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Posts Tagged ‘vocabulary’

My three kids are all pretty good readers. The Queen, who’s ten, chomps through literature at a terrifying rate and the Joker (aged nine) loves poems and joke books. The Engineer is seven now and just at that tricky reading stage between picture books and proper story books with chapters. Our series of choice at this stage of reading is by Chris Riddell and begins with Ottoline and the Yellow Cat.

Ottoline is a little girl who lives in an apartment with Mr Munroe whilst her explorer parents travel around the world. Mr Munroe is a creature who comes from a bog in Norway and is covered in long hair. Ottoline likes to solve mysteries and she and Mr Munroe do this successfully in the first book and continue their adventures in Ottoline Goes to School and Ottoline at Sea.

The hardback books are beautifully produced and have a quirky retro style. The black and white illustrations (which have single colour tints) are exquisite. It was the first book that the Queen ever desparately wanted to read again as soon as she’d finished it. The Joker read them over and over, and now the Engineer loves them too. The vocabulary is interesting and includes stretching words like ‘distractedly’, ‘llamas’ and ‘knickerbockers’ (to give a few examples from Ottoline at Sea).

The Engineer has now decided that he wants to attend World Book Day (1st March, when you dress up as a literary character for school) as Mr Munroe. So I am off to Birmingham’s Rag Market on Friday to purchase fake fur. You don’t seem to be able to get a readymade Mr Munroe costume anywhere, curiously enough.

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Last week I blogged about some poetry books that I like to read with my own kids, and with the schoolchildren that I spend time reading with each week. The other resource that I use every week at school and that my gang at home have loved are a series of short stories, two in each book which come in a series as ‘A Pair of Jacks’.

There are four books in the series, written by Michael Lawrence and illustrated by Tony Ross. Each story is about 60 pages long, with large print and good pictures. What makes them great for readers all through Key Stage 2 (the Juniors to those of us who went to school before the National Curriculum) is that although there are not many words, there is much rich vocabulary and lots of fun with literary form in just a few pages.

Fiction-averse boys have enjoyed these stories as much as the girls – they are clever and humourous. They often play around with classic stories – the first one in the book shown above is called ‘Jack and the Broomstick‘ and is a parody of Jack and the Beanstalk – great for more able kids to think about how the original story has been subverted, but simple enough for the less able to enjoy aswell. This week I was reading from Jack-in-the-Box with a few of the children and we were discussing the meaning of ‘console’, ‘magnanimous’ and ‘ingrate’ as well as the frequency of orphan stories in children’s literature.

I’m planning a bit of a Jack-fest this half term with my kids – I’m going to see how receptive they are to guided reading with Mummy. Wish me luck – it’ll not be the books that are the problem if it goes wrong…

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If you follow me on Twitter, you might have picked up that I help out at our church primary school most weeks, reading with kids who need a bit of a boost with their comprehension and language.

What’s been fun for me this year has been spending time with kids with a wide range of abilities – some are on a level 2 (just about reading) and others on a level 5 (top ability at the end of school). All the kids are in year 5 or 6 and they come to me in pairs and only have about half an hour.

Since there is so little time, I’m not able to listen to them read at length or discuss a long text, especially as I like to play comprehension board games (not very cheap but lots of fun) with them too. So over the time I’ve been meeting the children, I have gradually discovered some reading materials that are enjoyable to read but also short! And these are now coming in handy at home when bedtime is getting a bit late and the kids are still pleading for a story.

The best way to have a speedy story is to read poetry. For these year 5s and 6s I’ve been using Anne Fine’s anthologies called ‘A Shame to Miss’. Parts 1 and 2 are suitable for primary aged children and contain wonderful poems and occasional notes from Anne Fine, explaining context or difficult vocabulary. I’ve found these books really helpful for improving vocabulary and helping comprehension at school, and at home the kids enjoy the rhythm and richness of the verse. There’s enough variety to suit all abilities, but these are particularly good for the higher end readers.

My kids adore poems, especially funny ones and since they’ve been young we’ve had two books of poetry which we return to again and again. The first is The Puffin Book of Fantastic First Poems, a colourfully illustrated anthology edited by June Crebin, which is now minus its front cover and torn about the edges because it’s been so well used. The second is Mustard, Custard, Grumblebelly and Gravy by Michael Rosen. This book is hilarious, full of quirky poems about everyday situations, and has caused my children to commit poetry to memory. The first year we had the book, they wanted to spend all summer repeating ‘Tiffy taffy toffee on the flee flow floor’. They learnt it by heart and we were blessed with its silly rhymes for months.

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