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Ministry of Education.

Learning task 1: Starter activities

Teacher Background Reading




  • School Journals
    • Islon, N. (1995) The Confidence Course The Secret Lake: Journal of Young People's Writing 1995 Learning Media: Wellington
    • Effendi, Vanessa (1998) Courage Some Place Wonderful: Journal of Young People's Writing 1998 Learning Media: Wellington
    • Dyck, S. (1997) Rock Climbing I Feel Dizzy: Journal of Young People's Writing 1997 Learning Media: Wellington
    • Water Slide The Terrible Half Pipe: Journal of Young people's Writing 1992 Learning Media: Wellington
    • Finlayson H. (2001) Snowboarding Cricket Bat Smash: Journal of Young People's Writing 2001 Learning Media: Wellington
    •  Trafford J. (2001) River Bugs School Journal Pt 1 No 2 2001 Learning Media: Wellington
       (also see Pt 1 Teaching Notes)
    • Walker P. (2002) The Big Jump School Journal Pt 4 No 1 2002 Learning Media: Wellington
  • Teacher Reference
    • Cubbit, S., Irvine, R. & Dow, A. (1999). Top Tools for Social Science Teachers. Longman: Auckland
    • Ministry of Education. (1996). Exploring Language: A Handbook for Teachers. Learning Media: Wellington
    • Anderson, M & Anderson, K. (1997). Text Types in English 1. Macmillian Education: Australia

Collection of digital photos

Take lots of digital photos during the camp, making sure that each child features in many of them. These photos will be used for prewriting activities and in the final published writing sample. Take small group photos as well as individual close-ups. Students should each be able to find one photo to use in their published writing. Print out and display selected camp photos. Blutack photos to a whiteboard or painted or laminated surface so that they can be easily accessed for later activities.

Display Area

Set aside a prominent place in the classroom to build up a progressive display. Set up a display area of activity charts, word lists and writing models to use as the unit progresses, eg. What did we say about time words yesterday? What other verbs could you use to describe that movement? What did we say personal voice was? How has this writer started their writing? Let's refresh our memory about the assessment criteria.

 If your display area is near to the blackboard ledge this could be used to display close at hand, the original copies of the writing models used in the close reading sessions, eg. from The Journals' of Young Peoples' Writing. Mark other appropriate examples of personal recounts that you find in School Journals, Ready to Read texts, and commercial reading texts with sticky notes for students to pick up and read as well, eg. at SSR times. Expose the students to lots of personal recount models during the unit, not just those that you use for close reading.

Ideally this should be near to the teaching station and in clear view of the students, for reference to and reflecting on during teaching sessions and independent student writing times.

Camp Chat

Together brainstorm and list all the 'fun and memorable' activities at camp, eg. kayaking, abseiling, river swimming, night walking... The teacher records these on pre-cut rectangles of coloured paper as the students suggest them. Blutack them onto the teaching whiteboard as you go. In a sharing circle let each child name their favourite activity and in one sentence tell why.

Feelings Charts

Cut up the coloured paper you wrote the camp activities on into three or four pieces each, (depending on group sizes). Group the class into small groups by giving out one piece to each student. Students match up their activity to find their group, then collect an A3 piece of paper and glue stick the activity pieces to the middle of the paper making up their word.

Each group now brainstorms and records their feelings associated with the activity all around it using the feelings_chart (RTF 147KB) . What did you feel before, during and after you did this activity?
This should generate some strong personal responses. Share charts and note similar, unusual or different feelings. Make a class chart 'Camp Feelings' listing each feeling recorded. Display the chart for future reference.

Role Play

Role-play, acting out some of the feelings listed on the charts, eg. scared. Let several students perform a challenging camp activity in role, eg. abseiling. Talk about what to look for, eg. When someone is scared how do they stand? How do their eyes look? How do they breathe?

"His eyes grew larger and larger and he clenched his fists until the knuckles turned a yellowy-white. Suddenly he sucked in gulps of air..."

Record some on the whiteboard, modelling writing in detail. Write some of these up later and display as models of detailed writing to describe feelings and actions.

Encourage the students to describe the feeling by describing the facial expressions and non-verbal language, without actually naming the feeling.

Relate this to writing, and talk about how a writer can give clues and leave the reader to work it out for himself or herself. We don't need to make everything obvious in writing - it helps to build pictures in the reader's head, as well as atmosphere and mood and suspense, allowing the reader to interpret the writing themselves. Encourage the Show, Don't Tell writer's craft.

Bus Stop

Model this activity on one of the charts before you begin. Choose six or seven camp activities from those named in the 'Camp Chat'. Write one at the top of each bus_stop_chart (RTF 11KB) in the blank row. Place these around the classroom. Group the students using a different grouping strategy:

A Variety of Ways to Group Children for Activity Work

 These are fun ways of grouping children, (or asking them to contribute to a class discussion), focusing on the topic of study at the same time as re-energizing them with some physical movement around the room. They can be used at anytime, but are a good way to introduce a new activity or to break up long periods of work with some movement.

  • Picture and Word Jigsaws
    Cut up words or pictures relevant to the unit topic, eg. listening words or pictures of facial expressions that depict someone listening, (you could get the children to search for and cut these out of magazines as a starter activity). Decide on the number of children you want in each group, and then cut each word or picture into this number in a variety of ways, so that no two are exactly alike. Hand out pieces randomly. Let children move about the classroom finding their group by matching up the pieces to make the word or picture. These are then their groups for the selected activity. Collect in afterwards to use again.
  • Line up and Number Off
    Line the children up eg. by birthdays, height, alphabetical order of their first name or surname, age, shoe size... Decide on the group size you want for the activity, eg. 4 children in each group. Number the children off according to group size, eg. 1234, 1234, 1234... Divide into groups as you number, ie. each group has numbers 1234 as they are numbered off. Children must remember their numbers. These numbers are then used for reporting back after the group activity. (They can also be used to assign other group roles if you wish, depending on the activity.) After the activity gather together as a class, eg. on the mat in a sharing circle, with groups sitting together. Choose a number to report back, eg. today all those who were number two will report back to the class.
  • Coloured Sticks
    Organise a collection of coloured sticks in advance so that you have the right number for the class and for the number and size of the groups you want, eg. four of each colour for groups of four. Hand out the coloured sticks, (or allow children to select from a 'feely bag' or other container where they can't see the colour). You could use coloured ice cream sticks, mathematics nursery sticks, or sticks you have dyed for this purpose. You could hand out the sticks as they come in the door, or place them on their desks whilst they are completing another activity.
  • Complete a Sentence
    Write a number of sentences relevant to the topic, eg. main ideas, important strategies you are focusing on, or controversial ideas on the topic. Your choice will depend on how far you are through the unit, and whether you want to use the statements as part of the following group learning activity. Cut the statements up into a number of pieces, depending on the size of groups you want to have for the learning activity. Hand out pieces randomly. Let children move about the classroom finding their group by matching up the pieces to make a complete sentence that makes sense. These are then their groups for the selected activity.
  • Categorising
    This activity could be done after a class brainstorm or mindmap on a study topic where you have listed the key facts but have not yet grouped them into like groups or selected group names. Group the key facts into categories. Select key facts to write onto cut up paper rectangles, one colour for each category. Select a number that fits your class size, you do not have to use all of them. Record on the cut up coloured paper. Hand out randomly at the start of an activity session. Students move into colour groups and then must decide on an appropriate title name (sub-topic heading) for their group of facts. The students are now organized into groups to complete another activity on the study topic. These facts could be displayed later on a class structured overview or mind map, if you do not wish to use them further in the activity.
  • Partner Hunt
    Use this for grouping children for paired activities. Give one half of the class key words/concepts from the unit study context, and the other half definitions or explanations of these key words/concepts. Students find their partner and pair up to do an activity. This could be used many times during the study.

 Also see more ideas on P. 99 Top Tools for Social Science Teachers.

 Each group adds different types of words to the list as they go.

Examples of words to add to the bus stop charts:

  • Words that describe movement... step by step, creeping, cautiously, very slowly, with great care;
  • Words that describe feelings... anxious, shaking uncontrollably, sweating, jelly-legs.
  • Have several thesauruses available at each station. Encourage students to write words that show the feeling without actually naming it (show don't tell), eg. beads of perspiration were creeping down my tense face.

Return to the class group and ask each group to share their charts. Draw attention to any quality descriptions. Ask questions that encourage attention to detail, eg. What feeling do you think these words might be telling us? How was this person feeling? How do we know? Did they name the feeling? What words did they use? Can the way a person moves tell us how they are feeling? How would you be moving if you were feeling like this? What would your facial expressions be if you felt like this?

Thinking Bubbles

In this activity students will explore the concept of inner monologue. Use the digital photos already on display. Each student selects one photo that they feature in. Model how to write inner monologue in the thinking bubble.

Student then write their thoughts, 'the talking they did in their head', in a thought_bubble (RTF 119KB) . The thought bubbles can be photocopied, or created on a computer by inserting a digital photo into publishing software.

Display these beside the photos in the class display area, so that they will be available for reference later when writing personal recounts.

Published on: 06 Apr 2009