1. Introduction from Seven Stories Seven Stories is the National Centre for Children’s Books in Newcastle upon Tyne. We save the creative, cultural heritage of children’s books for the nation and bring original artwork, manuscripts and books to life through our museum and nationwide programme of exhibitions events and learning.
Seven Stories Learning Ethos - Seven Stories Learning and Participation programme approaches reading as a creative and cultural experience and aims for every participant to have a story they love and a shared experience they will treasure. We believe books change lives.
Reading for Pleasure and Creative Engagement - Having books and creative engagement at the heart of your classroom can inspire great motivation for reading, writing and beyond. The session plans below show how you can engage children in creative and imaginative ways to bring a story to life. The more your children enjoy the books they read, the higher the quality of engagement, the better their writing will be.
Enid Blyton - In 2008 Enid Blyton was voted the UK’s best loved writer. As a Froebel trained teacher, she knew how to write the right book for children, at the right stage of development. While many authors from the 1930s to 1950s have disappeared into obscurity, Enid Blyton remains popular with families and children all over the world. Children who read her books go on to be critical and confident readers for pleasure, opening up a world of literature and life-long learning. Enjoy reading The Secret Seven for yourself, children love the books you love.
2. Learning Objectives The tasks outlined below offer opportunities to cover all National Curriculum Literacy objectives across Key Stages 1 and 2.
3. Sharing the story a. Tips for Reading Aloud
Read the book yourself first.
Ensure you’re sitting in a place everyone can see you.
Only use voices that you can maintain for the whole story.
Share your own reflections, questions and predictions about the plot with the class. This models how readers think about what they are reading and encourages involvement.
Enjoy reading! If you do, listeners will too.
Use the volume and speed of your voice to create effects e.g. reflect building tension by reading slightly faster than normal.
Allow pupils to choose where to sit. Some may prefer to sit in a reading corner or on the floor.
Suggest that pupils may wish to put their heads on the desk while they are listening. This has two effects: it distinguishes sharing a book from a more formal lesson and it allows them the freedom to close their eyes and focus entirely on what is being read.
Share opinions on the book and encourage children to share their reflections at the end of sections/chapters.
4. Ways into Stories
These activities provide a variety of ways to help pupils engage with the story throughout the reading process.
a. Before You Begin Reading the Story
Club Rules. Pupils use debating and group work skills to create secret club rules to be used by the class. These could reinforce existing classroom rules or be new to the group. Opportunity for differentiation:Using small groups of mixed-ability, assign roles within the group to maximise individual strengths and provide support where appropriate.
Solve a Mini-Mystery. Arrange for the class to find a man’s hat and coat in the classroom. Who does it belong to? Where has it come from? Pupils work in groups to touch and examine the items, gathering as much information as possible. Plant a copy of The Secret Seven 1: The Secret Seven in the pocket of the coat. Why does the class think it is there? Pupils discuss in groups. Begin reading the story. The items are mentioned in the story in Chapter 2 and should be referred back to once that chapter has been read.
Who is Enid Blyton? Find out about Enid Blyton by asking older friends and relatives what they know. Create a class information book about Enid Blyton and her significance as a children’s author. What do the class want to know about her? What do they already know? Have they read her books before? Why is she a significant children’s author? Website links may also be used to support this research. Teachers should be ready to address questions relating to changing attitudes to different cultures that may arise during this research. This could form a valuable cross-curricular link with PSHCE in Year 6 classrooms.
b. During the Story
Making Predictions. Throughout the reading of the The Secret Seven 1: The Secret Seven, encourage pupils to discuss in large and small groups what they think will happen next. Pupils should give reasons for their predictions using evidence from the text. As the book progresses, pupils should be encouraged to identify themes and use evidence from the whole text to support their observations.
Hold that Thought! Use freeze-frames (in groups or individually) to explore the thoughts and feelings of Peter in Chapter 4 when he sees the van for the first time. How does he feel? What does he do? Ask for volunteers to share their ideas and gather interesting vocabulary on a display or interactive whiteboard slide. These can then be referred to during writing activities. Opportunities for differentiation: Appoint a class scribe or use ICT to record ideas which can be played back to support groups when they are doing their own writing.
Skills Box: Freeze Frames
Freeze framing is a flexible drama technique that allows all pupils to participate without the pressure of performance. Children are allowed a set amount of time (e.g. 10 seconds) to ‘become’ the character. They teacher counts to 10 and then says ‘freeze’. Children must then become a statue of their character. As they are not allowed to move or speak pupils must carefully consider their stance, body position and facial expressions in order to express how that character is feeling and what they are doing. The teacher may then ask for volunteers to shout out words or short phrases to express the thoughts, feelings or invented speech for their character.
Who Did It? Stage a mystery in school and ask the pupils to work in groups to solve the mystery, for example ‘Who has stolen the school goalposts?’. Ensure the crime involves something the children would be keen to get back. Leave clues around school and if possible ask other staff members to help. If you have willing colleagues, pupils could interview them and gather evidence. Within their groups, pupils take on the roles of detectives, interviewers, reporters, writers, and editors. The activity may culminate in pupils publishing their findings in a newspaper report or a blog. Some community police officers may also be willing to get involved and take the opportunity to talk to the children about community responsibility which provides a further cross-curricular link to PSHCE.
Invent a Word. Using the characters in the story as an example, pupils create their own words to use around the classroom in everyday interactions (e.g. scrumptious and delicious = scrumplicious).
A New Ending. At the end of Chapter 11 stop reading and ask pupils to write their own ending. Pupils should plan their ideas and should be encouraged to use descriptive language. These endings could then be shared in groups and improved before final drafts were completed for a class book. Alternatively, finished versions could contribute to a classroom display alongside accompanying artwork.
c. After the Story These ideas offer opportunities to extend work on The Secret Seven 1: The Secret Seven in all areas of literacy.
Edit the Author. Give pupils the chance to make Enid Blyton’s writing even better! Select short sections and ask them to use a thesaurus and advanced vocabulary they already know to improve the descriptive language even further. Pupils consider why certain words are chosen and whether including longer descriptions always makes a text better. This work can be extended to a wider discussion.
Create your own. Use a story mountain to identify the main elements of the plot of The Secret Seven 1: The Secret Seven. Pupils then use that to plan and write their own original Secret Seven story.
What Scamper Saw. Write a section of the story in first person from the viewpoint of the Secret Seven’s dog. Reflect on the whole story and the role of the dog throughout. What do the pupils think the dog thought of the adventure? Select several parts of the story and consider how the dog would have been feeling, what he might have understood and offer possible explanations for his actions. Pupils write a section of the story as the dog either independently or in groups. Opportunities for differentiation: For Gifted and Talented Pupils: Write the same section from one of the boys’ viewpoints and, in groups, compare all three versions (the original and the two they have written). Pupils consider the effect of changing from first person to third person. What impact does changing the voice of the text have on the audience’s reaction to it?
The Perfect Club. Pupils design their own perfect detective club. Which famous or imaginary people would they want in their club and why? Pupils should describe the skills and attributes of the people they have chosen. Do they have special objects or tools that they carry with them to make their crime-fighting job easier? Pupils could present this information in a variety of ways. The class could then share their ideas and vote on the class’ choice for a ‘Super Secret Seven’. This could form part of a classroom display and lead to a class series of Super Secret Seven stories which followed the same structure as The Secret Seven 1: The Secret Seven.
The Diary of a Caretaker.Pupils write several diary entries from the caretaker’s point of view. Discussion of the role of diaries in fiction writing should be encouraged and links could be made to Enid Blyton who kept diaries of nature and used these to inspire her fiction writing.
Super Sleuth’s Sack! In groups, pupils design a detective kit. What would a secret detective club need in their bag? Pupils should negotiate as a group and design a poster to share with the class showing what their Super Sleuth’s Sack would include.
Exploring genres. Use this story to encourage pupils to explore genres (e.g. comedy, adventure, mystery etc.) they have not yet read. Provide the children with opportunities to consider whether they enjoyed the story and why. Which elements did they like and which did they not enjoy? For example, they may not have like Enid Blyton’s style of writing but may have enjoyed the mystery plot. Taking time to think about this will support them in selecting books in the future.
Playing with Mystery. Explore the genre of mystery and detective books. What is the formula? Use a story map or story mountain to plot the generic features. Play around with those features to create a new and interesting mystery. What could be changed or altered to make your mystery unique? Follow this with a collaborative planning session and finally a writing session.
5. Cross Curricular Links
PSHCE: Dilemmas. Pupils or teachers invent dilemmas based on relationships and age-relevant experiences for pupils to solve.
Geography: World Dilemmas. Discussing and suggesting potential solutions for wider, more complex issues around the world such as endangered species and environments.
D&T: Models of a Clubhouse. Use a variety of D&T skills to make a model of a secret meeting place for your own detective club. This could combine all aspects of D&T.
Art: Applying Skills. At the end of Chapter 11 stop reading and ask pupils to predict what the prisoner will be or what they will look like. Use an art technique (e.g. clay moulding or pointillism painting) to create a representation to share with peers. These could then be displayed in the classroom alongside brief descriptions of the prisoners using high-level vocabulary.
Music: Soundtracks. Create a sound track for part of the story e.g. the rescue. This could involve a range of instruments and ensembles and should provide a framework to develop core musical skills. Pupils should be encouraged to consider the effect of the soundtrack on the story as well as the text’s influence on the music they create. The performance could then be recorded by pupils and played back to allow self and peer assessment of their performance and composition skills.
6. Website Links www.thesecretseven.co.uk for downloads, quizzes and recipes.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/blyton/ Adults, listen first to assess suitability.
The Secret Sevens now have new covers and illustrations by Tony Ross.
Plus new material including fun facts and Secret Seven quizzes!