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Day 2 - Clouds (Home-educating - creative ideas for English and maths)


When I asked my boys for a stimulus each day, I was somewhat surprised when Archie asked for clouds. Perhaps, on a maths front, he was trying to catch me out. Perhaps the stimulus came from the work we had recently done on the water cycle. Either way, this proved to be a fantastic stimulus, bursting at the seam with possibility.



  • Number bonds

  • Place value and partitioning

  • Counting in multiples

  • Calculations involving addition and subtractions of one and two digit numbers

  • Calculations involving multiplication and division of one and two digit numbers.

The idea for this session came from that posts an amazing maths starter every day. This one, perfectly named 'Clouds', focuses in on missing parts of a number sentence. See:

This is immensely challenging for children as they have to really think about what the question is asking, rather than just solving it. The trick is to help them rearrange the number sentence so that the missing element is on its own. By exploring all of the methods they could use with the boys, we then set about tackling the problems.

Here are the methods we discussed. Note that the use of colour really helps them when reorganising the question. They can easily substitute in the numbers for their question and apply.

Having worked through some of the levels on line, the idea was to then get the boys to create their own questions for each other. Unfortunately, my 3 year old decided that this was not on his agenda so we never got to this bit.



  • Adjectives / Expanded noun phrases

  • Nouns

  • Verbs

  • Simile / metaphor

  • Alliteration

  • Poetry

One of the books that I have taken a great deal of inspiration from as a teacher is Write Out of the Classroom by Colin Macfarlane. In this book, Macfarlane states: 'a creative and original writer must also become a thoughtful observer of the world around as well as the world within; a watcher, a thinker and mental or physical note-taker; an experimenter with words and ideas; a dreamer and a schemer.' (Macfarlane, 2013). It is the ability to observe closely that we explored in today's session.

The following poetry idea is one frequently explored through Talk for Writing. The idea is to warm up the imagination by encouraging the children to look beyond the obvious and enter into the world of possibility.

  1. Begin by staring up into a cloudy sky and discuss what you can see. The joy in this is that you cannot be wrong - whatever you see is acceptable. I immediately saw a dragon's head, Joshua saw a chicken and Archie saw a balloon.

  2. Once you have seen something, decide what it is doing (add in the verb). I decided my dragon's head was blowing smoke rings, Joshua decided his chicken was clucking and Archie saw his balloon floating higher and higher. It is important that this flow of imagination is not overthought - there is a real beauty in the simplicity of the ideas as they unfold.

  3. Once the idea is captured, look back at the clouds and decide on the next thing you can see. The joy is that the clouds are always moving, manipulating in shape and forming a whole new canvas of possibility.

  4. Once the ideas have been captured, you can then go back through the poems and look to add in any relevant detail, such as a well-chosen adjective or adverb. It is also important to look for any unwanted repetition and for any words that could be strengthened in meaning.

To help the children to get started, you may like to begin:

In the clouds I saw...

then add in their own ideas using the noun + verb idea (+ adjectives, alliteration, similes, etc.)

Here are our poems from the session, as well as an audio recording of the boys reading their poems out.

In the clouds I saw...

In the clouds I saw...

jutting jaws of sky dragons, blowing silver smoke rings,

a bank robber's balaclava, brimming with mystery,

twisting, turning waves, plummeting into an endless sea,

soft hands caressing,

a chameleon, ever-changing,

the Wanderer, peering through the hazed abyss,

snow giants, secretly surveying the sky,

the veiled mask of a silent scream,

a scorpion's tail, preparing to pounce,

a crab's claw, cracking.

© Jamie Thomas 2020

In the clouds I Joshua

In the clouds I saw...

a chicken clucking loudly,

a lion roaring in fear,

a bat flapping still,

a huge whale spraying water,

our country - England,

a hammerhead shark biting fiercely,

a narwal that looks like a unicorn,

a lobster cracking coconuts,

a deer prancing in joy,

a scratch of a dragon,

a whirlpool soaring fast,

a flamingo dancing,

bunny jumping to catch his prey,

a baby dragon's head trembling,

a horse jumping over a tightrope.

In the clouds I Archie

In the clouds I saw...

a balloon floating higher and higher,

an elephant trumpeting around,

a fish swimming in the air,

a chameleon changing,

a crab pincing all around,

a lightning bulb getting louder and louder,

a flamingo dancing left to right, a whirlpool spinning round and round.


I hope you have enjoyed today's home-schooling in English and maths. Tomorrow's stimulus is Joshua's choice...parrots!


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