A Final Message from Earth, to Voyager & the Final Frontier – Lesson Ideas

Have you heard or did you read the news yesterday? Incredibly, the Voyager space-probes, which departed Earth in 1977 and were sent to explore our own solar system, are entering interstellar space. Soon, the two probes will finally lose contact with Earth, but that’s not until us earthlings have their last word (in a certain number of characters of course).

This post will hopefully inspire teachers and children to get involved with this, as well as sharing possible lesson ideas and questions to ask in class. I really hope it’s helpful.


Here’s a short video describing some of Voyager’s incredible history and findings so far.

Currently, both Voyager probes are speeding towards interstellar space with one job left – to take a message from humanity as far into space as they can in the hope of encountering intelligent life.

Artist’s concept depicts NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft entering interstellar space, or the space between stars. Interstellar space is dominated by the plasma, or ionized gas, that was ejected by the death of nearby giant stars millions of years ago. The environment inside our solar bubble is dominated by the plasma exhausted by our sun, known as the solar wind. The interstellar plasma is shown with an orange glow similar to the color seen in visible-light images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope that show stars in the Orion nebula traveling through interstellar space. Image released Sept. 12, 2013. CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Each probe carries an identical golden record, which contains music, sounds, greetings and pictures that were gathered in the 1970s. Their aim: to share a small piece of information with extra-terrestrial life.

What scientists are now saying, is because life on Earth has changed dramatically since 1977, we should really think about updating Voyager’s information, just incase we do come across alien life.

Questions for your class (1): 

How has it changed?

What important discoveries have we made in this time? What inventions or things do we now have, that we didn’t then? 

Because of the changes and advances humankind has made, scientists want to update the Voyager spacecrafts with a message, informing them on our new time and changed earth.

Similar to an old LP (vinyl) that your parents and grandparents would have used to listen to music on

Photograph: Time Life Pictures/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

Photograph: Time Life Pictures/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

Questions for your class (2):
Do you agree? 

Will a snapshot of our planet be able to be understood by other ‘intelligent life’? 

Who should send the message? 

Who should write it?

Some people however, believe that the probes should be uninterrupted as they’re time-capsules.

Do you agree? Seeing as they are the furthest man-made objects to reach interstellar space, should we not take advantage of this final opportunity to send a final message?

Losing Contact

In the mid-2020s, Voyager 1 and 2 will run out of power entirely and therefore be unable to transmit any messages back to earth, or perform any other tasks NASA ask it.

They now aim to send a message of 1000 characters (which is the length of about 7 tweets of 140 characters).

Prof Riley says: “Before the Voyagers power down, why not add one final message from planet Earth, as a digital postscript to these most remarkable time capsules of humanity?”

Prof Riley says: “There’s really no reason why a message can’t be written by an impartial representative from the human race, so we’re inviting suggestions from anyone who would like to contribute a thought.” (c) Sky News 2015

Here’s the website where you can submit a Facebook message of your own 1000 characters, as well as read other people’s messages. Voyager’s Final Message 

Facebook access for primary children will be a problem, so I thought it would be ideal if I set up a Padlet for this, so that teachers and children can share their own message that they’d like to send to Voyager. Here’s the link: http://padlet.com/mrcotter/6a19gor31232

What's Your Message?

What’s Your Message?

Please, please share as widely as you’d like, and I will definitely be sharing with my great contacts on Twitter and Facebook. Who knows, maybe one of or some of, our messages will make it to interstellar space. Godspeed…

Lesson ideas:

– Ask the children to write their own message to Voyager, for potential extra-terrestrial life.

– Ask them to compose a tweet of 140 characters instead of 1000. Your teacher can share it for you.

– Maybe combine 7 chosen messages to create 1 longer message from the class or even school.

-As a class, list the important things to have within the message, before creating the overall text.

– Possibly imagine what a response to this would be, using some of the carefully selected Facebook messages from earthlings.

– What will they see themselves doing in the mid-2020s.

– Write a journal/diary entry or blog post, from the perspective of the probe, on what you have seen and your final words before leaving the boundaries of our own solar system.

– Write a postcard from space (KS1/KS2), adding images and pictures from what you have seen so far.

– Create a fact file/information text on each planet you’ve passed as Voyager.

– Write a balanced argument on whether or not we should update Voyager’s message for potential aliens.

– Generate a comic-strip retelling using Comic Life of Voyager’s journey so far.

– Make Voyager out of Lego, photograph it and give the detail of each important part on the probe. How does this differ to our more recent probes sent in to Space.

– Create your own playlist for extra-terrestrial life. Using Spotify or iTunes, generate your own playlist for what you would send to Voyager that encompasses the wide variety of genres in today’s music. See the SoundCloud link below, where you can now actually listen to the sounds/music on Voyager.

Here’s a quick doc I created on Google Docs for you to download, share or adapt:

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 16.09.38


Voyager Message 1000

Useful Websites/Links:

Space.com’s website on Voyager: http://m.space.com/22729-voyager-1-spacecraft-interstellar-space.html

Nasa’s Website on Voyager’s Mission: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov

Nasa’s Job Advertisement for old coding using Fortran: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/10/31/brush_up_on_your_fortran/

The Sounds of Earth that are on-board Voyager (Soundcloud link): https://soundcloud.com/nasa/sets/golden-record-sounds-of

Sounds of the Earth on Soundcloud from 1977

Sounds of the Earth on Soundcloud from 1977

360° Virtual Reality Video for the Classroom

As a teacher who’s keen on using film footage in class, you can imagine my excitement when I first came across 360° video. It was this film that recently caught my attention that made me realise how engaging it could be in the classroom.

*For full impact and effect, before clicking you need to view this blog on Google Chrome or on a current Android OS for full effect of 360 video – see below for details.

What such footage does is place the viewer in a virtual reality environment giving them control on where to look, immersing them in a virtual, three-dimensional world – a superb stimulus for the classroom, don’t you think?

How to Use:

First of all, to be able to move and manipulate the camera angle, you need to be using a recent version of Google Chrome as a browser for a desktop or laptop. This is easy to download and free too.


A 360-degree camera

For mobile technology and tablets, currently only recent versions of Android are able to view the 360 video. Using the gyro-axis on a phones and tablets, will enable to user to turn the device, in-turn changing the aspect within the video. I’m positive this will soon change though, with operating systems such as IOS allowing for users to access this. Stay tuned!

My initial thoughts were that such footage could be really useful in class. Especially seeing the impact first-person GoPro footage had upon writing with my year fives on particular writing projects last year. Fortunately, this technology is becoming more and more popular and accessible to people.

With YouTube now allowing 4K content to be accessed, 360 degree video and 3D video, there can only be a wealth of these types of video to come in the near future.

It is important to add that some of the footage available differs in quality; some being in HD (or less) and some in 4K (which is a recent 4 x HD standard), now available on YouTube.

What I’ve done is handpick some true 360 footage and embed them below for you to try. What do you think?

Google Cardboard

At the start of the year, Lee Parkinson blogged about the use of Google Cardboard (Virtual Reality Headsets) – see here for its impact with particular apps Lee used in class. In my opinion, these headsets would work brilliantly with 360 video too – you can buy them here – and seeing as though maxresdefault (1)more and more 360 video is available, I can see these becoming more popular, especially when Apple upgrades its IOS. For now, most of us will have to make-do with using Chrome on desktops and laptops, however, I think you’ll agree the possibilities for this are rather exciting to say the least.

I’d really appreciate it if you could all add your own ideas and suggestions for how we could use such footage in class. Using this Padlet link, please add any ideas you have or footage you manage to find. Do forgive me, as I’ve painstakingly tried and tried to embed Padlet in WordPress to no avail.

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 14.05.45

What does this mean for the future of film-making? 360 degree movies using tripods? One can only imagine…

Other Useful Links & Important Information:

Gizmodo article on YouTube 360 video: http://gizmodo.com/youtubes-ready-to-blow-your-mind-with-360-degree-videos-1690989402

Advice on uploading and viewing some 360 content: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6178631?hl=en-GB

Watch 360-Degree Footage with Google Cardboard: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6239930?hl=en-GB

A website with an abundance of 360 video footage: http://video.360heros.com/

360-degree footage of cities and places around the world: http://www.airpano.com/360-videos.php

Article on YouTube now supporting 360 video: http://www.theverge.com/2015/3/13/8203173/youtube-now-supports-360-degree-videos

I will continue to add further video and ideas after our new baby has arrived and I have more time. Enjoy and thanks for reading – hope it’s useful!

Mr C

Using ‘Score! Hero’ in the Classroom

I recently came across this App called ‘Score! Hero’ on the AppStore. It’s currently featured by Apple and free to download at the moment. It has been created by the same team who made Score: World Goals and Dream League Soccer. Check it out, here.

In this particular game, YOU are the player, journeying through your career right from the early stages in your footballing life.

Start right from the trials, aiming to impress the scouts and possible future managers. And, if you’re successful, get signed up on a contract.


In play, you are rated by the commentator on screen for how well you’ve taken a goal, made a pass or a move. This vocabulary could possibly be put into a news-report or diary entry from the player’s perspective. A possible suggestion is, in pairs, one child could be the reporter/commentator and take notes on their partner’s performance – this can be reviewed and analysed later.

Users can create their own player, just like FIFA or PES. This could be an opportunity to create the player bio and description.

As you are probably aware, football games and apps are incredibly popular. What I like about this one is its potential use in class, placing the user in the first person, immediately engaging the player.

Possible Uses in Class:

– Produce a diary entry for one of your stages/matches. (Each stage is fairly short at the start, becoming more complex and longer the further you progress. This would be more appropriate in class, as time is vital.)

– Conduct an interview of with the player using Cover-it-Live, a live blogging website where You can virtually hot seat characters/people etc. Here’s an example of how I’ve used it before in class:

Interview with Ariadne

…and here’s some of my class’s writing based on our interview with Ariadne from Theseus and the Minotaur on Pobble:

Ariadne Blogs on Pobble

– Use a green screen to conduct a post-match interview. I’ve always used Doink’s Green Screen App as it’s easy to use and you can adjust background colours so they don’t just have to be green either. You could also do a Carragher and Neville Sky Sports style analysis before and after the game. 

– Based on this headline, children could produce the orientation and following article. Alternatively, learners could generate their own headline and byline too.

– Generate vocabulary in-game. Depending on how you’ve controlled the ball, delivered a through-ball or finished off a series of combination passes, adverbs, verbs and adjectives can be generated which can be included in their future writing.

– Create a back-story for yourself/your character. What’s your situation? How did you make it? What’s your player’s life like, or what was it like, before the trials?

– Write about the emotions and feelings at a key play or point in the game. You could use Disney Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ characters as a prompt here.

 – As suggested in Lee Parkinson’s ebook, you could create a Roy of the Rovers style comic, but using a key moment in ‘Score! Hero’ to write the remaining story. In Lee’s 15 iPad Lessons for the World Cup, he suggests using Comic Life – a great app that is really worth having.

– Accompany the game with sound effects from an actual football game, adding to the suspense and atmosphere in the classroom. Of course, I’d suggest using Celtic Park on a Champions League night. Particularly, this memorable game versus Barcelona.

Finally, ensure you model to the children how you want them to use the app as part of the writing process. I can guarantee they’ll love it!

Thanks for reading. Now, where’s my football and that old game of Sensible Soccer?

Beowulf, Lego & Dark Echo

A couple of months ago, I came across an app called Dark Echo on the Apple Appstore. In this post, I want to share some of the processes towards generating descriptive writing, using Beowulf, Lego and the game, ‘Dark Echo’.  First of all, here’s the trailer for it, as well as a short demonstration so you understand what it’s like in-game. Be warned though! It’s rather creepy in parts.

Game Trailer: 

Level Walkthrough Examples: 

‘Trapped in darkness, you must use sound to guide your way through threatening environments. The sounds you create will bounce off obstacles, revealing the shape of the surrounding world. It won’t be long before your only way of sensing the world attracts a horrifying evil that devours both sound and souls.’

‘Survive through 80 levels that will make your heart race and leave you with an irrational fear of red lines. A foreboding soundscape, best experienced with headphones, sets the tone for your journey. Explore, solve puzzles, and most importantly – stay alive.’ morpurgo-_beowulf

Let me explain where I started with all this, and I will come back to Dark Echo in a moment… At the time, I was teaching my class about the Anglo-Saxons and introduced them to the poem ‘Beowulf’. For our class read, I ordered Michael Morpurgo’s version, which they were completely transfixed by — especially part one: the story of Grendel and Beowulf. After seeing Mat Sullivan’s excellent resource of using Lego for developing locational writing and pathetic fallacy, I decided to concentrate on using an emphasis on colour for conveying emotions, such as they do in Disney and Pixar. (Ironically, the class loved discussing this!) I began by asking the class to list down some emotions, based on such colours from some film stills, later adding to their word banks and word books.  Pathetic fallacy – what is it?

Pathetic fallacy is an effective technique used to make locations in writing come alive, and it’s a lot simpler to do than it sounds! Mat Sullivan (@inspiredmind5)

He’s right — it really is, and it’s such an effective technique which I love using in story writing, poetry, generating suspense and in this case, descriptive writing.

Download Mat’s ‘Developing High-Level Writing Skills’ here: http://www.inspiredminds.eu/uploads/2/3/1/4/23145120/pathetic_fallacy_guide.pdf

Through the use of Lego, Mat took this a step further. Not only have you got the hook straight away, but a perfect opportunity to stimulate rich vocabulary, characters and settings. Here’s an example of one of his scenes from last year.    Importantly, at the start of year five, my class weren’t that familiar with making a location a character, and, like the character in a story, you’d expect it to develop, as well as react and respond to surrounding influences.  Another thing they struggled with was the appropriate choice of vocabulary. Still, I ensure this is a key part of most lessons and registration time when they arrive (or have time). Using this approach, we turned our concentration towards our own Beowulf model – a dramatic scene that portrays the moment that Beowulf walks into Heorot to find the aftermath of Grendal’s complete obliteration of the Great Mead Hall.

I showed them this:    We focused upon the colours, grey, brown and red, generating adjectives that we then used thesauruses and online thesauruses to improve, but ensuring they were appropriate and, well, worked. As a shared write, they came up with this with some help from me:       You can see some of their writing here, on LendMeYourLiteracy and on our class blog.

How we used the app ‘Dark Echo’:

Just by chance, I came across this app and was hooked straight away. It’s original and fairly simple too. Through the use of certain senses, you must find your way out of each chamber-like room. Only by changes in sound and colour, can you figure out what the terrain is like or what may be lurking around the corner. Perfect for developing tension in writing.  My class loved it and were totally engrossed. Naturally, because of our links to colour from Mat’s Lego prompts, the pupils knew we needed to generate some effective vocabulary. This time though, I wanted to create some tension and onset dilemma in their writing. Be warned though – DE is rather scary the further you progress, so choose the scenes carefully if using in class.

Some suggestions: 

– Ask the learners to close their eyes and listen. What can they hear? Where are they?

– Concentrate on the colours red, black, white and blue. Generate adjectives for emotions, or maybe nouns that link to these, but this time, instead of using these for pathetic fallacy and personification, you could apply to the character’s feelings and emotions.

For example:

RED –  horrified, fearful, agitated, nervous, intimidated, frantic, petrified…

BLACK – lonely, isolated, abandoned, alone, deserted, entrapped…

For the colour WHITE, you could put emphasis on verbs; actions that the character or person is doing in this place, as mirrored when dragging your finger, leading you out of danger and hopefully into safety.

Jasmine’s first draft:   I gave this group some choice exciting sentences and they really tried hard. One of their aims was to vary sentence openers and they are also practising maintaining ‘tense’ – something they often find hard to do.

– As they are playing the game, pause and write down how they feel at particular moments 😮 – Use thesauruses to improve word choice. 📒

– Create an internal monologue of the character. 👤

– From a chosen scene, create a narrative for what happens next📝

– Use Comic Life to organise screen shots for remembering story sequence📲

– Create a recount of the ordeal😱

– Make a film trailer for their story based on their Dark Echo experience📺

– Create an emotions graph📈

– Sequence the ordeal by freeze-framing 🎢

I hope you’ve found some of what I’ve used in class useful and interesting.

Thanks to some fantastic resources from Mat @Inspiredmind5 and @alanpeat.

Enjoy, but remember… watch out for those red lines. 👀

Download the game here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/dark-echo/id951177560?mt=8

Download Mat’s Lego Locational Writing PDF here: http://www.inspiredminds.eu/uploads/2/3/1/4/23145120/pathetic_fallacy_guide.pdf

Using Question of Sport’s ‘What Happens Next?’ as a Writing Stimulus

I have fond memories of watching quiz shows growing up. In particular, BBC’s Question of Sport. Recently, I wondered about the possible use of the ‘what happens next’ game as a writing stimulus in the classroom, and wanted to share some potential ideas with you.

In case you haven’t seen QoS before, here’s an excerpt from the show, airing a snippet from a game involving Exeter City.

As a part of the programme, contestants in the game are given options to what they believe happens next based on selected sport footage. As you can see from watching the conclusion to the question, Jamie Mackay scores but the ball sneaks through the net and has to be finished off by Adam Stansfield (RIP). Somewhat unpredictable I know, but engaging and it will hook the learners.

There are so many other videos available online and they don’t have to feature short snippets of edited footage like this one below.

In this video, ten questions are presented requiring an answer for each, which are great fun and thoroughly entertaining. (Please be careful though, as this particular video shows Cantona’s famous stamp on a fan in the crowd.)

I believe such footage is an excellent hook and could possibly be used in many ways to engage writers, generating discussion and stimulating possible ideas and imagination.

1) You could ask the children to discuss in teams what they believe happens next.

2) Share their ideas from one (or more) excerpts from what they think may follow.

3) Finally, show the class what happens. Were they close? Was anyone right?

You could do this with any video, pausing at the moment before and allowing the learners to delve into their imagination. It’s always incredible what they come up with!

Gathered suggestions may resemble the following:

‘The player takes on the keeper, chips it towards the goal but misses an open net!’

– Firstly, to extend this, you could create a narrative from the first or third person. Using carefully chosen Alan Peat sentences (such as ‘3 Bad – (Dash) question’, ‘3ed’ and ‘_ing, _ed’, emotion word (comma) etc.), invite the children to extend their original idea. A superb writing opportunity.

– A brilliant way of organising this, is to use Mat Sullivan’s (@InspiredMind5) comic planner approach. Using screenshots from the clip, which can be placed on the template, ask the children to produce a Roy of the Rovers style comic, using speech, internal monologue and detail to continue their story. In my opinion, Comic Life is the best software (currently) for producing this digitally, allowing users to add speech, thoughts, captions, onomatopoeia and narrative; even their own photographs to create a dramatisation/reenactment of what will happen.


Children could also write from the perspective of the opposition, instead of the sports person in question. It could even from the viewpoint of a fan! In addition, I’ve blogged before about writing from the perspective of an inanimate object before. This could be a goal post, the ball, the stadium or the floodlights…

– Also, learners could recount the event, either in the form of a diary, blog or newspaper or online article. Lee Parkinson (@ICT_MrP) has some good ideas on his blog http://mrparkinsonict.blogspot.co.uk and in his ebook https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/15-ipad-lessons-for-world/id880547720?mt=11 about the use of iMovie and Morfo to create commentary.

– Pupils could use Explain Everything to analyse what happened. It could even be used by the children to note and discuss what they believe could have happened next. This would be great fun! And remember, it doesn’t even have to be sport – plenty of short films and animations can be used too.

– Finally, I leave you with a great video from The Masters at the weekend. Jordan Spieth, the outright winner and only 21, is stuck behind a tree on the 14th at Augusta and is up against it, with an object right in his line. I wonder what he was thinking? I don’t think anyone could have guessed what was about to happen next – I certainly couldn’t!

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 21.55.52

Jordan Spieth at The Masters, Augusta, 2015

This is one short video that I’ve found but it is important to add that the app Vine is a superb tool for accessing footage online. This app shows six second footage and great for pausing at any chosen moment, just by tapping the screen. Video is looped continuously but the material available online is huge! You just have to choose carefully.

I hope some of these ideas are useful and if you have any suggestions, please share them!

Using GoPro First-Person Footage as a Writing Stimulus

I’ve been thinking and writing about Go-Pro cameras for a while now and wanted to share some ideas on here; even if just to make you aware how useful certain footage could be to stimulate quality writing, as I see real potential in them.

What is Go-Pro?

Firstly, Go-Pro is a type of camera that fits to a helmet or part of the body, to give the user the ability to record video footage from a ‘first-person viewpoint’.

Within extreme sports, such as surfing, sky-diving and other adrenaline sports, these cameras are widely used and can be so impressive and fascinating to watch.

Here’s a first-person video of Kelly McGarry’s (a daredevil mountain-biker) backflip over a cavernous 72-foot wide canyon.

Daredevil Mountainbiker:

Writing Ideas:

– Write a narrative/story of the daredevil ride.

– Write a recount or blog of the ride, with you as Kelly McGarry from before the event and after. 

– Create a news report as a sports journalist who was there on the day. 

– Using Lee Parkinson’s 15 Lessons for the World Cup e-book ideas, which you can buy here, you could record a pre-race commentary using Explain Everything – an app that Lee suggests in his book. I absolutely love this and used it recently in history, teaching about Anglo-Saxon settlements – see Lee’s great blog on its use on marking here

– You could generate vocabulary linked to the person or even location. See my previous post on using vocabulary art for this approach. 

– Write a description of the location, focusing on pathetic fallacy, a type of personification I’ve learned from Mat Sullivan and Alan Peat, where nature is given a ‘human form’.

What About Other Footage I Could Use in Class? 

There’s so much about! I recently shared Huffington’s Top 26 videos on my digital magazine, ‘Moving Writing’ on Flipboard which is here: https://flipboard.com/section/moving-writing-through-sport-bQJVGH

Huffington Post’s Top 26 Go-Pro First Person Videos: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/12/15/best-gopro-videos-2014_n_6327672.html

There are some great first person shots and not all are sport related either, such as this Lego man from Canada (my birth country), who travelled all the way to space. Children will love this!

Lego Man Enters Space:

Writing Ideas: 

– Children could write about their incredible day from the perspective of the Lego man. 

– Using Mat Sullivan’s comic planner, writers could sequence the events, adding internal monologue and dialogue to the story. 

– Twist the end. What happened after? Pause the video and get the children to come up with an alternate ending, possibly starting an intriguing new story! Again, the use of a comic planner here could be vital! Make the moment at the end of this video the start, using an ‘in media res’ opening. 

Or what about this guy jet-skiing through a canyon? Looks like great fun! Reminds me of the pod race in Star Wars: Phantom Menace.

Jet Skiing Through a Revine:

The Telegraph’s top 10 from last year is excellent as well, which you can view here.

One of my favourites is this: a Go-Pro camera attached to an eagle.

Writing Ideas: 

– Allow the children to comment over the footage in the style of David Attenborough. They could use Explain Everything or iMovie to create their documentary on an eagle or other animal. 

– Create some descriptive writing, focusing on the senses, with writers listing things they can hear, see and feel based on the video, with them as the eagle itself soaring above this beautiful Alpine landscape. 

Imagine the engagement and potential writing you could obtain from this.

What if an eagle was to soar through a city…

This could also generate an interesting debate and discussion, as the aim of the above has been to increase people’s awareness (in cities such as London) of the threats to endangered species like the Imperial Eagle seen in the video above.

Please have a look online and feel free to ask me on Twitter for any suitable ideas or links you might need @johndcotter.

My advice is have a look and see what you can find, but also, be mindful of some of the content and language used in some of the videos, as some of it is rather ‘extreme’.

Thanks for reading – I promise to update this with further videos and links I’m allowed to and will always credit the author, creator or person with the original idea. Cheers.

Writing Ideas based on World War One’s ‘Christmas Truce’

This year is the 100th anniversary of the 1914 Christmas Truce that took place during WWI, between British and German troops in No-Man’s Land. In the spirit of Christmas, soldiers from both sides put down their weapons and played football, as well as singing carols and giving each other gifts.

The retelling of the evocative story has been beautifully done through an advert by Sainsbury’s and the British Legion, gaining a lot of attention, and rightfully so.

As soon as I saw it, I wanted to use it in class as a stimulus for writing. Below, are some ideas that I hope are useful and I know I will be trying out myself.

The making of:

The Sainsbury’s advert itself:

1.) Show the video through once for the children to enjoy and discuss. How must the soldiers have felt? What was going through their minds? How would they feel?

2.) Re-run and at 0.22 seconds, pause the video where a depiction of No-Man’s Land is clearly seen in the night sky. Using a screen shot such as the one below, I’d have images of this as stills for children to see at their tables as well as on the IWB. What is No-Man’s Land? Why was it called this?

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 21.34.02

Next, ask the children to describe the scene.

Recently, I have been trialling a great site called Padlet where images, video and text can be added with ease to a digital noticeboard, that others can add to and share collaboratively.

See the shared ideas on my Padlet wall for No-Man’s Land so far, here. Please feel free to add yourself too! (More to be added soon.)

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 22.19.58

From these prompts, children could also generate descriptive and multi-sensory locational writing.

– One approach that I find effective, is by asking the children to first of all list the nouns seen, heard and sensed or even imagined by immersing them in the surroundings and imagining themselves there, in the trenches.

– Ask the writers to then independently and collaboratively generate verbs (actions) of what these nouns are actually doing, later building on these as a basis for generating personification or pathetic fallacy: a term I came across through Mat Sullivan (@inspiredmind5) and use regularly whenever I teach descriptive writing.

E.g.  Nouns: wind, snow, sleet, gales…

         Verbs: piercing, falling, blowing…

– Following this, I’d recommend getting the children to think of some human actions the nouns could be doing. Such as, screaming, whispering, howling, staring etc.

– A simple, yet rather effective technique for stimulating descriptive language and personification, is using ‘The Personification’ – a term used and suggested by Alan Peat.

– You can see here on Lend Me Your Literacy where we used it for describing the Dreadful Menace in the BBC’s Winter Olympics advert. Over 1550 views in a year!

– Children, especially the less confident, find this really accessible and fun too!

The wind screamed…

or, get the children to swap the verb and nouns around, playing with words.

The screaming wind whistled through our trench…

Verb opener:

Screaming, the whistling wind… 

…and so on. See the Padlet above for some ideas of personification and descriptive language.

3.) Another idea, as echoed on a few other blogs, is that children could write a diary entry of their Christmas Day playing football with fellow allies against German soldiers. They could be allowed to choose which perspective to write from – the British or German soldier’s viewpoint.

– A great video prompt by the British Council, as part of their educational material linked to the Christmas Truce is superb. Unfortunately, this video cannot be embedded but the site is FULL of lesson ideas and useful resources about World War One.

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– This video makes you aware of the various nationalities fighting the war and how perceptions of events differ.

Here are some more links to useful resources by the British Council, based on the 100 year anniversary and Christmas Truce.


4.) Be the Ball!

– In year five this term, we wrote from the perspective of an inanimate object which the children loved and really enjoyed. See our Diary of a Paperclip model below which our children read and picked out features from. This was based on the Cinderella Blog from Alan Peat’s – 50 Ways to Retell a Story A fabulous text and teaching resource which I rely on regularly.

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– Recently, I came across this photograph from a newspaper’s blog: one of the actual balls used by British soldiers during the Battle of Loos in No-Man’s Land.

Incredible: This ball was kicked across No Man's Land by British soldiers under heavy machine-gun and mortar fire during the Battle of Loos in the First World War

Incredible: This ball was kicked across No Man’s Land by British soldiers under heavy machine-gun and mortar fire during the Battle of Loos in the First World War.

In 1915, while staring death in the face, British troops from the London Irish Rifles passed this ball between them as they courageously charged across No Man’s Land under heavy fire.

– You could ask the writers to pretend they were the ball owned by the army and kicked across No-Man’s Land, generating first person writing that encompasses the experience in the trenches. They could even record audio of their experiences, using an app such as BossJock, which I originally heard about off Lee Parkinson @ICT_MrP – this allows for various recordings that can be added to video and images with real ease. Here’s an example of how Mr Parkinson has used this in class – http://mrparkinsonict.blogspot.co.uk/2014_01_01_archive.html

– Bring the Christmas Truce football to life using the app Morfo. In class, we brought a mountain alive last year to develop our locational writing. For the football game in No-Man’s Land, learners could record their experiences as a football. It’s also a great tool as a hook within a lesson and would be great as an opener, with children seeing the ball come to life!

5.) Based on the letters and accounts from the British Council history collection, children could write a letter home following their experiences of the Christmas Truce.

– Below, a soldier wrote his own story of the football match between the German’s for a nurse, and speaks of the singing from both sides that day.

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6.) Interview a soldier Using Cover-it-Live

– Cover-it-Live is a live blogging tool which I use in class a lot. It gives children the opportunity to ask characters questions LIVE, giving them responses relating to their very own enquiries about the thoughts and feeling of the person, alive, or dead.

– For Ancient Greek mythology, we retold the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, as well as wrote a blog entry from the perspective of Ariande. To understand the story and character even further, we asked her some questions…

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Using the responses from myself as Ariadne as key information, both year five classes applied the gathered evidence to produce their Ariadne blog. Here’s Chelsea’s finished piece on our class blog site. http://cohort0910r.rlhughesblogs.co.uk

Monday, Day 1

Mood: Angry

What a terrible day! Angry, I’m so angry! How dare he?!

Sat here, so lonely, so warm and thirsting for water. I’ve got nothing to eat, nothing to drink. Not a thing. Well, at this rate, I’ll be eating sand and grass.

STUPID he is so STUPID! He made such a huge mistake. Firstly, Theseus, who is an idiotic moron, told me to collect fresh supplies, which means fruit and vegetables, for us both on the boat. And guess what? No, he didn’t want me to collect fruit from the trees, I fell for it. I fell for his horrible, evil plan to ditch me on an island. You know, I don’t even want to say his name. That idiot!

Tuesday, Day 2

Mood: Irate

Now I’m stood on this desolated, dreadful island in the middle of nowhere with basically NOTHING. If I didn’t help that pathetic loser, if he didn’t lie, then I wouldn’t be here in this mess! When will he learn how to treat a beautiful princess like me? Honestly, I’m telling you he WILL learn because I will get revenge and I will do something to make him doubt his existence. Or at least make him not want be alive. R.I.P Theseus. The more I starve, the more vengeful I will feel. So that means larger revenge. After all, he deserves revenge, doesn’t he?

Wednesday, Day 3

Mood: Vengeful

This is my third day on this prison of an island and I am feeling vengeful. I want no more of it! I am ready to get off this stupid island and I am ready to give Theseus a taste of my revenge. And let me tell you something, he won’t like it. My life could not get even worse right now, you know. As soon as I get off this island, I will set up a revenge plan… And that will be as soon as possible. Awful, this week so far has been awful!

Thursday, Day 4

Mood: Relieved

You’re probably wondering why I’m happy today, right? Well, I escaped the island today. Now that foolish person is going to, well you know. I don’t know how I am going to plan my revenge but trust me, I will.

There’s just one thing I don’t want anyone to know about. And that’s everything about Theseus. Nobody should know that I fell in love with him and that includes my father (King Minos of Crete) too. Why did I even fall in love with him? Now I know that he’s a pathetic moron, I won’t be making that mistake again!

By Chelsea

Thanks so much for reading. I hope you find some of the ideas useful, fun and effective.

Mr Cotter