Character of the Week #3 Mr Biggles

Say hello to this week’s brand new character of the week…

Just Saying Hello!

Mr Biggles is a lovely, friendly bear, that lives in a wood and knows a great deal about the countryside and our world. He can help you find out about animals, birds and trees in the forests he loves in Britain, and every other living thing on Earth. An expert on what makes the planet as wonderful and powerful as it is, he can tell you about rivers and mountains, skies and seas, earthquakes and volcanoes,  tiny streams and mighty moving floods of water and soil. Also a believer in being a responsible member of the world, Mr Biggles can talk to you about recycling, using electricity and water wisely and how to take care of our environment.

Mr Biggles’ Book

Like every self respecting member of the Storytelling Gang, Mr Biggles has his own book that travels around with him when he meets children in different classroom and storytelling sessions. This one is full of ideas about his friends, the environment, and woodlands in particular. There’s a story about some bears his friend, Bob, met in woods and what they got up to as well. Take a look at some of the pages from the book.

Busy Biggles

Mr Biggles was born only a couple of months ago and has been one of my most popular characters. He was named not by me, but by a pupil I was teaching at one of the schools I visit regularly as a supply teacher. Barely (if you pardon the pun) had his nose poked out of the storytelling bag, when the little burst out with “I know what his name is. It’s Mr Biggles.” Up until that moment I had been thinking of a few different names, and nothing had really seemed right. Well, Mr Biggles it was and it has suited him ever since. There was a brief foray into Mr Biggle, though it didn’t last. Always trust children on these things.

For the past two weeks, Mr Biggles has been working his big strong paws off in Reception classes at a number of schools.  The children have learnt to sequence pictures from a story, to use relative positional language (not in those words), to draw different animal homes and to understand how an acorn grows into an oak tree. For one little boy, he learnt that acorns are called acorns, not oakanuts, which was a hard won contest. Acorns, pine cones, sticks and other outdoor materials were used on one particularly cold and miserable afternoon to create ephemeral art in the classroom, and the pictures were fantastic. The bark rubbing collages totally made by the children were unexpectedly delicious, as they were far more imaginative with their use of shape and colour than I anticipated them to be, which just go to illustrate my earlier point of trusting children of these things.

Anyway, TTFN, and I’ll be back soon!

Embla x

P.S. I will posting news about a competition on Tuesday, so look out for that!

More information coming on Tuesday 1st May


Character of the Week #2 continued!

My favourite alien, Mr Oggy Boggles, is back for another turn as Character of the Week!

Available for sessions in schools and at parties, Mr Oggy Boggles loves telling stories and helping children to write their own. He even has his own book to share with children.

Today, we have been working on adding some illustrations to his story, and we have something to show you. Take a few minutes to enjoy highlights from his life story so far, and then click on the links below to read the full story.

To read Mr Oggy Boggles’ full Origin Story, read on MacDuff:

The Curious Tale of Mr Oggy Boggles – Part One

The Curious Tale of Mr Oggy Boggles – Part Two

Shakespeare’s Birthday – 23rd April

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.

Lessons based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Clink on the links here for more information and the links to the TES resources:

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Set 1

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Set 2

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Set 3

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Set 4

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Set 5

And for those with more money than time, a bundle of all them that you can pay cash monies for:

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Bundle


Character of the Week #2

This week’s featured character is…

Mr Oggy Boggles comes from the moon, and loves to hear stories. He helps children to develop story writing skills, through his own handmade book

Arriving on Earth after a freak incident on the Moon shook him loose in his little Moon Rock house, Oggy is now on an ongoing mission to seek out new stories and new poetry sessions, to go boldly where one stripey little alien has never before gone (or something like that anyway).

This week, Oggy and I have held high powered talks over cups of tea and packets of Malteasers (what with Moon Cheese being so rare and all, down here on Earth), and we have continued to develop his Go Bananas! Do Stories! Book and series of lesson plans.

As part of that, with his guidance of course, I produced a set of illustrations for Oggy’s book, that can help take writers through the different elements needed to write simple stories.

Mr Oggy Boggles and I are available to come to schools to share his book and discuss the storytelling strategies we’ve come up with together, and may be a story or two with pupils and teachers too, as we both love stories. Follow-up lesson plans and teachers’ packs are available. If you are interested, have a look for more information on booking us here: Storytelling – Information and Fees 

To read Mr Oggy Boggles’ own Origin Story, read on MacDuff:

The Curious Tale of Mr Oggy Boggles – Part One

The Curious Tale of Mr Oggy Boggles – Part Two

Spring Term is here! Hooray!!!

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.

And in the Summer term, wow, it only gets better!

New Learning Opportunity!

Over at the sister website, there is a new enterprise getting some attention… Get Creative is a project designed for adults that would like to learn or refresh their craft skills, either on their own or in a group setting.

To find out more, click on this link:

Get Creative with Emmis LINK

Christmas time is here, but don’t fear, Embla is near!

Reasons for the Season to be Cheerful – top teaching tips for Christmas

Christmas time is here and the children’s faces are all a-glow with excitement. The shops have been full of trinkets and glitter for weeks and you’ve seen the lights and heard the first songs of the season on the radio. Before the panic sets in, here’s some advice to help you through the last few weeks of term.

  1. Plan ahead – this sounds obvious, but it is so easy to get caught up in the excitement that things can get overlooked. Look at the school calendar, and how this will impact your class and what happens there. Every school is different, but if you know that there are certain things that the school expects children to produce for the end of term, allow slots in your week to make sure they’re done in plenty of time and you’re not feeling under pressure to get them done at the last minute. Allow time to make: cards, calendars (the kind with calendar tabs on or the next year’s dates on), a small gift for a relative, decorations, and so on.
  2. Plan ahead (part 2) – the other part of planning is to keep a clear record of what is going on when. This time of year is busy with Winter performance rehearsals, trips to theatres and churches, etc. and whatever goes on is liable to change for whatever reason rapidly. Keep tabs on what’s happening and write everything down. Plan what has to be done to maintain your aims and objectives and get everything ready as much as you can ahead of time, as you might have to swap things around to fit the time you have.
  3. Be realistic – if you can see that the children would benefit from diverting from your plan, do so. Worthwhile and challenging work can be done, but sometimes the children will not settle to a quiet lesson on something like The Celts if they have been overstimulated by a singing lesson that went on longer than planned or a theatre trip. Have some work that is good, solid and educational that can use the children’s time profitably in those times when an alternative may have to be found from what you would normally do. The lovely people at have great resources with Christmas themes for most subject areas and some of them are easily adaptable for this kind of activity or the ongoing set of tasks that can make good use of what time you have, as they test and stretch the children. It might a good idea to take a chance for mindfulness training and do some simple yoga stretches, colouring or meditation, while listening to gentle Christmassy music (see below for suggestions, or seek out the Piano Guys or Celtic Christmas for relaxing tunes).
  4. Don’t forget the power of a story. I spent a brilliant day today teaching through the medium of ‘The Tale of Jack Frost’ by David Melling – an engaging story about a little boy found in an enchanted forest – and covered English, Mathematics, Science and Art. Creative thought can captivate the children and get them involved in learning when they can all too easily be distracted by the joys of the season.
  5. If you know you are going to busy with special projects, such as making those cards and calendars I mentioned earlier, ensure that you have all the resources ready, even if you aren’t going to make them immediately. The stock cupboard is a treasure trove at the best of times, but this is the season of the Highly Prized Pritt Stick (other glue sticks are available), Hunt the Glitter Tin, and a version of Cluedo that involves who was last seen with the roll of shiny silver paper (was it Miss Green in the library with the paper trimmer or Mrs Scarlett in the ICT suite with the extra-large scissors?), so I always work out what I need and how much, take that and put the rest back ASAP. Trust me, it’s better that way.
  6. Christmas is a good time to involve the community in the school and the school in the community. The Christmas Fayre is an opportunity to invite people to the school and showcase the work the children have been doing, through the fantastic displays on the walls, the things they’ll have prepared for a stall or two or a short presentation by some of the older children for visitors. A Father Christmas, elves and Good Fairy granting wishes are appearing at a local school near me (I know, because I am one of them… I’m waving a wand btw). The school nativity or Winter performance is a chance to showcase the talent of the children to parents, families and guardians. Invite specially selected members of the community – the mayor, councillors, neighbouring school – to events is worth a thought too. When running these events, involve the children as much as possible. They should design the programme for the shows, and any posters, tickets, set and so on, even if adults take over at some point. It gives them a sense of ownership of what is going on around them, and a feeling that they are really a part of it all. If refreshments are going to be served, there’s no reason why some of the children can’t be involved in helping with that. Front of house work (taking tickets, handing out programmes, showing people to their seats) gives children responsibility and might give some of the children that are more reluctant to ‘perform’ on stage a task they’ll enjoy more. Having children help ‘backstage’ is good too, if you are lucky enough to have lights and sound to operate.
  7. Christmas is a magical time for children and it is lovely being in school with them. We can get stressed and harassed about all we need to do and everything that is going on, and the endless sound of Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Bread Toad Rain Beer (we had to work hard to get that one right one year) can make it seem all the worse. Give yourself a break. Breathe. Make sure you’ve got your plans straight. Get your alternatives ready, just in case. Have a box of fun activities to keep the children happy and busy – quick makes like wooden templates (artcuts at are brilliant and do great variety packs of Christmas shapes, see one example here:, stamps from the English Stamp Company (costly, but great quality, worth it in the long run – and good quality card. Have nice, calm Christmassy music ready, as however much we all love Slade, they don’t make for a quiet day. Look out for albums on Amazon prime if you can, as they’re free 😊 My favourites are by Harry Connick Jnr (Christmas with a gentle swing in the old fashioned sense and kid friendly), Aled Jones (traditional, but gentle), Seth McFarlane (yes, the one from Family Guy, but he has the pipes and he can croon a tune like the best of them and his album is cool man), Sarah McLachlan (a wonderful musician and a great voice), The Piano Guys (purely instrumental and brilliantly entertaining fun to listen to) and The Barenaked Ladies (not actually naked or ladies, and hugely fun – listen to for your entertainment, forget the children). The Christmas albums by the Glee cast aren’t bad either as they are clean lyrics wise and likely to be popular with children.

The most important thing to remember during this time of Advent is that we are in school for the children and that Christmas is a time of celebration and wonder. The greatest gift we can give the children in our care is our time and creating experiences they’ll never forget. Looking back on my childhood, I can remember almost every nativity play and even the smell of Christmas at my primary school lingers with me; the aroma of glue, glitter, paint and the costumes my siblings and countless other children wore before me. Now, it is our turn to create the memories that will stay with the next generation. Make them good ones. Merry Christmas to you all.

Image by Tim Rickhuss