Friday, 22 October 2010

Year Five Girls...You Are About To Take Part In Something Very Exciting...

As I type, the finishing touches are being made to a VERY exciting project that you'll be taking part in after half-term. Keep watching the blog...

(Image by Julie Lindsay)

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Impressing Examiners in English Examinations: Be Distinctive!

One of my frustrations with the 11+ examinations is that many schools are now setting writing tasks that require you to write the 'next part/next chapter/next page of the story' you've just read for the comprehension. Examiners love setting titles like this because:
* Every girl is writing about the same characters;
* Every girl is writing about the same setting;
* Every girl is writing about the same 'problem';
*...making it easy to compare the different candidates, and decide who is best.

The problem I have with 'continue the passage' questions is that they penalise those of you who are 'imaginative' rather than 'neat and tidy'; I much prefer 'open' title examinations - questions like 'Write a story set in ancient Rome' or 'Write a story entitled 'A Bad Day at School'. If you are given one of these 'open' titles, you'll have the chance to try to be distinctive. This is one of the 'fab four golden rules' for writing a short story in an 11+ examination.

But - I hear you cry - how can you be distinctive if you're given a title like 'A Bad Day at School'? Surely everyone will write much the same story?

You're right. Most girls probably will write about a bully, or a mean teacher, or a pupil falling out with their friends - but you can be distinctive if you 'mash up' genres. To be relevant, you'll need to write about a 'bad day' at a 'school', but there is nothing to stop you making this a school where the teachers and pupils are all animals!

A 'mash up' takes two story genres and combines them in a single story. For example, this story combines a Sherlock Holmes-style detective story with an animal story (Want to sound clever? This type of 'mash up' is known as 'steampunk'):

Learning to 'Mash Up' genres. There is a simple game you can play that will help you to 'mash up' different genres:

Top tip: watch Dr Who! Every week, the show 'mashes up' different genres. In this picture, science-fiction is being combined with a World War II story:

In this example, a zombie horror story has been 'mashed up' with the 1960s:

Or why not combine science-fiction with the medieval period:

This book combines a romance with sea monsters!

Why not try to 'mash up' genres next time you're asked to write a story under examination conditions?

Download a copy of my 'Bald Worm on Writing Distinctive Stories' teacher podcast and revise by listening to it on your iPod:

P.S. Want a copy of the my pictures? Download a copy of 'Writing distinctive stories: 'mash up'' here.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Calling All Falcons Girls!

The Guardian newspaper needs your help!

Inspired by the enthusiasm of the young critics who last week helped critique and judge the Guardian children's fiction prize, we are in the early stages of creating a dedicated book site where younger readers can review and discuss the books and authors they enjoy reading.

We plan to have reviews from our young readers of the latest YA and children's books, author interviews, games and competitions. But as this is a brand new venture, we are looking for people interested in helping us to design our new Young Guardian Books website. If you, or someone you know, would like to be involved, just send us an email telling us about the books and authors you like, and what you'd like to see on the site (please include your name and age). From the entries, we'll pick a panel of editors who will be responsible for deciding which books to review and discuss

Click here to learn more! We'd love to see some Falcons girls enter!

Falcons Girls Love to W.I.N.K. at the end of Lessons!

Falcons Girls have long known about W.A.L.T. (We Are Learning Today...) and W.I.L.F. (What I'm Looking For...). This week, they learnt to W.I.N.K - to share with the class 'What I Now Know' at the end of the lesson.

Learn more by watching our W.I.N.K. video:

Year Six Composition: Redrafting Your 'Locked Room' Story

Please complete your redraft of the 'Locked Room' story, making sure you (i) think about your 'Improving Your Writing' target and (ii) think about reaching level 5 on the Punctuation Pyramid:

P.S. Don't forget to check your 'finished' story!

Year Five Composition: Second Draft of your Suspense Story

In class, we looked at 'setting the scene': describing the location at the beginning of a short story:

You need to complete your redraft, including plenty of suspense techniques to make sure your readers feel scared. This work is due on Monday.

P.P.S. Don't forget to think about your 'Improving Your Writing' target before next Wednesday, girls!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Year Six: Sherlock Holmes and the Locked Room

Year Six have been learning about using a variety of 'sentence openers' to add variety and interest to their writing. We've been writing 'locked room' stories featuring the 'consulting detective' Sherlock Holmes and his faithful friend, Dr. Watson.

Task: Please complete the first draft of your 'The Locked Room' story. Remember to use a full range of sentence openers!

Due: Tomorrow (Friday)


(image by Simon Hua; used under Creative Commons agreement)

Monday, 11 October 2010

Year Six Spelling: 11+ Common Errors Part 2

1. This week you need to learn the second part of our '11+ Common Errors' list.
Try some of the games at Spelling City.

Test: Wednesday week (as it is the Year Six mock on Tuesday)

2. Don't forget to bring in your Christmas cards tomorrow.

3. Don't forget that your 'Twins' comprehension is due tomorrow, too!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Year Six Comprehension: Is It Reasonable To Say...

1. Please complete the 2008 Consortium past paper.
Due: Wednesday

2. 11+ Common spelling error test tomorrow! Be ready to impress!

(Photo by twob; used under Creative Commons agreement)

Friday, 8 October 2010

Have You Listened To the 'Bald Worm in Just a Minute' Revision Podcasts?

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted the new podcast player on the side of the blog.

I've recorded a series of one-minute teacher podcasts to help you revise key skills that you'll need in the 11+ examinations - or to write a brilliant short story in your own time.

Just click on player and listen. Oh, and you can download a copy to your computer and listen on your iPod, too! It is like having a teacher in your pocket!

This is another example of our school using new technology to help your revise English!

If you're a teacher, why not sign up to Podbean and create your own teacher podcasts? Why should pupils have only ten minutes to learn a new skill - let them revise at home, again and again, whenever they need to revisit a topic!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Year Six Composition Homework: Writing a Holmes-Style Detective Story

Task: Please redraft your 'Theft of the Masterpiece Painting' story, making sure that you have:

1. Opened with an exciting line;
2. Set the Scene;
3. Included a description of one of the characters.

Feeling clever? Include semi-colons, colons, brackets and dashes in your opening 15 lines, please.

P.S. You can download a copy of the Holmes-style detective pack from my area at

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Year Five and Six Spelling Homework

Due to Harvest, we've had our spelling lesson on a Thursday for once - but your test will still be on Tuesday.

Year Five
Your new spelling list is 'words beginning with auto'. Make sure you look them up with a dictionary, girls! I can't wait to see your definitions.

Year Six
Your spelling list of consists of part one of the 11+ Common Error Spelling Lists: a collection of words that are often misspelt in these words.

Test next Tuesday; don't forget to write your example sentences beforehand!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Year Six Composition Homework: Writing the First 15 Lines of a Sherlock Holmes Story

Year Six are writing stories about Sherlock Holmes solving a devilish crime: a corpse in the school room!

Task: Write the first 15 lines of your story (just the first 1/2 page). Don't forget to open with an exciting opening line, 'set the scene' and describe one of the characters.

Don't forget you can revise key elements of story writing by listening to my 'quick revision' podcasts!

Feeling clever? Try to use an elegant prose style. Learn more by watching this Prezi:

Year Six Description Homework

We're beginning our Sherlock Holmes and Detective story unit, where we'll continue to revise the structure of the first 15 lines of a short story, including the use of description to 'set the scene'.

(i) Before you start writing, revise descriptive techniques by listening to this 'quick revision' podcast:

Or you may prefer to revise by watching this:

Write your own description of Sherlock Holmes' room. Write 8-10 lines. Make sure you include at least two similes.

Feeling clever? Include brackets, a colon and a semi-colon as you 'set the scene'

Saturday, 2 October 2010

New Home Page for Falcons Girls' Pupil Wiki + Year Six & Five Comprehension Homework

I've used Glogster to design a new front page for our pupil wiki, which includes a video of 'The Comma Song'. Go and take a look!

Over the next few weeks, I'll be uploading some more 'quick revision' podcasts - where I try to explain an idea in just a minute - to the 11+ Revision page of the pupil wiki. This one is particularly important:

Year Six Homework
Please complete the 'Parrot' comprehension.

Don't forget, comprehension homework is always due on a Wednesday.

Year Five Homework
Please complete the 'Jane Blonde P-E-E' comprehension

Don't forget, comprehension homework is always due on a Wednesday.