Five Children and It in the classroom

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We are all aware of the benefits of extensive reading, but some of us may feel unsure about how to approach longer texts in class. How should we scaffold the reading for the students and much time should we dedicate to talking about the book? How will the students benefit from it? Can it be linked to our syllabus?

In these series of posts we would like to encourage you to take extensive reading seriously and take a novel into class. We will look at how you can prepare your students for the text and expand it beyond the frame of the story. It is important to prepare the students so they are aware of what they are doing, Some of them may feel intimidiated by the idea of reading a book in English, others may not see the benefits. These fears and preconceptions can be easily addressed and thereby making the reading process much more beneficial and all-importantly FUN for the students. It is always a good idea for students to keep a WORD BOOK where they can jot down new words and expressions. We also recommend getting your students to read slightly below level so they are at ease with the language and consolidating language while learning new words in context.

This month we start with the wonderful Five Children and It written by E. Nesbit. You can read a short description of the Helbling Reader edition here.

The book was adapted by Jennifer Gascoigne and illustrated by Viola Niccolai for teens and of course any adult reader at an elementary level of English (CEFR A1).

Our aims are to:

  • raise interest in the story,
  • become familiar with the reader,
  • find pathways into the story through projects,
  • expand the social, cultural and historical setting of the story,
  • make personal links,
  • have fun.

The main characters in Five Children and It. Illustrated by Viola Niccolai. © Helbling Languages

INTRODUCTION

1 Start by introducing the intriguing character of Psammead, the sand fairy. Simply ask your students what they think it is. You can also show a picture (from the Helbling reader, a film adaptation or your own drawing) to give some help if needed. Do Before Reading exercises 3 and 4 on page 13 of the book.

2 Talk about making wishes. You can tell your students that the sand fairy can make your wishes come true, but the effects of this magic last only for one day. Discuss the dangers of magically making all your wishes come true. It is a good opportunity to practise saying wishes in English.

3 Make predictions from the illustrations. Ask your students to browse the book and write short sentences about what might be going on in the pictures. They can write them in their notebooks and then go back to their predictions as they are reading the book.

Before you start discussing the projects, share this Wordle image with your class. It shows  the thirty most frequently used words in the readers (the bigger the word the more it is used) What do these words tell us about the story? Get the class to ask questions and make statements based on the words.

PROJECTS

When you have become familiar with the book, offer a series of projects for your students to explore on their own or in pairs/groups. We recommend that your students choose their topic whenever they feel comfortable doing so (before, during or after reading). Some students might not be comfortable reflecting on the story from a personal point of view and they might not have the linguistic toolkit to analyze it critically. Projects can provide friendly pathways into the stories and they can also provide the basis for cross-curricular projects.

Project 1: Summer holidays far away from home

Where would you go for a whole summer? Have you ever been away for more than a month? How do you imagine a summer holiday in the country? If you live in the country, where would you spend your summer holiday?

Project 2: All that money

Collect some words to describe money in English. The children ask for a lot of money. Can you imagine having all the money in the world? What would you do with it?

Project 3: Family models

In your country, is it usual to have five children in a family? Why do the children have a nanny? What happens to the parents?

Project 4: Magic

Can you think of other stories (folk and fairy tales or contemporary fiction) where magic play an important role? How is the sand fairy different from the fairies you know from other stories? What other magical creatures do you know about?

Project 5: The Strand Magazine

The Strand Magazine was a popular publication, and several famous stories became successful in it. What other stories appeared in it? How often was it published? Where and when was it first published? Is it still in print?

Project 6: The Edwardians

The story is set in the Edwardian Age. Who was this period named after? When was the Edwardian Age? What other famous novels and TV series are set in this age?

Project 7: Rewritings and adaptations

Have you ever seen a film adaptation of Five Children and It? How many adaptations exist?

The popular young adult author, Jacqueline Wilson wrote Four Children and It. What is this story about? How is it connected to the original story by E. Nesbit?

Project 8: The author

Who was Edith Nesbit? When and where did she live? What kind of a life did she have?

Download a project planner from here to print out and take notes.

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