English this half term is based around Wonder in year 5/6 at my school. I love teaching this unit as the discussions you have are full of genuine emotion from the children and often some of the more impulsive individuals start to realise the impact their actions can have. So far the class have engaged brilliantly with the text and I have loved teaching it like normal. Driving to work on Friday I realised that I had completed the work I intended to do this week and we had reached the end of part one in the book so having a long reading session was going to take us further than I wanted. It was at this point I realised that I needed to think of a lesson for the day, as much as I wanted to read all lesson, it seemed unfair to neglect time that could be developing skills. It seemed a good opportunity to get a graphic novel involved for the first time in a while and try something new with Wonder. I decided to do some comprehension work that looked at comparing characters in New Kid and Wonder.
The concept is nothing special but my class currently struggles to explain themselves fully and with SATS looming on the horizon it’s never a bad idea to get them used to writing multiple sentence answers. Four pages of New Kid were photocopied and given out one between two. After time to view and discuss the pages we had a class discussion about the characters and if they reminded us of any other literary characters. Thankfully the class spotted the link between Julian in Wonder and Andy in New Kid quickly. Following more discussion about the behaviour of Andy and Julian, the class were given five questions to answer about them, focusing on their choices in regards to their behaviour.
Along with intending to improve their ability to write detailed explanations I also wanted the class to think about what is motivating a character using real life experiences. Some children took longer than others to engage with this but eventually almost everyone in the class started to realise that the characters in the books weren’t behaving like this for no reason, there had to be a cause for them behaving in such a manner. The first three questions focused on using the text to support an answer and being able to explain what both stories were telling us whereas the fourth and fifth question focused on using the texts as an inspiration to explore their own beliefs.
The fourth question involved offering advice to Andy from New Kid who seems to be intent on upsetting as many people as possible at times. Not only was the advice offered incredibly well thought out but showed a maturity beyond their years. Some of the best answers were:
“If I could I would tell Andy that everyone has friends so stop stealing others. You’ll get more friends the kinder you are.”
“If I had to give him advice I would say friends don’t come from being mean they come from being kind.”
“I would tell Andy to just focus on what he needs to do.”
“I would tell Andy that just because someone is smarter than you or better at other things doesn’t mean you should bully them and make them feel like nothing.”
The final question was designed to make them think deeply about why children choose to be unkind to others instead of being welcoming, both Andy and Julian are unpleasant to new arrivals at their school despite having no reason to dislike them. Some of the answers showed compassionate and caring attitudes from the children along with an understanding that both characters are unlikely to be doing it just for the sake of it, some of the best answers are below:
“I think that people treat others disrespectfully because they want to become more popular and they have been bullied themselves before and want to take that out on other people.”
“I think bullies choose to be mean because something at home or in their thoughts is making them sad and they take it out on other people. The other reason could be that they’re jealous of their popularity, kindness, skills, what they own or beauty. Emotions can go out of control if you’re not careful.”
The lesson on the whole was very pleasing and the majority of the class engaged well with the task. Speaking to several of the year six children after was beneficial for me as they explained not only what they enjoyed about the lesson but also how they felt using the visual support of New Kid helped them. Despite being relatively competent and confident learners all four of the children I spoke to said having the facial expressions alongside the words helped them to interpret the characters emotions easier and allowed them to gain a better picture of everything that was happening in the story. Despite being essentially standard comprehension/SATS style practice they all asked to do something similar again and felt it had helped them to express themselves in their work which was pleasing to hear.