Books and my classroom…

Why do you love books so much?

Well that’s a loaded question and a half. It’s a question my children (despite the fact I’ve taught them for 2 years now) have asked me. It’s a question my colleagues have asked me. I don’t have ONE answer for them. I don’t have one blanket answer. I probably give a different answer every single time I answer that question and that’s OK. The reason I love reading and books is deeper than just one reason.

Reading and in particular encouraging children to read for pleasure is a BIG part of my motivation and identity as a teacher. I know a lot of teachers in my twitter bubble would also say this, but I also know there are teachers who wouldn’t say this. I definitely identify as a reading teacher. A teacher who reads. My Year 5 classroom had a dedicated reading area because I think it’s important that children see that I am a reader just as much as they are. However, when I moved into my Year 6 classroom, there wasn’t a reading area as such (because for all it’s a wonderfully big classroom and I’m VERY blessed to have it there isn’t really space for book shelves), so I made one. And I very much loved it.

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Every week, there’s a new ‘Miss Elliott’s Recommended Read’ and one of my boys in particular is always the first one to take this book then return it! Yes, there are a multitude of different coloured stars to match whatever colour the covers of the books are… don’t judge me! I like things to look aesthetically pleasing haha. So far, my recommended reads have been:

  • Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick
  • Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray
  • There May Be A Castle by Piers Torday
  • The Somerset Tsunami by Emma Carroll 
  • Cogheart by Peter Bunzl

I love leaving a book out on the recommended read spot because it gives children a starting point if they’re a bit intimidated by the selection!

READING AREA

Also in my reading corner are these two books. The brown one says ‘Miss Elliott’s Recommended Reads’ on the outside and the ‘Reading Journal’ is for them. Inside my recommended reading book is just that: my reviews of some of the books I’ve read lately. It was something I saw on twitter and then I decided to magpie. It’s great for the kids who are undecided, but trust my reading tastes! The ‘Reading Journal’ is their chance to shine and do just that: recommend books to their friends. The Reading Journal has just recently taken off as it took one or two children writing in it before they weren’t afraid to! I think it’s so important to get children talking about the books they recommend. (Letters from the Lighthouse was our whole class read last half term and I was super lucky to have 15 copies! The kids ADORED it!)

I also have these baskets which are jam packed FULL of high quality and wonderful stories. Any of the books I get sent normally end up in my classroom first and then they go into the school library for the rest of school to enjoy them – that’s adults and children alike! There’s a lot of books in these baskets that will stay in Year 6 because I either bought them or I know my kids will love them! A lot of these books have been read by multiple children and some of them are falling apart already! But that’s the sign of a well-loved book in my classroom! Some of the firm faves from these baskets include:

  • Wildspark by Vashti Hardy
  • Patina/Sunny/Ghost (not pictured because someone’s reading it) by Jason Reynolds
  • Pages and Co by Anna James
  • The Storm Keeper’s Island/The Lost Tide WQarriors by Catherine Doyle
  • High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson
  • Who Let The Gods Out series by Maz Evans

I decided to subscribe to First News this year just to give a bit of variety in my reading area and I have to say, my Year 6s are very taken by the newspaper! My Year 5s also loved them, but my Y6s are very partial to a bit of newspaper reading in our reading time! There’s never many left on the table when we are reading. There’s also this little box of postcards/bookmarks for my kids – if publishers ever send me postcards or bookmarks, they go in here for my kids to have a look at/use! We’re keen users of bookmarks and postcards as bookmarks!

And that’s it! A whistlestop tour of my reading area as it is at the minute. I’m a massive lover of books (if you hadn’t guessed) and getting my children access to new, high-quality books is so important to me. I love that being a blogger helps me to do this, but I’d do it even if I weren’t a blogger… I daren’t tell you all how much money I spend monthly on books!

Have you got a reading area in your classroom?
Is there anything else you’d like to see from my classroom?

Speak to you all soon!

S x

BLOG TOUR: Respect

Respect: an informative and approachable way to teach children all about the importance of consent.

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“Your body belongs to you and you get to set your own rules, so that you may have boundaries for different people and sometimes they might change. Like when you hi-five your friends and kiss your kitten, but not the other way round! But consent doesn’t need to be confusing. From setting boundaries, to reflecting on your own behaviour and learning how to be an awesome bystander, this book will have you feeling confident, respected, and 100% in charge of yourself and your body.”

Due to changes in the curriculum and the importance of conversations around consent, it has been added to the PSHE curriculum which all schools must teach. Respect is a wonderful little book which ties in so beautifully with that: it’s child friendly, doesn’t shy away from some tough topics and deals with them with great respect (lol) and isn’t patronising at all. 

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One of the things that I loved most about this book was how it managed to bring to life some of the toughest conversations we might need to have with children around these themes. Using the incredible illustrations, children learn quickly all about these things. It’s fun, it’s playful and most importantly it’s smart: it teaches kids at their level. It’s certainly been a big hit in my Year 6 classroom with quite a few of my children picking it up and then having some tricky conversations and asking some big questions. 

For parents and teachers alike, themes like consent can be really bloody daunting, so teaching them, when appropriate, about these things is an absolute necessity. When you’re able to do it through the medium of a book which children find engaging, that’s when you’ve hit a winner. 

I really do think this book is brilliant and I think it’s an important one for parents and teachers alike to think about. Our kids are a lot more savvy and clued up than I certainly was when I was younger, so we need to equip them with the tools for the world they live in now and this book, while it couldn’t have all of the solutions, is a brilliant tool for kids to have at their disposal. 

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A massive thank you to the publishers for inviting me to be on this blog tour! This book is already a hit at school and I’d love to see more books like this available to children, parents and teachers alike. 

Can you recommend any books around these themes?

Speak to you all soon!

S x 

BOOK BLOG: We Are Artists

We Are Artists: a gorgeous exploration of the life and work of 15 female artists from around the world.

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We Are Artists places the spotlight on women painters, sculptors, printmakers, illustrators, designers, and craftswomen who created monumental artwork, often against daunting odds. The book includes reproductions of modern and contemporary artwork by Frida Kahlo, Yayoi Kusama, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alma Thomas, and Kenojuak Ashevak, to name a few. Through their personal stories, readers will learn about the art movements each artist worked in and the influence they exerted on both the art world and society as a whole.”

I received this book in the post this week from the absolute wonders over at Thames and Hudson and I can see SO MUCH coming from this book that my brain is BRIMMING with ideas! 

We Are Artists is a gorgeous exploration of 15 different female artists from around the world, their art and their work. I’ll be honest, art is not my strong point, but learning about inspiring and innovative women is something that I am VERY PASSIONATE about. This book is jam packed with information and it’s all beautifully presented – there’s nothing worse than a boring inside to a non-fiction book. 

Something I love (and learned though reading this book) about this book is that it puts the spotlight on not just painters but printmakers, illustrators, designers and craftswomen alike who are often missed out of history/art history books. I’ll be honest there’s one or two of the women who I hadn’t heard of/didn’t know a lot about in this book, so naturally they were the pages I started with. I think it’s really important to expose children to as many different types of artist as possible because for some children artists are only people who sit at an easel and paint! 

For each artist, you get a gorgeous portrait, a quote from them and then a few pages all about their lives. Through each of the biographies of these incredibly inspiring women, you get pictures of their artwork along with dates. The information is written in a way which tells you what the women had to go through, but in a sensitive and carefully crafted manner. (If it’s not already clear, I’m a massive fan of a biography and this book makes me so happy as a teacher and a reader).

Some of my favourite quotes from these women:

‘If you’re not afraid, how can you really be brave?’ (Tove Jansson)

‘Not all of us are painters but we are all artists. Each time we fit things together we are crezating’ (Corita Kent)

‘My art is not my career, it is myself’ (Amrita Sher-Gil)

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Something else I loved about this book is that at the back there is a glossary of terms. For me, as an inexperienced and unconfident art teacher, this was so helpful. You can never stop learning in the world. Every day is a learning day in my life. The definitions are all really child friendly too and I think this is great – kids can take this book and just get on with reading it. 

SO… if you’re looking for an incredible piece of non-fiction about wonderful women who have made a stamp in art history, you should probably consider giving this a check out. 

Who is your favourite artist?
What kind of art is your favourite?
Do you have a secret bookish passion?

Talk to me in the comments! A massive thank you to the publishers, Thames and Hudson, for sending me a copy of this book. You guys are amazing: inspiring a new generation of artists! 

S x 

What we’re reading!

Hello!

How are you all?

Today, I thought I would share some pictures of the books my class are reading… cause they’re all reading some absolute corkers.

Starting this academic year, I really wanted to get my kids excited about books and about reading. I’m such an advocate for reading for pleasure that I want my kids to know that they can enjoy reading and that it doesn’t always have to be something they’re tested on… they just get to enjoy what they’re reading.

We did a whole hour about our reading habits and our reading identities where they got to tell me about their own reading preferences, which I found really interesting. Learning so much about these new little people of mine really gave me the chance to recommend books that I knew would be right for them!

I was DELIGHTED with the range of books that they chose from my shelves. There’s some of my absolute favourite books of recent years in these piles. There’s all sorts of representation in these books. There’s stories these children might never have come across. A lot of these books are my own copies (as in they don’t belong in the school library) and it gives me such joy to know that I’ve read these books and that I can talk to the kids about these books if they want to.

I love that there’s such a mix of books in these piles. There’s well known authors and there’s indie authors. There’s an anthology of stories among some incredible stand alones. There’s 2 children starting off the Perfect series (which is a series that I adore) and there’s some books I’ve wanted to give to children in so so long. There’s a non-fiction book in among fiction books (which fills me with delight!)

My classroom is definitely the “reading classroom”. It’s where you’ll find all of the books (except the library). That’s something I’m really proud of. I’m a reader through and through and if I can help just one child find their love of reading then I’ve done my job!

Our class reader, which was voted for by the children on transition day is The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone. As I have an audible account, we’re actually listening to it on audiobook and I’m really enjoying that! It’s read so brilliantly by the narrator and it’s giving me an extra bit of time to enjoy reading and listening alongside them.

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As well as general reading, I always try and theme my Writing lessons around a book (I just think it gives everything a lot more purpose). We started the year with a letter to ourselves, so I thought we would continue with letter writing in a fun way. We’re going for letters to complain and using the amazing The Day The Crayons Quit as our model text/inspiration. A lot of people will frown at me using this text in Year 5, but I think it is PERFECT.

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I could ramble on for hours about the love I have for reading and the importance of reading for pleasure, but I won’t ramble on (if you’d like me to, then by all means let me know in the comments because that’s something I can talk about for words and words… it’s what I did my dissertation on!)

Let me know if you’d like any more tales from the classroom and I could probably make it into a series! Leave me some questions if you have any!

Speak soon,

S x

BLOG TOUR: A Planet Full of Plastics

Today, I come to you sharing ‘A Planet Full of Plastics’ by Neal Layton. I was invited to be on the blog tour and I was thrilled as this is something we have been thinking about this year in school and my class and I did a whole unit of work around plastic pollution in the seas.

A Planet Full of Plastic is a wonderful picture book and is perfect for
readers who love nature and want to help the environment.

Everything is made of stuff. Some things are made of paper, like this book. And some things are made of PLASTIC. If you look around you, plastic is everywhere. Even in places where it’s not meant to be. If it drops to the ground, it doesn’t rot away – it sticks around for ever.

Our world is drowning in plastic, and it’s a big problem. Award-winning author-illustrator Neal Layton is here to explain where plastic comes from, why it doesn’t biodegrade, and why that’s dangerous for animals and humans alike. But he’s also FULL of ideas for how you can help! From giving up straws in juice cartons to recycling all we can and taking part in a beach clean, A Planet Full of Plastic will get young readers excited about how they can make a difference to keep Planet Earth happy.

I know a lot of schools who are taking plastic and recycling very seriously, and with a very quick browse of the internet, there are some wonderful and inventive ways to reuse plastic in an art lesson. Some schools take an even wider scape and use plastic as an art tool to create a whole school display.

None of the following images are my own: I am in awe of these creations and credit goes to the original creators (I wish I had the origin of all of these pictures, but I just have them saved in my ‘inspiration bank’ for lessons)

There are some amazing displays from teachers on Twitter/Pinterest/Instagram and some of them are pure envy. There are so many ways we can recycle and reuse plastic/other materials in the classroom. We all love a bit of junk modelling and it’s important to talk to children about the importance of recycling and reusing materials so they don’t end up polluting our lands and seas.

I can’t wait to use this book and some of these amazing ideas with my class next year to create some recycled art ourselves!

Massive thank you to Hachette Kids for inviting me to be in this blog tour!

Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour!

Plastics Blog Tour (3)

S x

BOOK BLOG: Sarah Roberts

Somebody Swallowed Stanley: a beautiful story to teach children about the importance of looking after our oceans!

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“Say hello to Stanley! He’s swimming around in the sea, but he’s no ordinary jellyfish. Most jellyfish have dangly-gangly tentacles, but Stanley has two handles. Other jellyfish have a magical pearly glow, but Stanley has colourful stripes. Lots of hungry fish in the sea are looking for lunch, and all of them have a taste for Stanley. But plastic bags don’t belong in the sea – or in other creatures’ tummies…”

I’m gutted that I’ve only just found this book now because I’ve done my plastic pollution topic in my class this year! But next year… next year! 

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Somebody Swallowed Stanley is a brilliant picture book telling about the tale of Stanley – a jellyfish unlike other jellyfish, because he is a plastic bag – and what happens to him when creatures of the sea try to eat him. Some manage to spit him back out, but one of the creatures isn’t so lucky, until a brilliant young man comes along and saves the day. 

There’s some incredible messages in this book about the importance of being kind to the environment and recycling. Stanley is recycled at the end of the book to be a kite and this would be a great thing to get children thinking about what we can do with our plastics once we’re finished with them, so that they don’t end up in the sea!

One of the lovely things about this book is the riddle type verses that describe the animals which eat Stanley. This would be a great thing to use with children to get them to come up with their own riddles about animals under the sea! This could be an activity you do with children from as young as KS1 all the way to Upper KS2. 

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I love this book and it will be a firm fave that I bring out every year when we talk about plastic pollution. I don’t think picture books should be reserved for only EYFS and KS1 – my Year 5s this year have LOVED being read picture books! 

What are your favourite picture books to use around this issue?
What activities do you do to raise awareness of plastic pollution?
Are you any good at writing riddles?

Talk to me. I wanna know what activities and stories you use to teach kids about the importance of lookinga fter our world!

S x 

 

BOOK BLOG: Anna Williamson

How Not To Lose It: a brilliant book to use when talking MH with kids

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“The go-to mental health guide for kids!
Exam stress? Friendship issues? Panic attacks?
How Not to Lose It will help you be the boss of all of this, and more.

It’s not just your body that should be fit and healthy – your mind needs to be, too! How Not to Lose It is the go-to guide for achieving a balanced mind and strong emotional well-being. With immediate, heart of the matter advice and a chatty yet honest tone, Anna Williamson addresses all of the key issues affecting children today.”

As a teacher, it’s so important that I have resources available to me for talking to kids about their mental health. We are seeing more and more that MH is something that is talked about in schools – and rightly so. There are more and more books becoming available to help kids learn about and talk about their MH and How Not To Lose It is a brilliant example of a book that’s going to do that! Aimed at 9-14 year olds, this book covers a wide variety of topics and is filled with empowering advice, delivered in a honest and chatty tone. 

How Not To Lose It covers such a wide variety of topics that you can find advice based on almost anything. The contents page kicks off in the way the book continues – friendly, colourful and it doesn’t feel like your typical “self help” book. There’s a handy index in the back too – always useful when you just want ONE specific thing. The topics covered in the book are:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • stress
  • friendship
  • bullying
  • relationships and sex
  • family life and bereavement
  • phobias
  • peer pressure
  • self-harm
  • self-esteem and confidence.

I love that this book is approachable. If a kid (this book is aimed at 9-14 year olds) picked it up, it’s appealing to them and it’s not just pages and pages of words. There’s agony aunt letters aplenty and there’s these brilliant “myth busting” boxes throughout. The illustrations are perfect for the age range that it’s aimed at and I read through as an adult and I learned things! The language used is chatty and honest, which makes it brilliantly readable for kids without sounding patronising.

This book is BRILLIANT. Properly brilliant. I love the variety of topics that it covers. These ‘To sum it all up…’ pages are my favourite pages throughout – there’s some proper sound advice on them. (This one about friendship is one of my favourites!) 

Anything that empowers our kids and helps them deal with anything they’re going through is a proper winner in my books and this one is brilliant! 

What are your favourite resources to use in the classroom about mental health?
Would you find this resource useful in the classroom?

A massive thank you to the publishers, Scholastic, for sending me a copy. I am going to have this at hand in my classroom. This book is out now and I would recommend UKS2/KS3 teachers to check it out!

S x

BLOG TOUR: Anna and Evan meet Charles Dickens

Hello!

Today is my stop on the Anna and Evan meet Charles Darwin blog tour. This new book promises to engage and educate children, and is ideal for encouraging curiosity and interest in the natural world and science.

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“Join Anna and Evan on a magical adventure to the Galapagos Islands where they meet Charles Darwin, discover unusual animals and learn some interesting scientific facts.”

Today, I get the joy of sharing 2 extracts with you! I can’t wait to share this book as I think it will go down brilliantly in both KS1 and KS2. 

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A massive thank you to the publishers and Faye Rogers for the invite to the blog tour and again I can’t wait to share this with school – I think it will be a big hit!

Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour below! Find out what they think of the book and so many other delights! 

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Monday 25th February – Rosie Writes…

Tuesday 26th February – Heavenly Good Books

Wednesday 27th February – Big Book Little Book

Thursday 28th February – A Bibliophile’s Book Blog

Friday 1st March – Bound 4 Escape

Saturday 2nd March – Black Books Blog

Sunday 3rd March – An Awfully Big Adventure

Monday 4th March – Amazeball’s Book Addict

Tuesday 5th March – Jazzy Book Reviews

Wednesday 6th March – Fantastic Feathers

Thursday 7th March – Librarian Laura

Friday 8th March – Donna’s Book Blog

Saturday 9th March – Short Book and Scribes

Sunday 10th March – Yet Another Blogging Mummy!!!


Information about the Book

Author: Tanya Hutter and Lina Daniel
Illustrator: Karin Eklund
Release Date: 28th February 2019
Page Count: 30
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Goodreads Link: Clicky click
Amazon Link: Go on… treat yo’ self!

Bio of the authors Tanya Hutter and Lina Daniel

As a young girl, Dr. Tanya Hutter couldn’t imagine that she would end up being a leading scientist in nanotechnology and chemical sensing, and a Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge. Currently, she lives in Cambridge with her husband and their two curious children that inspired the book.

Lina Daniel has been always interested in science and medicine, eventually becoming a chemist and a pharmacist, and currently working in the pharmaceutical industry. With her husband, she is raising three enthusiastic boys. They all share a passion for scientific experiences, engineering novelties, fun historical facts, travels and adventures.

Tanya and Lina have been close friends for over two decades. The fact that they are both raising young children enhanced their desire to encourage kids to learn about science, and finally, drew them to write their first illustration book for small children. Hopefully, this will be the first one in a series of books about notable scientists and engineers.  

TeachTreat Subscription Box

Last week, I got a very excited email from our school business manager that there was a box in my pigeon hole that looked quite exciting. When I got to my pigeon hole, I found this quite exciting looking package. 

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It’s roughly the size of a graze box. As I read through the letter, I realised that it is a teacher subscription box. WHOEVER it is that sent this to me KNOWS ME WELL. I am a sucker for a subscription box and I’m a sucker for anything teacher-y. I love my job, proper loads. A monthly dose of something to make me smile? YES PLEASE. 

I managed to withold the temptation and waited til I got home to open… and MY WORD WHAT A JOY IT IS.

This was the inside… AND LOOK AT ALL OF THOSE GOODIES.

First up was a very handy little notebook with some tips on having a productive PPA time… I can always do with some tips on having a more productive PPA. They’re also pretty bloody brilliant tips too!

I BLOODY LOVE THIS PENCIL. “I’m only Greater Depth with coffee”. I love a teacher joke me man. I got 2 of these pencils and they’ve kept me proper chuckling.

These “Straight Outta Assembly” badges might be my favourite thing in the box though… just such a lol. I put one on my lanyard the other day and so many of my collagues commented on how brilliant it was!

The other thing that was inside was some postcards. ALWAYS handy to have in the classroom. I use more postcards than I care to mention, so seeing them was a BRILLIANT addition!

There was a bottle opener, some hot chocolate and coffee and a brilliant lanyard also included in this box!

So how do you get one?

Having done some tip tapping on the interwebs, I have found where you can get this box AND the items separately! What a proper joy!

Click me if you’d like the box…

You can buy a one off (£10), a box as a gift for someone else (£10), a box for a term (£40) or a monthly box for the year (£120)!

How exciting… I am PROPER tempted to go and treat myself! 

Click me if you’d like the items…

I really like that you can buy the items separately too. I imagine items will be added as there are more and more boxes released!

A massive massive thank you to WHOEVER sent this to me! It’s so incredible to get a surprise in the post. 

I’m off to go and get myself a subscription… sorry, not sorry!

S x

Using blurbs in the classroom

As you saw the other day, I was very very lucky to be able to share the exclusive cover of Aisha Bushby’s new book A Pocketful of Stars (if you missed the announcement, check it out here!) 

It got me thinking about using blurbs in the classroom and how much we really learn about a book from its blurb. What do we learn about the characters? What about the plot? What about the themes? 

My kids are proper book devourers (more about reading in my classroom next week!) and I thought it would make a brilliant lesson to share with them the blurb of A Pocketful of Stars and give them the chance to design a cover based solely on the information given in the blurb.

Initially, a few of them were quite hesitant because they wanted more information – which obviously I couldn’t provide, because I didn’t know it myself – but after a bit of encouragement, they all had a go. We had a chance to have some discussions about what makes a good cover, what makes you want to pick up a book, what covers of books should give away and the kids were SO engaged. Once we’d had a talk about covers, they got talking about their ideas and started to share ideas. 

I literally only gave them a blank sheet of A5 paper and told them they had time to design their cover… and this is what some of them came up with!

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I LOVE all of them – the kids all put their hearts into their designs and really thought about what they’d want to go on the cover. 

This is definitely something I’d do again. The levels of engagement and the thought that they put into it made me so proud! I even got to show them to Aisha too and she loved them! 

What are your favourite book activities to do in the classroom?
What would you have put on the cover?
Do you have a favourite cover of the designed ones?

I can’t wait to show my kids the actual finished cover. One of my girls will be very surprised at how close her design is! 

S x