As I currently teach year 6 (and have only ever taught UKS2 so far) using picture books was not something that had ever crossed my mind until I read a blog post entitled The Power of the Picture Book by Tom Hendley. I was immediately inspired, got on Amazon (other book sellers are available) and ordered myself a copy of the Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman.
I wasn’t entirely sure how to use it until it cropped up that I had an interview for a new job and thought it would be perfect. The story is based on childhood nightmares, namely those of the main character Lucy who believes that creatures may be living in the walls. I took the theme of nightmares and started with an entirely different, and very well known book: The BFG by Roald Dahl. Most of the children knew the main theme of the story so I just read them the chapter where the BFG and Sophie go dream catching. I then got the children to think about their own dreams and nightmares and they created their own dream and nightmare jars, drawing pictures and sticking on images from magazines. How apt then that one child should draw a wolf in their nightmare jar – I couldn’t have linked it better myself!
After we had done this we focussed on what techniques the children already knew about engaging the reader and the children wrote sentences using each of the techniques about wolves. As the Wolves in the Wall is a picture book it has to use different techniques to engage the reader so introducing these became our objective for my observed lesson: to select images, font and layout for effect.
We read the book together up to the point where the wolves come out of the walls and discussed who they thought the audience was and how the author had engaged the reader so far. I got them to imagine what the wolves might do once they were out of the walls if it were a happy/sad/funny/surreal/scary story and write sentences using the techniques we’d already discussed, such as alliteration, shades of meaning, powerful adjectives and adverbs etc. Then the fun bit! the task was to create new pages for the book: I gave each group a digital camera and got them to create freeze frames of the activities they thought the wolves would do. We then went to the ICT room, uploaded the photos and inserted them in PowerPoint. The children then wrote their sentences over the top, changing the layout, font and colour and experimenting to create the effect they wanted. The results were fantastic, and the outcomes were really impressive.
I’m now on the look-out for other picture books to use, particularly as I will be teaching year 4 next year and am taking on the role of Literacy Leader so it’s something I’d love to promote across the school.