the Pearly Gates, he begged to be let in to Heaven, but he had been far too wicked, and he couldn’t go in. So, he went to see the Devil, to see if he’d take him. Now, we know that the Devil isn’t unkind, but a bargain had been struck and he could only remind Wicked Jack of their deal, ‘you told me, Wicked Jack, that I could not trouble you for your soul, so it is not mine to take, and you can’t stay here with it in your possession.’ Wicked Jack left sorrowfully, as he had nowhere in the whole of existence to go. Watching him, the Devil called him back and gave him an ember from the eternal fires of his home to light his way and keep him warm.
‘Thank you, Devil,’ Jack said, ‘but this is too hot for me to handle.’ Together, they sat down and carved out a turnip to use as a lantern and popped the ember inside.
And off again went Wicked Jack into the world. He travelled over mountains, into deep valleys, around lakes and along streams, he tramped down muddy lanes and dried up paths, he walked through crowded city streets and quiet village roads. Always alone and always, always, still (slightly) wicked.
Wicked Jack and his lantern were, sometimes, seen by people out celebrating and feasting on All Hallow’s Eve, so it wasn’t long before he was known as Jack of the Lantern, and then Jack o’Lantern. His terrible wickedness and the story about his trap for the Devil travelled with the tale of his wanderings, and people started to make their own jack o’lanterns out of turnips at Hallowe’en time to keep him at bay. Eventually, some of those people travelled too, further away to other places in Ireland and Britain and America and all over the world, and the story of Jack o’Lantern went with them. In America, turnips were replaced pumpkins, as they are easier to grow and to carve. The legend of Wicked Jack grew and changed and travelled back over the big, big sea to Europe, and pumpkins are now a part of Hallowe’en all over the world.
Oh, and before I go, just one last thing: look out for Wicked Jack, because he still walks the land looking for a home…and he’s after yours…
Carving a Jack O’Lantern has become a staple part of the Hallowe’en experience for many of us every year. Here are some handy hints to keep you busy, and safe!
Choose a pumpkin. Obvious? Me? Never! Well, here’s the hint. Think about the shape and size of the kind of design you want and how it will fit on the pumpkin. Also, consider how you will light the finished lantern. Check it for lumps and bumps and squidgy bits too. Don’t forget you can cut off the grotty bits in your design, but don’t choose one that’s too ripe to start with – choose a smooth one that sits well on a flat surface. Originally, turnips were used to create Hallowe’en lanterns, but these are tough to carve (especially if you have little hands)
Cut a lid for your pumpkin. Adults should do this with children supervising only
Gouge out the gooey insides until they are ALL on the outside – this will prevent accidents with candles and rotting brains and zombie attack (that got you paying attention didn’t it?)
Draw your design on the pumpkin carefully. Traditionally, this would be a scary face to warn any wandering Hallowe’en spirits to keep away from your place, but this is your design, so get creative
Cut out your design, using an awl to create a hole first. Cut carefully. Blood stains and makes a terrible mess
Always take care with lighted candles. If you choose to put a candle inside your pumpkin and pop the lid on, make sure the lantern has nothing flammable close by and is in a safe position. Follow safety instructions or it could be you that’s being kept away by pumpkin lanterns next year.