Finding a Place for Art During SATs, A Success Story

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Delivering Art During SATs

Over the years I’ve found creating art around non-fiction books and topics has delivered great results. Some of the most challenging themes can end up being the most successful. Similarly, challenging circumstances can also produce wonderful outcomes.

In delivering a Year Six lunchtime art club around the theme of World War Two, I certainly had my work cut out. This was a project set in the midst of SATs preparation. The children in question had unfortunately had their curriculum narrowed until the majority of the day was given to the subjects they were due to be tested in. As you can imagine, interest in the club was high and nearly half of the year group signed up for it.

Which Route to Take?

When I first started to think about possible activities to do, I’d initially leaned towards a much lighter approach to art to try and counteract the intensive Maths and English lessons the children were having. Should I deliver skills-light activities with a focus on art as a form of play? In looking at my year group and understanding how much they were missing their art lessons, I knew this wasn’t what they wanted. I decided to give them a challenge instead: something where they would be able to see progress in the ability by the end of the term. Something to be proud of.

The plan was simple: choose a picture of somebody who was involved in World War Two (which should have been the children’s current topic) and make a drawing of that image. These original drawings were then put away until the end of the project. I talked to the children about shape, proportion and showed them how to break down an image in order to draw it more accurately. The children became entirely wrapped up in their pictures, looking at the parts as a range of shapes and shades and recreating them to the best of their ability. As the club continued, children want to come more regularly and so the sessions became longer and more frequent. Before long, there was usually at least one of them in my room, head down, drawing away.

The Results

As we came to the end of the project, the children began to get excited about comparing their final finished pieces to the original drawing they’d done in week one. They totted up the time they’d spent on one drawing with a sense of pride and accomplishment. I was so relieved that they had taken the project on so wholeheartedly and couldn’t wait to share the results.

Each and every child amazed themselves. They still understood that their original drawings were wonderful; they showed individual style that was never undervalued. The second pieces they produced- the ones they’d worked so hard at for so long- showed a new approach. They had learnt to look at a picture and really break it down. It hadn’t taken the place of their own original style, but broadened their understanding and added an extra feather to their artistic bows.

Here are two examples of the work they produced, showing the original photograph, the first drawing and the finished piece.

This study of Winston Churchill is the work of an eleven year old boy who had been on the brink of exclusion prior to the project. He was a lovely, caring lad who was struggling with very difficult home life circumstances. He loved working on this and couldn’t quite believe he’d produced it! Working with him for the duration of the club was a wonderful experience.

These pictures were the work of a ten year old boy who was absolutely brilliant at maths but already believed himself to be no good at art. By using his understanding of maths, he was able to create these wonderful pieces and see that art can be practised and learnt, just like anything else.











Who Let the Gods Out by Maz Evans: Blackout Poems

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Year Five created blackout poems for our class reader Who Let the Gods Out by Maz Evans on the last day of term. This has been a wonderful book to read together and provided so many possibilities in terms of scenes we could use to create our poems. We decided on the scene of Zeus’ wedding and also the fabulous description of the chaos stones.

The children then chose their favourite words and phrases to create their own blank verse. There was also some ‘stealing’ of words or letters needed from other pages as some children developed their ideas and saw them through til the end!

This is a great way of engaging children with the words they read and never fails to produce imaginative pieces.

The children all really loved the activity and asked if they could create more in the afternoon, which of course I said they could!

A great way of bringing art and reading together, as well as develop a lovely sense of well being.

Art and Reading Workshops: Charlie & the Chocolate Factory

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Chocolate Portraits

This half term Year Five have been reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and making comparisons between the book and the films. As with most schools, foundation subjects are linked to the topic theme- chocolate in this case- and I needed to find a unit of art to fit alongside this. It also had to take just four weeks- that’s four hours of work from preparation to final piece.

I decided to go for it and see if we could produce chocolate portraits of the film characters using dark, milk and white chocolate to describe the tonal values.

The Process


In preparation for this unit, I wanted children to be open to the range of materials that can be used to produce art. I compiled a Powerpoint presentation of about thirty images called ‘It’s Made of What?’. The children had to guess what material the artist had used in creating their artwork. Some were simple to guess, others not so easy. Ranging from flip flops to frozen blood, they really captured the children’s imagination and took the emphasis away from traditional materials.

We also discussed the concept of ‘time-based media’- something I didn’t come across until art college but which the Year Fives understood easily. That some artwork can only exist on a photograph was something they really liked. At this point I told them which material they would be using and that it would be ‘timed-based media’ as they would be able to eat it at the end of the unit!

Lesson One:

The children chose their character and we looked closely at outline within the portrait. I demonstrated how to trace properly, flipping the image and tracing both sides as there was lettering to take into consideration. We then transferred the pencil onto paper by going over the lines traced. Watching out for movement as we drew was tricky, but the children liked how it was simple to start again. Once they got the hang of it, they could repeat their image as a pattern.

Lesson Two:

Breaking down tonal values. The second job was to shade the transferred images from the last lesson, breaking them down into three shades. By simplifying the shading, the children were able to see which type of chocolate they would need to apply to which section. It also allowed me to see if I’d need to order more of one type! As it happened, I didn’t. The tones were quite evenly distributed over the images created.

Lesson Three:

The third lesson was designed as preparation for using the piping bags. Piping their drawings onto greaseproof paper was bound to be challenging, so I wanted the children to experience working without the normal control of a pencil or paintbrush. We sellotaped a pencil to a paintbrush, making it as long as possible. The children taped paper to the walls and drew. I asked them to draw freely but choose something they were comfortable with; that they’d drawn many times before and knew well. They were really game to have a go and the results were excellent. Two children stuck together paper to make an A2 sheet and worked collaboratively to produce a big picture of a face which was astoundingly good! This lesson did the trick in preparing the class to work outside of their comfort zones.

Lesson Four:

Lesson four was actually a whole morning. It was essential for me to have the help of a TA due to all the running back and forth to the microwave. Let’s just say I now owe my TA a big bunch of flowers. (I think she’s sick of chocolate for the moment…)

Before the children came in, I set out a piece of card and greaseproof paper at each work station. All instructions were written on the board- I’ve included a photo of the whiteboard below so you can see the instructions the children followed throughout the morning.

It was essential that the children had another task to work at whilst they were waiting to ‘pipe their portraits’ and we used the time to compile the work of the previous three weeks into topic books. I’ve added a few pictures of the lovely work they produced independently.

Providing support on the piping table was a full time job! If you try this, do make sure the floor is absolutely covered in newspaper as molten chocolate travels! Also, keep to small amounts in each piping bag as the chocolate will begin to harden quite quickly. Throughout the morning we went through 3kg of chocolate and twenty piping bags, but we could’ve used less. Surprisingly, the children had to be encouraged to put enough chocolate on their portraits. We needed at least a couple of mm of thickness to stop it from breaking later on.

The children were great at getting their head around using chocolate as a paint rather than a treat and amazingly not much of it made its way into the mouths of the artists! Although the children are waiting patiently to reveal the flat side of their portraits tomorrow, the chocolate had set enough by the end of school today for me to photograph them. I’ve put together a collage of some of their finished work.

This was a fairly ambitious project and Year Five did awesomely at every stage. Tomorrow we’re looking forward to carefully removing the work from the greaseproof paper and photographing each piece before finally eating it!

If you’d like a copy of the It’s Made of What? Powerpoint or any further information about the products I used, please contact me. If you’d like me to tailor make an art project relating to your topic or class reading book, I’d love to help out! Do get in touch.



I’m Sorry, I Can’t, Don’t Hate Me. A Book Blogger Bows Out*

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I ran my blog,, for over four years until last October. And then I stopped. For four years I reviewed many gorgeous children’s books, promoting them mostly to an audience of primary school educators. I learnt about and wrote on the tricky and very subjective issue of reading for pleasure, sharing ideas I’d come up with in the hope that they might help at least one child to love reading the way I always had. I created free resources to help get the most from class readers and thought long and hard about the books I reviewed: ways they could be incorporated into the primary curriculum and ideas of activities teachers could do. There were list posts, blog tours, twitter updates and giveaways. I began an MA in Children’s Literature in order to learn more and be able to apply that to my teaching and my writing. Everything was categorised meticulously by appropriate age (never an upper age limit of course), subject and reading personality. I loved the buzz of the thought and planning that went into a post and even now after five months away it’s a great feeling to be tapping away into WordPress again. But somehow it’s not the same.

Blogging began to feel a bit like a relationship that had run its course. Plus, I was cheating. Spending my blogging time doing artwork or writing my own stories rather than reading or writing reviews. I decided to take a breather until the new year. It’s March and I’m still on that break.

It’s always been my aim to keep Booksagogo honest, useful and a force for good, so in the spirit of sharing the debatable wisdom of my years of blogging I’ve put together a final (for now) list post.

How to be an Introvert Blogger, and All That Jazz

1. Change Your Content, But Don’t Change Yourself

Blogs are great. They run to your own set of moveable rules and you can make changes to suit yourself. Booksagogo developed along the way, starting as a more general review site back in 2013 but quickly becoming all about kids’ books. For the first two years two of us ran it which felt really different to doing it alone. That’s one of the things about blogs- change often happens regardless and that’s fine, but don’t expect to change yourself to fit it. Being fairly shy and introverted, I felt I let the blog down by being a bit rubbish at promoting it on social media. I struggled to get involved in conversations or to push the content I’d written. It turns out that doesn’t really matter. Looking now at the stats for views over the last five months, despite there being no new posts and certainly no attempts at promotion, they remain pretty good and consistently not that different to before. Good content will keep working for you and people will read it. Maybe not straight away or in the swathes of admiring retweets you’d hoped for, but keep heart- if you share it, they will read. Eventually.

2. (Quiet) Self Belief is Everything

Write the best you can at the time you write it. And once you press publish, believe that you have filled one tiny corner of the internet with something good and worthwhile. Be proud of it and share it, at least a couple of times in case people missed it. If other people tell you they like it, that’s great, but don’t count on it as a verification that what you do is worthwhile. Take time to visit your own site and enjoy it. Definitely compare your early work to current writing and see how you’ve come on. If you’ve just started out, look- you made that! You are indeed a marvel!

3. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Ooh, this is hard. Don’t go down this road- green doesn’t suit you much and besides it’s a giant waste of time. We’re all different and it’s much more rewarding and achievable to do your own thing in your own way. Sure, I know it can be tough to see a fellow more gregarious book blogger’s photo of grilled halloumi receive more twitter likes than your last five lovingly honed blog posts put together, but you are better than that. Rise above the halloumi, fellow introverts. Parading squeaky cheese is not your style.

4. Don’t be Scared to Make Friends

I’ve come into contact with so many wonderful people through my blog and through Twitter. I do find it hard however to ‘chat’ much on social media as if you’re shy in real life, sometimes finding the right thing to type to someone else can be daunting. That’s who I am, which is fine, but I do wish I’d gone to more events and said hello to more people at the ones I went to as I’m much more comfortable with making friends in real life than I am through a computer. Find those good people, make friends and build a support network and do it in the way that suits you best, but…

5. Don’t Beat Yourself Up if You Don’t Make Friends

And if you really are just much better doing your own thing and not networking, or socialising online or elsewhere, that’s lovely too. Remember- your blog, your rules.

6. Free Books Are Not Guaranteed

I have received many things through blogging but free books were not at the top of the pile. In four years I came to receive books from a small amount of publishers but for the most part I bought my own. It’s lovely to be sent books but don’t count on it, even if you try really hard (in a non-pushy and polite way) to make it happen. On the plus side, when you buy your own books you choose your own reading list entirely. Unfortunately this can be expensive. This is one of those occasions when might need to speak up a bit or alternatively let the blog adapt to suit your means- write more think pieces and list posts alongside reviews.

7. Remember Who You are Doing it For

You made the rules remember? I started blogging because my teaching job had become very challenging and I needed something more fun in my life. It was a typical introvert move: retreating from a difficult situation and escaping into a book. I then wrote about that book, and then another. Share the joy, but keep some back for yourself.

8. Beccy Who? Getting Left Out Isn’t Always Bad

Social media can be forthright. The week I stopped blogging coincided with a well-meaning hashtag created to show appreciation to book bloggers. The name checks rolled in on my timeline, but not to me. It wasn’t a great feeling to see authors I’d championed many times miss me out of their lists of blogger appreciation and if I’m honest it did take any remaining wind out of my sails for a while. With hindsight I can see that this was because I was relying on the input of others to keep me writing when I lost my share of the joy.

Being quiet has its benefits and its drawbacks and being overlooked occasionally is one of them. Think of Serafina Pekkala- the witch from His Dark Materials who can be unseen when she wants to be.  When it gets hard, remember those times when you managed to pull a Serafina Pekkala and happily avoided being the centre of attention. Sometimes we want to remain unseen, and sometimes it just happens when we don’t want it. Them’s the breaks.

9. Good Things Will Come From Blogging

Things you won’t have planned for and can’t possibly predict. For me, that was having the opportunity to be on the Brum Radio Book Show a few times and talk about children’s books. Working alongside Blake, Mike, Stuart and Catherine was just wonderful. Nerve wracking but wonderful! The whole experience shaped my writing for the better, made me more confident and improved Booksagogo no end. It was such an unexpected honour and an all round joy for me.

Thoughtful comments from authors always meant a lot. I’ve received cards and once even a poem, which was a very special moment. The children I’ve taught over the last four years have been a constant driving force behind Booksagogo. They’ve shown such enthusiasm for the books I’ve shared with them and enjoyed greatly hearing from authors. I’m not sure it’s created ‘a lifelong love of reading’ for each and every one of them as that’s not for me to say, but it did create excitement around books and gave a positive experience of reading that they will, I hope, remember and carry with them.

Good luck fellow quiet readers, keep sharing the joy xxx

Bowing Out

Blogging about children’s books was really good for a really long time, but there are a lot of teachers out there now ably banging the reading for pleasure drum. I can’t shout as loudly as them, and nor do I want to. I don’t think I can make any sort of impact in this field now by quietly blogging, and I had always hoped to make an impact by now. Quiet reading and writing doesn’t stir things up. I can’t demand my fellow teachers become ‘reading teachers’ but would hope instead that they choose class reading books (new or otherwise) that they know and love and that they make sure they read them right to the end. And then go home and do their own thing. In part I blogged to save other teachers time in finding the right book. I’m not sure I managed to do that, but my reviews remains out there just in case.

I’ll continue to read children’s books because I always have, and I’ll probably tell you about them on Twitter.  For now, I will draw and read and write and maybe spend a tiny part of each day thinking about Booksagogo and where if anywhere I might take it next. Time will tell.

* For now, at least.


Tim Minchin’s When I Grow Up

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Illustrated by Steve Antony

“When I grow up, I will be

tall enough to reach

the branches that

I have to reach

to climb the trees you get to climb

when you’re grown up.” 

When I Grow Up

When I Grow Up is a brilliant collaboration between musician/comedian Tim Minchin and award-winning illustrator Steve Antony. Teaming lyrics from Minchin’s Matilda the Musical with Antony’s amazing artwork is a bit of a dream combination. When I Grow Up is already a beautiful song that looks at adult’s lives from a child’s point of view. It’s very moving and hopeful and of course a joy to see performed. To take these lyrics and give them a new life as the words in a picture book could have been a risky business. It was always going to need the vision of an artist who could bring a different perspective whilst keeping the original spirit of the song. Steve Antony brings all this and more.

Dream Combinations

With illustrations that have all the life you would wish to see on a West End stage, When I Grow Up fills the reader’s imagination from the start with books tumbling from shelves, pillow fights, soaring dragons and cartwheels. Dandelion clocks drift by as we can take our time together to explore everything that’s going on around us. There are moments of laughter and excitement throughout the book as well as pages that provide pause for thought. They make each other even better, another dream combination for us to enjoy.


Alongside the wonderful illustrations, the text brings extra aspect of movement to the book, but one that will be easy for younger children to follow. Broken into bite sized chunks, they are written in different ways: they step, zigzag, change in size and move in curves. They are clear to read and great fun to follow.

When I Grow Up is a book to fill your face with a big grin and your heart with gladness. And maybe even inspire a bit of contemplation from its older readers. One to read again and again and again.









Thanks to Scholastic for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and sending me a copy of such a lovely book.




The Legend of Podkin One-Ear

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Written by Kieran Larwood & Illustrated by David Wyatt

“Crunch, crunch. Crunch, crunch. The sound of heavy footsteps, trudging through knee-deep snow, echoes through the night’s silence.

A thick white blanket covers the wide slopes of the band of hills known as the Razorback downs. Moonlight dances over it, glinting here and there in drifts of sparkles, as if someone has sprinkled the whole scene with diamond dust. 

It is perfect- untouched except for one spidery line of tracks leading down from the hills towards the frosted woodland beneath.”

Bramblemas Eve

It’s Bramblemas Eve. Rabbits are gathered together in the longburrow at Thornwood Warren, feasting and celebrating the season. A travelling bard arrives and someone requests a story about legendary rabbit hero Podkin One-Ear, which the bard promises to tell. This tale will be different to any told before. He promises it will be different because it will be true.

The bard’s story takes us back to another Bramblemas Eve when Podkin, his older sister Paz and little brother Pook were children, the sons and daughter of a warrior chieftain and part of a happy home. When their warren is attacked and torn apart by the dreaded Gorm, Podkin, Paz and Pook are forced to leave their family and run for their lives.

A Children’s Classic

The adventure that follows is beautifully delivered and about as deserving of the accolade children’s classic as you’re likely to get. The sense of anticipation created by the arrival of the bard and the staging of the story makes it irresistible. Kieran Larwood has a knack of delivering to the reader at the perfect pace, allowing us to be swept along at points and pause to reflect at others. He creates an incredible new world,  and you’ll wonder how you ever did without it. David Wyatt’s illustration adds an extra dimension too. They are simply lovely. Take the time to enjoy them.

A Touch of Old Magic for a New Generation

The Legend of Podkin One-Ear reminded me of my old childhood favourites in all the best ways. I felt like I was back there, experiencing the same depth of light and shade I get from Tolkien’s Shire- an unexpected and absolute thrill! There’s something here of Kenneth Grahame’s way of making a new character feel like an old friend and there’s also a touch of CS Lewis’s old magic. I cannot think of another book that has taken me back to these feelings so vividly whilst delivering something so completely original.

Probably my favourite book of the year so far. Should be read aloud in all primary schools across the land. Every child should have the chance to enjoy a story like this. You never know, it might inspire the next generation of story tellers.


Hope by Rhian Ivory

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“I climb up and lean over the ferry rail, looking down into the grim, grey sea. I’ve ruined everything.”

Hope Alone

When Hope fails her audition to get into drama college in Dublin, she has no back up plan. It seems all her friends are sorted and that Hope is alone. We join Hope for the summer between school and sixth form college as she struggles to control her anger, manage her grief for her father and regain her lost confidence.

During the course of the book, Hope gains new perspective through the people she meets. Riley is a chance encounter on the ferry back from Dublin who likes Hope and is keen to keep in touch with her. Their texts are a key part of the story and a wonderful insight into how Hope is doing. There’s also Pryia. Hope meets her while volunteering to help the Singing Medicine Team her mum’s set up at the local hospital. Pryia recognises something of herself in Hope, but it’s up to Hope to decide whether she has the courage to accept herself for who she is.

A Beautiful and Unique Read

Hope gifts the reader with the poetry and complexities of real life. As with her previous book The Boy who Drew the Future, Rhian Ivory takes a full cast of characters and allows each and every one to shine in their own way, from Hope herself to her mum, her granddad, and right through to the children she meets in the hospital. We get to know Hope and her world so well that we are able to go deeper and really understand and appreciate her story. The only rub here is that we miss her all the more when the book ends.

Hope: a beautiful and unique read and a must for fans of contemporary YA fiction.



Thanks so much to Firefly Press for sending me this wonderful book!



Simply the Quest by Maz Evans

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“The scream tore through the dawn like a razor blade through toilet paper. Elliot Hooper was the first to respond- if you can call burbling ‘whargihghplfm?’ a response.

Before he entirely knew where he was- or even who he was- another scream shattered the February morning.”

Marvellous MG

Simply the Quest is Maz Evans’ second book in her marvellous middle grade series and follows the roaring success of last year’s Who Let the Gods Out. As before, Maz Evans writes with bags of charisma and knows how to engage her readers. From the start, we’re hooked!

Twelve year old Elliot is back at home living with several Greek Gods and the newly mortal Virgo. Pressure is mounting to find the remaining chaos stones before the dreaded Thanatos. This is hero territory and there are adventures to be had! Alongside this, Elliot is caring for his mum who continues to be unwell. We also see the introduction of contact with dad who has been absent for ten years.

When it comes to storytelling, Maz Evans is an expert. She mingles Ancient Greek Gods with the modern life of a thirteen year old boy, blends brilliantly funny content with sometimes heart-wrenching depth of feeling. Together they make each other even better.

Simply the Quest in the Classroom

I would recommend upper key stage two teachers explore the humour around the Gods in Simply the Quest through art. Art and parody have a long history and there are many examples online of famous artworks that have been given a modern-day twist.

Looking at classic sculpture of Greek Gods and comparing with Maz Evans’ less traditional written descriptions is a great way of developing talk around a class reader.  Children could go on to create updated versions of the Gods in Simply the Quest or come up with their own for a different deity. Following a process from discussion to drawing to sculpting of a final piece can then lead into written work, stop frame animation or drama quite easily. For more detail on how to go about planning this or constructing the final piece, please ask and I’ll be happy to help.

Simply the Quest is a great book that opens up many possibilities for audiences of all ages. A wonderful and memorable read.




Connecting Art and Reading for Pleasure

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Teachers’ Resources

Connecting art and stories can be a fantastic way to follow and document a whole class response to your shared reading book. It isn’t expensive or tricky to resource and provides new insight that you can use to share points of view, make predictions, express reactions and reflect on events. I’ve created six easy activities you can incorporate into your teaching and have now added teachers’ notes and resources to make your lives easier. Click on the images to view and download the PDFs.

Teachers’ Planning Notes

Information about the activities and brief notes on teaching them.

Art and Reading- Thinking Like an Artist

Worksheet with abstract images to help children understand expression in art and how to access it.


Viewfinder- Notes

Worksheet to support Viewfinder activity. Includes instructions and space to note-take creatively.


Viewfinder- Descriptive Piece

Worksheet for use in bringing notes together and drawing a descriptive piece from different character points of view.

Chapter Checker

Grid for chapter by chapter visual responses. Questions around margin to support activity.

Planning Palettes

Resource to create a restricted colour palette based on the text.

I hope these work well for you. I’d love to know how they go down in class. Beccy

Six Ways of Teaching Art & Reading for Pleasure

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Connecting Art and Reading for Pleasure

*Update 25.8.17: resources for these activities can be found here*

I wrote recently about the need to connect art and reading more in primary schools. Art and Stories are made for each other. Drawing can and should be a really useful element of our English curriculum, especially when used alongside whole class reading books.

Art is naturally brilliant at being cross-curricular: it is almost always created in a response to something else. It looks both inside and out; it can be the mirror or the window. Art gives us the opportunity to deeply immerse ourselves in the subject matter of our choosing. In other words, it’s a great match with reading for pleasure.

Six Easy Activities

Connecting art and stories can be a fantastic way to follow and document a whole class response to your shared reading book. It isn’t expensive or tricky to resource and provides new insight that you can use to share points of view, make predictions, express reactions and reflect on events. I’ve created six easy activities you can incorporate into your teaching*.

Planning Palettes

Creating a restricted colour palette in response to an event in the book. The children will need an empty ‘palette’. Something like this is perfect:

Children will also need a wide range of colours to choose from. Read a short excerpt of the class reader and ask the class to picture it, deciding which colours are key to the scene. This would work very well with Emma Carroll’s Letters from the Lighthouse, at the point early on where Olive and Suki are caught up in the London Bombings. This is a highly visual scene with plenty of information to be inferred. This can result in interesting discussions, especially around unexpected colours and their justifications.

Finished palettes can lead into successful painting projects. They can also be collaged together as a visual record of this point in the book. Or both. Compile them in different ways and photograph, or colour photocopy (if you’re allowed).


Chapter Checker

Abstract artist Kandinsky used art as a visual expression of emotion in response to music. Encouraging your class to use abstract marks in response to your class reader may sound a bit unusual but it can be brilliant. Based on Kandinsky’s Trente 1937, you’d need to create a grid with the same number of squares as you have chapters in your book- or as close as possible. Each chapter culminates in a thumbnail drawing. Some children will want to be more literal than others (and they should be allowed to be) but this works best when visual clues are given through shape and colour rather than drawing actual scenes.

Trente 1937

Compare, contrast and evaluate at the end of the book to see if these artworks can be ‘read’ or if they remind the class of specific points in the book or particular feelings they had at the time.

Arty Annotation

Annotating with notes and highlighters is a well established part of the English curriculum in many schools and this is a spin on that. Choose your page, or give different pages from a key chapter. I’d want to do this with a juicy mystery such as Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens or Siobhan Dowd’s The London Eye Mystery. In chapter five of Jolly Foul Play there’s a lot of action around a bonfire that ends in murder! Ask the children to pick out characters’ movements, key objects, important words and map or draw them straight onto their page.

By clue-finding straight on top of their information, the children are able to access the text quickly and express their opinions without having that awful fear of the blank page. This can become part of your evidence in a class investigation and makes a fab class display.


This is a great one to use if you want to essentially press pause at an important moment in the text and examine it in a bit more depth from a particular character’s point of view. This would be perfect to use with Ross Montgomery’s Perijee and Me, from about page 22 to 24, describing the arrival of Perijee.

Read the excerpt at least twice, allowing one time to be pure listening without note taking. Pause in between to allow children to write key words, sketch, create colour swatches, as they feel necessary. Encourage the children to become the protagonist- in this case Caitlin- and look around her surroundings, take in the weather, the time of day and the details the author shares with us, building towards a completed drawing of the scene from Caitlin’s point of view. Once this is completed take a second look, this time seeing through Perijee’s eyes to produce a different view of the scene.

Afterwards, take time to reflect on both the pictures and the preparation the class did. What words and colours were used in note taking? What prompted you to think of them? How do the views differ in composition and feel?

The Big Class Reader Sketchbook

As you bring an artistic response into your class reading, you may find children are inspired to do a bit more. This is a good way to share the reading for pleasure joy at home and also to make non-fiction links to your text. Creating a sketchbook or scrapbook response to your class reader can be great. As well as compiling drawings, colour palettes, word art and other good stuff to do with your class book at school, encourage children to keep their eyes open at home for interesting and relevant snippets. Newspaper clippings, drawings, photographs, anything on the theme goes.

The perfect opportunity to go a bit bonkers

The children can see where their thoughts take them. Can you imagine how wonderfully crazy you could get compiling a sketchbook for Maz Evan’s Who Let the Gods Out? How much fun it would be to reflect back on? This I would love to see! When completed, these are great resources to use next year or to put in your school library.

Final Composition

Once the book is finished, it’s time for the children to produce their final composition. You may have already prepped them for this or you might like to introduce it at the end, bringing together all their completed artwork. The children plan and produce a final piece based on their favourite part of the book using techniques learnt. You could then have a final exhibition with a private view for parents and really celebrate reading for pleasure.

Good luck and please let me know how you get on.

*Teaching Notes:

  1. If you’re going to do a demonstration for any of these activities, be aware that children are going to copy your drawing style and you may lose their individual responses. Chances are, they think you’re great and will want to impress you by following your lead. This is lovely in sentiment but sometimes a demo can give the message that there’s a wrong or right way, which of course in art there isn’t. These activities are good opportunities to see how children get on following verbal instructions.
  2. You’re already a reading teacher, now it’s time to be a drawing teacher! Get stuck in and have a go and above all avoid making any negative comments about your own art skills! Join in where you can and make it truly a whole class event.


Please let me know if you need any further resources. I’m in the process of creating three boards: drawing techniques, easy paint and print methods,  and multimedia ideas for the classroom. I will upload these to my site as soon as they are completed.