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  • Writer's pictureMr D

Story Speculations

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

A while ago, when we were all allowed to have CPD in one room and have face-to-face conversations with each other as professionals (is that back on now?), Rosie Taylor (@reallearninguk) shared a really simple but thought-provoking activity with the group.

Quotes from a novel were cut up and shared out, with teachers reading them out to one another, taking clues and seeing if they can work out what the book was. It led to some interesting, and often amusing, conversations. The book choice was Varjak Paw - a gritty yet charming novel by SF Said suitable for Year 4+.

It got me thinking about how such a simple activity really could have a positive impact in the classroom. Give out one sentence per child but by using the Voice 21 groupings of ‘Onion’ or ‘Traverse’, each child could read their sentence to the child opposite them and spends one minute discussing the clues within each quote. What could the story be about? Could they consider settings, characters, plot and genres? These different groupings support different types of talk, so you could play around and see what works.

When they move on, children can then use the new and previous clues to guess those aspects of the story, piecing together evidence to back up their theories. Alternatively, teachers could give one sentence to a class at a time for whole class discussions to build on. You may wish to use our ‘Book Knowledge Organisers’ to go through the book in more detail at the end if you or the children are unfamiliar with the story. Here's a screen shot of the Podkin One-Ear resource which has been approved by Kieran Larwood:

Speaking and Listening

This is a great activity to get children talking and reasoning. You could even allocate roles to certain individuals such as probers, challengers, summarisers or builders to get them really thinking. These can also be found on the Voice 21 website. National curriculum coverage would include:

  • articulate and justify answers, arguments and opinions

  • use spoken language to develop understanding through speculating, hypothesising, imagining and exploring ideas

  • consider and evaluate different viewpoints, attending to and building on the contributions of others

Reading Skills

Getting children to piece together what they learn from the quotes will hopefully begin to generate shared discussions that lead to a variety of inferences, where children can bring their own knowledge and understanding to the conversation and share it with others. This can then be shared or discussed with the class as a whole. It also means that children can start using these inferences to create predictions. Using archaic texts also allows children to consider or discover vocabulary and unfamiliar phrases which can generate further discussions. Children could have a go at writing down their initial or final ideas for each aspect (settings, characters, plot and genre). This could then be revealed at the end or kept hidden so as to entice children to read the book! National curriculum links include:

  • making comparisons within and across books

  • drawing inferences such as inferring characters' feelings, thoughts and motives from their actions, and justifying inferences with evidence

  • predicting what might happen from details stated and implied

  • summarising the main ideas drawn from more than 1 paragraph, identifying key details that support the main ideas

Reading for Pleasure

The activity would also be a really fun way to introduce books to your class by giving them a little taster of the book without giving away too much, as well as generating some excitement and interest in books that they might not otherwise try. It could also be used as a fun activity with staff to introduce them to more children's books and generate conversations about them.

We've made some FREE Story Speculations for you to try in class but will be making many more! We are awaiting permission from other authors. Download them for free, give them a go in class and let us know what you think!

Thanks for reading,

Mr D

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