You can’t beat a good children’s picture book. And there’s nothing I love more than developing a string of learning experiences to make the children love the book as much as I do. I teach children right on the cusp of reading, what a mammoth responsibility! They way in which we approach books and reading is going to have a massive impact on their attitude towards it. As I always tell parents, I see my first job as helping the children to love books and to WANT to read. If I get that right, the actual decoding and understanding will come a million times easier.
And last week was a personal favourite – Where the Wild Things Are. I’ve done this with many year groups in many different ways. But we always start with drama. Drama is my passion, my go-to methodology whenever possible. Starting by creating the forest where the Wild Things live, we progress to becoming Wild Things ourselves.
How do they move? What noises do they make? How do they approach each other? Whenever we do an activity like this, something magical happens. The quietest learners morph into amazing characters, the reluctant writers get an opportunity to show they too are full of imagination, the confident ones realise they have much to learn from their less-vocal classmates. And they start to understand empathy, which I believe to be one of the most important skills they can learn if they are to improve the world they grow up in.
Alongside these drama activities, we started to create our art work. After thinking about the shapes and sounds of the forest, the children worked collaboratively in pairs to develop their own forest. They had total freedom (within the boundaries of the classroom) of materials – collage, paint, pens, etc.
During our dramatic exploration of becoming a Wild Thing, I took photos of their “wild” face.
We cut out these amazing faces with their weird and wonderful expressions and they drew the body of their “Wild Thing” which was then stuck onto their forest. They were incredibly proud of their artwork, and to top it off they then wrote descriptions of their wild thing. I strongly believe that immersing them into the text this way led to much richer writing, giving the children ownership and agency over their writing. The following week we had learner-led conferences and all of them eagerly pulled their parents over to see their art and writing. They were invested and proud. And, hopefully, in love with a new book, thus growing their passion for stories and reading.