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Day 60 - Stars (creative ideas for home schooling)

For anyone new to this blog, the idea is simple - each day my boys (Joshua - 9 and Archie - 8) 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!

Stars

Today is one of those activities that opened my eyes as a teacher and will always be something I revisit when training teachers and working with children. It is designed to open up the world of possibility and imagination.


We hope you enjoy!

English

  • Playful writing

  • Concrete nouns & abstract nouns


City of Stars, also referred to as The Room of Stars or The City of Silence, is a really fun and creative game to play with children. It allows you to create new, amazing places or objects that could become central to a story or information text.


To begin, brainstorm a list of containers/ places – these can be specific places or objects that hold things (see list below). Then make a list of abstract nouns (feelings/ emotions) and magical objects or ideas. The brainstorm below illustrates this:

Once you have these, the next step is to create banks of possibilities. All you need is to connect the words with a simple pattern:


The (container/ place) of (abstract noun/ magical thing). What you end up with is a list of new, innovative ideas that spark the imagination. Here are ours:

It is important to encourage the somewhat weird and whacky combinations to materialise as these break conformity and add intrigue for the reader. After all, who likes a cliché?


What you have now created is a list of wonderful places to visit or objects to discover. This is not a new idea - it is tried and tested by many great authors. For example:


The Temple of Doom

The Goblet of Fire

The Chamber of Secrets

The House of Chicken Legs


The joy of these new, unique creations is that they are exactly that - unique. Therefore, what they contain is a figment of your imagination.


The next step is to take one and describe what you might find there. It is a good idea to set a timer and get the children to write hard, fast and in silence - something I have learned from Ted Hughes. Here are the short descriptions I modelled for the boys:


The Library of Disappointment

In the library of disappointment –

Books lie lifelessly, strewn across the floor.

Torn pages cower in dark corners.

Broken shelves weep tears of sadness.

Dust settles and covers magnificence.


© Jamie Thomas 2020



The Ocean of Serenity

A star-filled sky gazes down;

drops of light, laze upon a mirrored surface.

Peace fills the air

as a soft breeze caresses the shore.

The gentle lapping lullaby

washes away the woes of the world

that drift into deep dreams.


© Jamie Thomas 2020

And here are their efforts:


The Trampoline of Anger

On the trampoline of anger –

Bones are strewn across the bloody ground.

Innocent children ignore the warning sign.

The elastic breaks, the springs creak

and the children fall.


The Knights of Rubies

Shiny ruby armour clanks upon fierce warriors.

Swords of fire blaze in the darkness.

Pride swells from within.

Fear is forgotten.


The Cave of Cloaks

In the cave of cloaks –

Mysterious shadows scuttle from the darkness.

Growling voices mutter, "Who goes there?"

Torn cloaks lay torn, spewing blood.

They slowly creep forward.


The Bike of Anger

Multiple crosses cover the bike, warning you to never ride.

It will lead you into trouble.

It makes you crash into walls, fences, houses, rivers and trees.

It is really dangerous

so never go for a ride!


The Hug of Wishes

In the hug of wishes –

Magical powers spread and come to life.

Anything can come true, even a wild ride on a helter-skelter.

It can support you to your paradise - but only for a day.

Go, go to the hug of wishes.


The City of Nights

Fighting continues and never stops...

until someone wins.

But no-one ever wins.

So they play

games like horse racing

and jousting.


I must admit, due to work demands, today's session was somewhat rushed. However, if you like this idea and want to develop it further, please do download this amazing unit of work all about this idea, written by my dear friend Mr James Walker.


https://www.talk4writing.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Y6-James.pdf

If you would like to see what you can do with this by turning it into narrative, here is a short story I wrote for Talk for Writing:


The Cave of Requirement

DCI Seth Mackay trawled the piles of The Cornish Times that lay strewn across his desk, months of bad news that tainted his ambition. There had to be a clue somewhere and he had to be the one to crack the case. Sinking into his chair, he reread the headlines that plagued him.

4th July 1978

THREE VANISH INTO THIN AIR

In the early hours of this morning, Cornish police confirmed that they are searching for three missing teenagers, who were last seen walking along the coastline at Pentire Point.

13th July 1978

MAYHEM! MILLIE & MOLLIE MISSING!

Last night, the father of missing schoolgirls, Millie and Mollie Rayner, issued a heartfelt plea for any information that may help Devon and Cornwall police in the search for his daughters.


21st July 1978

SNATCHED?

As yet another person seemingly disappears off the face of the earth in a matter of weeks, Polzeath residents have been left quaking in their boots as DCI Mackay continues to flounder.

The shrill of his mobile snapped Mackay out of his nightmare. He snatched up the phone, still fuelled by the frustration that swelled inside him. “DCI Mackay, what do you…?”

A charged voice cut him off. “Serg, it’s Jones. You’d better come quick; we’ve found it.”

Without thinking, Mackay leapt to his feet, grabbed his keys and stormed out of the office.

As he pulled up at Hayle Bay, Seth Mackay was thankful that it was getting late – the bay would be quiet. The recent public pressure was becoming more than he could bear and he needed time to think. Pulling up the lapels of his coat in preparation of the bitter wind that would be waiting for him, he stepped out of the car and hurried towards the beach.

“Serg, over ‘ere!” A sense of relief flooded through Ryan Jones at the sight of his boss. Thrusting the ledger forward into Mackay’s hands, he felt as though the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders.

Mackay stared at the black book as confusion momentarily blinded him.

“It links ‘em all Serg – they’re all accounted for. Every last one!”

Filled with anticipation, Mackay opened the ledger and read…

Tentatively, Mackay turned the page. Before him, staining the pages in red ink, were the names that haunted him.

4th July 1978: Tash Roberts, Jemima Plack, Rajni Bhan (map and key)


13th July 1978: Millie and Mollie Cooper (map and torch)

21st July 1978: Bran Slater (key and torch)

But it was the final name that left him feeling paralysed.

11th August 1978: Seth Mackay (items still to be chosen)

“There’s more Serg. You’d better see this.” Sergeant Jones beckoned the DCI towards the cliff where a group of officers had gathered. Mackay followed like a basset hound pursuing a scent. The reality of the situation was becoming clear: he was close, very close.

Parting the officers, Jones led the Chief Inspector to the rock face. There, glistening in the fading sun, was a brass plaque, bolted into the stone. Upon it were etched thirteen harrowing words:

Welcome, Seth Mackay,

to The Cave of Requirement.

Are you ready to play?

Mackay stared in bewilderment at the sign as hundreds of questions spiralled in his mind. Where was the cave? Ready to play what? What did this all mean? As if in anticipation of these questions, the ledger began to pulsate. Tentatively, Mackay opened the book and read the words that were forming on the page before his very eyes.

Seth has been chosen, he’s ready to play;

The cave soon will open, he’ll be on his way;

But first there’s a choice, from three to two;

Choose wisely, Dear Seth, it’s up to you.

A wise choice will see you capitalise

On all that you dream - the truth is your prize;

Choose two of the three – what will you take?

Remember you live by the choices you make!

The torch that illuminates the darkness;

The map that acts as your guide;

The key that unlocks the treasure;

Which two of the three will you decide?

I await your decision…

As the barrage of questions re-entered Mackay’s mind, an unexpected steely determination surged from within. Here he stood, faced with the truth he had craved, the truth he lived and breathed for. Whatever trickery this was that was slowly unfolding before him, the reward was the simple truth: the whereabouts of the six innocent victims that had been snatched by this monster. All he had to do was make the choice – which two of the three should he choose?

Reader, this is where you get to choose what happens next in the story. The choice that you make will determine Mackay’s fate. Once you have chosen, jump to the part of the story that connects your choice and completes your story. Remember, the story lives by the choices that you make!

Choice 1: Mackay chooses the map and key

Choice 2: Mackay chooses the map and torch

Choice 3: Mackay chooses the key and torch

Reader, only continue reading this if you have chosen:

Choice 1: Mackay chooses the map and key

Mackay withdrew the Parker pen from his jacket pocket, removed the lid and rested the nib upon the page. As he wrote, the ink turned from black to red. He stared at the words that stained the page before him:

I choose the map and the key.

Almost in a trance, he slid the lid back on the pen and, as it clicked into place, his world plunged into darkness.

Mackay stood as still as stone. In the blink of an eye, the world around him had disappeared, replaced by a shadowed sea that swallowed all signs of life. Reaching out in front of him, he felt instantly disorientated, his mind spiralling uncontrollably. He felt like he was falling into the abyss, never to be seen again. Bile rose from deep within him and stung the back of his throat with a malevolent swipe. As the terror grew, pain took hold of him and contorted his insides. Mackay screamed and collapsed on the cold floor.

As he landed in a heap, he heard something crumple beneath him – the map! In desperation, he clawed at the stone floor, searching for his only hope. He had known that the map had to be the right choice; the prophecy had said it would act as his guide. The key also promised to unlock the treasure – the truth that he so craved - and they were both somewhere here, within his grasp.

Hours passed and the fight within Mackay faded. Broken and alone, he curled into a ball and cried, tears tumbling to the ground. Had he really made such a poor choice? All he dreamed of was the truth, of healing the world of wrongdoing. Why was he suffering so?

Then, a voice pierced the darkness.

“The truth you crave and shall receive,

You’ve lived their sins - you must believe,

The outcome of this little tale

Is that three sinners go to jail.

So back we go, the 4th of July,

I snatched three souls, I shan’t deny,

Their guilt was greed, they robbed and stole,

Each sold to me their precious soul.

They chose the map that guides the way,

The key to free the hoards they crave,

But without light, their mission failed,

To learn their wrongs, they have been jailed.

The opposite of their sin is starkness,

So I filled their world with darkness,

For souls that fuel themselves with greed,

Must be punished and never freed.”

Silence swallowed the voice and Mackay was one again all alone. Suddenly, a blinding light severed the dark, illuminating a desk in the middle of the room. Mackay shielded his eyes from the searing pain that seemed to blister beneath his eyelids. As the light softened, the penny dropped: this was not any desk - it was his desk, in his office. The same piles of newspaper that had tortured him lay strewn across it but there was a new addition.

Staggering to the table, Mackay let his eyes fall upon the crisp copy of tomorrow’s Cornish Times. As he read the headline, tears welled in his eyes. It couldn’t be…

Reader, only continue reading this if you have chosen:

Choice 2: Mackay chooses the map and torch

Mackay withdrew the Parker pen from his jacket pocket, removed the lid and rested the nib upon the page. As he wrote, the ink turned from black to red. He stared at the words that stained the page before him:

I choose the map and the torch.

Almost in a trance, he slid the lid back on the pen and, as it clicked into place, his world plunged into darkness.

Mackay flicked the switch on the torch that he held firmly in his hand and the stone chamber instantly filled with light. Where it had come from, he didn’t know but he was thankful he had chosen it as the darkness was relentless. An instant sense of dread surged through him – what was he doing and where was he?

Shining the torch around the chamber, he saw a scroll, lying at his feet – the map! Holding the torch between his teeth, he unrolled the scroll and froze – it seemed to be a complex labyrinth of tunnels. Thank God he had chosen the map! He had known it had to be the right choice; the prophecy had said it would act as his guide. Soon, the truth that he so craved would be his.

For hours Mackay searched the labyrinth, always befalling the same fate – a locked door. No matter what course he took, he always ended up face to face with the same barrier. Broken and alone, he curled into a ball and cried, tears tumbling to the ground. Had he really made such a poor choice? All he dreamed of was the truth, of healing the world of wrongdoing. Why was he suffering so?

Then, a voice pierced the darkness.

“The truth you crave and shall receive,

You’ve lived their sins - you must believe,

The outcome of this little quest

Is now two sinners know what’s best.

So back we go, the 13th of July,

I snatched two souls, I shan’t deny,

Their guilt was intrigue, they pried and stole,

Each sold to me their precious soul.

They chose the torch so they could pry,

The map to guide so they could spy,

But without a key, they were locked in,

Now face to face with their own sin.

The opposite of their sin is truth,

A vital lesson to instil in youth,

For souls that fuel themselves with lies,

Will soon be hated and despised.”

Silence swallowed the voice and Mackay was one again all alone. Suddenly, the locked door in front of him clicked and swung open, revealing a desk in the middle of a room. Mackay looked all around him to see who had freed him from his nightmare but there was no sign of anyone. As he stepped through the door, the penny dropped: this was not any desk - it was his desk, in his office. The same piles of newspaper that had tortured him lay strewn across it but there was a new addition.

Staggering to the table, Mackay let his eyes fall upon the crisp copy of tomorrow’s Cornish Times. As he read the headline, tears welled in his eyes. It couldn’t be…

Reader, only continue reading this if you have chosen:

Choice 3: Mackay chooses the key and torch

Mackay withdrew the Parker pen from his jacket pocket, removed the lid and rested the nib upon the page. As he wrote, the ink turned from black to red. He stared at the words that stained the page before him:

I choose the key and the torch.

Almost in a trance, he slid the lid back on the pen and, as it clicked into place, his world plunged into darkness.

Mackay flicked the switch on the torch that he held firmly in his hand and the stone chamber instantly filled with light. Where it had come from, he didn’t know but he was thankful he had chosen it as the darkness was relentless. An instant sense of dread surged through him – what was he doing and where was he?

Shining the torch around the chamber, he saw something glimmering in the shadowed corners – the key! As he picked it up, he felt an icy chill tear through his body. The key was shaped like a skeleton, with many tiny cogs whirring inside. This was clearly designed, as the prophecy had promised, to unlock the greatest of treasure. Thank God he had chosen it! Soon, the truth that he so craved would be his.

For hours Mackay walked aimlessly along passageways flanked by towering walls. No matter which way he turned, the labyrinth, always befalling the same fate – another vacant aisle. No matter what course he took, he always ended up seemingly where he had started. Broken and alone, he curled into a ball and cried, tears tumbling to the ground. Had he really made such a poor choice? All he dreamed of was the truth, of healing the world of wrongdoing. Why was he suffering so?

Then, a voice pierced the darkness.

“The truth you crave and shall receive,

You’ve lived his sin - you must believe,

The outcome of this futile course

Is that a sinner shall feel remorse.

So back we go, the 21st of July,

I snatched one soul, I shan’t deny,

His guilt was hatred; happiness he stole,

So from him I took his precious soul.

He chose the torch so he could see,

The key to set the secrets free,

But without a map, he had no guide,

And learnt how solitude eats from inside.

The opposite of his sin is compassion,

A quality in youth that’s out of fashion,

For souls that fuel themselves with spite,

Should become lost in the blackest night.”

Silence swallowed the voice and Mackay was one again all alone. But the corridor in front of him was no longer vacant; there was a door. Slipping the key into the lock, Mackay took a deep breath. Turning the skeletal key, he heard the click – the door opened, revealing a desk in the middle of a room. Mackay looked all around him to see who had freed him from his nightmare but there was no sign of anyone. As he stepped through the door, the penny dropped: this was not any desk - it was his desk, in his office. The same piles of newspaper that had tortured him lay strewn across it but there was a new addition.

Staggering to the table, Mackay let his eyes fall upon the crisp copy of tomorrow’s Cornish Times. As he read the headline, tears welled in his eyes. It couldn’t be…


See the entire unit of work based around this story here:

https://www.talk4writing.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Y7-Jamie.pdf

If you are enjoying this blog, please do share it and spread the word. Thank you to all of you who have got in touch and shared some of the outcomes from what you have tried - we love to hear from you.


Do tune in tomorrow, where we exploring:

FROZEN WORLDS


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


This blog is copyright. All materials herein, texts and supporting resources are copyright to Jamie Thomas & Talk for Writing. They may be used to support children/staff/parents in home-learning ONLY and not for commercial gain or for training or sharing widely, in their original form or any variations. They must also not be shared online or on any social media platforms without prior permission.

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