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Teachers' Notes

Resource created by The British Library.

This story explores the many ways we tell stories using items from The British Library’s Discovering Children’s Books website.  It delves into the world of children’s books, from the mischievous and the magical, to the scary and serious, it covers the history of writing for a young audience before looking at different themes that children’s writers have covered over time.


Curriculum Links

  • KS2 English: Writing: Composition
  • KS2 English: Reading: Comprehension
  • KS2 History: Changes in an aspect of social history, such as leisure and entertainment in the 20th Century
  • KS2 PSHE: Relationships


Discussion Ideas

  • Who is your favourite book character and why?
  • Which book character do you most identify with and why?
  • What makes a good story?
  • How can stories affect the way that we feel?
  • Read an Aesop’s Fable as a class.
    • Discuss what the moral of the story might be.
    • Do people have different ideas?


Activity Ideas

  • Create your own class library of mini-books. Each pupil can design, write and illustrate a mini-book. Instructions for creating a mini-book can be found on the British Library website through the Supporting Links.
  • Listen to children’s author Joseph Coelho telling his short story ‘Fossils’ written in a home-made mini-book. See Supporting Links.
    • For a STEAM twist: use the ‘Tech Will Save Us’ downloadable activity sheets and BBC micro:bits to create and code an interactive micro book. See Supporting Links.
  • The first line of a book is very important in drawing the reader in. Look at some first lines from popular children’s books below:
    • “If you went too near the edge of the chalk pit the ground would give way. Barney had been told this often enough…” (Dick King-Smith, Stig of the Dump, 1963)
    • “If, standing alone on the back doorstep, Tom allowed himself to weep tears, they were tears of anger.” (Philippa Pearce, Tom’s Midnight Garden, 1958)
    • "I wriggled my toes, enjoying the feel of the warm sand trickling like fine baby powder between them." (Malorie Blackman, Noughts and Crosses, 2001)
    • Or take a look at the first line of Coraline:
      “Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house.” (Neil Gaiman, Coraline, 2002):

      - Ask pupils to share the first line of the book they are reading at the moment.
      How does it make them feel?
      How has the author created this feeling in the reader?
      What kind of language have they used?

      - Challenge them to write their own first line of a story. To give more structure, the class could first decide on one or more of: a theme, character, or location.
      How will their first line encourage the reader to be instantly curious about the story and make them want to read more?
  • Write a ‘courtesy book’ for aliens coming for dinner at your house. What behaviours do they need to know?
    - Or reverse this, and make a list of rules that would result in the most disgusting dinner party ever!
  • Watch the videos by Viviane Schwarz (See Supporting Links) about how to develop characters.
    • Create your own characters and story using Vivian's technique
  • Use story dice (or create your own as a class). In small groups, pupils roll the dice and take it in turns to choose a dice and add a section to the story.
  • Create a class bestiary. Each pupil can design a page with their own mythical creature and accompanying text that describes what it looks like, what it eats, where it lives and how it behaves. See Supporting Links for a video on the evolution of the Gruffalo for inspiration.
  • Explore paper engineering techniques with different types of pop-up and moveable books. See British Library resources on Supporting Links.
  • Listen to ‘If all the world were paper’ by Joseph Coelho (See Supporting Links) Write a poem starting ‘If all the world were….’.
  • Write a limerick about a person from your local area. Limericks follow a rhyming scheme of AABBA, with the third and fourth line being shorter than the other three. They often start with a character from a certain place. Jeanette Winterson wrote one about a man from Leeds:
          “There was a young fellow from Leeds
          Who swallowed a packet of seeds.
          In a month, silly ass,
          He was covered in grass,
          And he couldn’t sit down for the weeds!”
  • Compare how key events in a poem or short story impact on how a character or characters feel. Create an emotion timeline using the downloadable activity instructions and template.