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Day 23 - Islands (creative ideas for teaching English and maths at home)

Updated: May 8, 2020

For anyone new to this blog, the idea is simple - each day my boys (Joshua - 9 and Archie - 7) choose a stimulus that drives the learning. We hope that you enjoy the blog and can take some inspiration from what we love doing - making learning as engaging as possible!



Ironically, although we are about as far away from a tropical island as possible at the moment, we are somewhat beautifully secluded. The word 'island' has so many connotations. However trapped and isolated we may feel, the expression 'no man is an island' is never more true - we all require help from other every now and then.

Thanks to Rebecca Farmer from John Stainer for this great stimulus - we hope we do you proud!



  • Poetry

  • Using the senses

The idea for today's writing activity in inspired by Desert Island Disks (not that I have ever actually listened to the show). In Desert Island Disks, a guest is invited to choose eight discs, a book and a luxury to take with them as they’re castaway on a mythical desert island. They then explain their choices and discuss key moments in their lives, people and events that have influenced and inspired them and brought them to where they are today.

Writing about things that are real and true is such an important thing to explore with children. Writing can be an escapism, a way for children to reflect and relate to the situation they find themselves in. I have been overwhelmed by the response to the English home schooling pack I produced on 'Doors.' Children are really relishing the chance to write about things they feel, fear and wish for. Writing is helping them relate to the situation of lockdown and the craziness of the world at the moment.

So, today is all about writing about the things you treasure and would not be without.

Begin by brainstorming some categories of things that you may take. We came up with:

  • Food / drink / tastes

  • Clothes / items of clothing / accessories

  • Music / songs / composers / artists

  • Luxury items

  • Favourite things

  • Sounds

  • Nature

  • Family / friends

  • Feelings

  • Books

  • Hobbies

We then chose the ones that meant the most to us and began to expand each idea. I initially showed the boys how to extend the idea, adding in detail and playing with words and sounds. Once they got the idea, they were away. This was really important as I wanted the writing to be truthful and therefore did not want to influence the flow and creativity. Sometimes, the most simple ideas are the most effective. Today's writing is all about honesty and that does not need critiquing!

My Desert Island Wish List

I would take...

a succulent leg of lamb,

sizzling on the barbecue;

a majestic malbec,

maroon and mysterious;

Einaudi's lullabies:

the songs of serenity;

the pop of a cork,

the sound of celebration;

snow-capped mountains;

crisp alpine air;

a box of tools,

awaiting the next project;

a library full of stories,

to escape from reality;

the hug from a friend;

the laughter I love;

my soul mate,

with whom solitude...

becomes adventure.

© Jamie Thomas 2020

My Desert Island Wish List

I would take...

a chocolate fountain, flowing over a massive marshmallow;

lemonade stacks, floating into a river of fizz;

a multi-coloured rugby shirt to see all the colours of the rainbow;

Harry Potter books to learn all about wizards and witches;

a trampoline to learn lots of tricks and flips;

a monkey to swing in the trees, delivering chocolate;

my teddy Man Man, to give me lots of great hugs;

Shotgun bellowing at full blast;

I would take my brother, Joshie;

I would take lots of laughter for love.

by Archie

My Desert Island Wish List

I would take...

a white chocolate chip fountain,

dripping down onto a sea of sparkly marshmallows;

fizzy coca-cola;

Toothless's music, turned up to ten;

a shiny and sparkly invisibility cloak;

a really bouncy hopper;

the happy sound of the ice cream van;

I would take...

all the dragons there are in the world;

my brother, Archie;

a lot of bottles

so I could send letters to my friends;

happiness and laughter;

snow and ice;

How to Train Your Dragon and Harry Potter

toys and treasures.

by Joshua



  • co-ordinates

  • code breaking

Today's maths is a really fun activity from nrich:

Treasure island
Download PDF • 53KB

The idea is that the children have to practise saying and plotting co-ordinates, remembering that the x co-ordinate always is listed before the y co-ordinate (along the corridor and up the stairs).

Once they have written down what they have found at the listed co-ordinates, they then have to crack the code to discover where the treasure was buried. The boys really enjoyed the activity and then wanted to make their own Treasure Island co-ordinate maps.

To make your own:

  1. First, draw a co-ordinate grid.

  2. Then, decide where the treasure is to be buried and draw an object at that location.

  3. Count how many letters make up that co-ordinate in words (e.g. eight two = 8 letters). This is how many co-ordinates and clues you therefore need.

  4. Next, list the co-ordinates you are going to ask someone to find.

  5. At each co-ordinate, draw a picture starting with the first letter of the solution (i.e. the first co-ordinate of eight needs to be a picture of something beginning with e, etc.)

  6. Once you have drawn all the pictures you need for the co-ordinates, add some other pictures onto your map and colour it in.

  7. Now challenge someone to crack the code and discover the treasure.

Here are our own treasure maps (apologies for the terrible drawing):


If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please do follow us. Alternatively, you may like to follow me on Twitter: @JamieWTSA.

We are so thankful to those of you who have inundated us with stimulus requests. We have made a list and will do our best to explore as many as we can. Tomorrow, we shall be learning about and celebrating:

VE Day

We hope you all have a wonderful weekend and look forward to catching up on Monday, where our stimulus is:


My thanks to Pie Corbett and Talk for Writing for inspiring many of the ideas explored in this blog.

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