Authors Live - More Than Just an Event

Primary school teacher Linda Murray shares her secrets for making Authors Live a school-wide event.

Life after an Authors Live event

Well, just where did we go after the fun and excitement of the Authors Live: Roald Dahl Day Celebration event on 13 September? 

We continued to work through our BFG topic, finding new and exciting things to do or discuss along the way. Here are some of the activities we did:

- made dream jars
- wrote dreams in BFG-speak
- made our own giant characters
- wrote stories using story sticks to help us develop our ideas
- wove our own dreams in textiles
- wore ears and travelled through the school to find the P2s to show them off and chat again about giants
- made the most fantastic caves for a homelearning task
- grew snozzcumbers
- wrote letters to the Queen asking her how she felt about being included in the novel

As well as these activities we watched The BFG film, had a special Roald Dahl yellow lunch and held a birthday party for the BFG. Let me explain a little more:

Comparing and contrasting the film with the book

Watching the DVD of The BFG over the course of a few Fridays (we had to ‘earn’ the time) brought another level to our discussions of the work.  The children began to appreciate that events in the film and the novel were not always the same.  Why not?  Lots of critical literacy discussion ensued as the children tried to express their understanding of how written text could be translated into film.  We added in listening to extracts from an abridged version of the novel on CD.  Again, this gave rise for discussion as we considered how the action was moved along without the descriptive narrative of the full novel.  Food for thought.

“Snack writing”

We have almost daily sessions of ‘snack writing’ (the idea for this was shared by another colleague) where children are given five minutes to write whatever they like in their jotters: it’s not often we can give them the opportunity for this style of ‘free writing’.  I provide a sentence starter or picture/subject prompt for those who wish to make use of them, but generally the children come up with their own ideas.  They know I read them all but they also know I will not correct them – this removes any obstacles or barriers and worries over ‘making a mistake’.  Some find this really hard to begin with but with a topic like the BFG it didn’t take long for most children to use him or other giants in their writing, creating very imaginative tales unprompted by me.   

A Roald Dahl yellow lunch!

Each term our dinner ladies design a themed lunch as part of their drive to encourage children to take up school dinner options.  They chose to have a yellow lunch for Dahl.  We sent out competition sheets to design the lunch and were overwhelmed with the responses received across the whole school.  Some children had really gone to town with Dahl language in their menus whilst others took the yellow theme more literally.  School lunches were very busy that day and other teachers encouraged their children to wear yellow, made hats or used this as an opportunity to discuss Roald Dahl with their class.  One Primary 1 boy stopped me to tell me he knew why I was wearing yellow and proceeded to impart lots of information gained from his teacher that morning.  His teacher told me later that she had realised when talking to them that the P1s would more than likely enjoy listening to a Dahl story and was planning on doing so at her earliest opportunity.

BFG birthday party

We held a birthday party for the BFG which became a ‘wrap’ party as it was the final chapter in our very busy topic.  Parents, grandparents and younger siblings came to the party.  The children had written the invites, planned the activities, made the jelly and decorated the birthday cake.  The BFG wrote to apologise for his non-attendance: he explained he had been called away to Africa to pass on dreams there.  Later the children wrote to tell him how the party had gone. The party had close to 80 people attending.  Party clothes, the colour yellow or favourite character dress up costumes made up the dress code.  One grandmother told me at the end that she had never read The BFG but following all our work and her granddaughter’s enthusiasm she was going to sit down and read the novel.  It’s never too young…

Authors Live in the home

During parents’ evening close to the end of our topic, almost every parent mentioned how much their child had enjoyed the BFG as a topic and many described how their whole family had become involved either rereading the novel, watching the film or becoming wrapped up in our homelearning activities.  I was able to mention the balloons and Authors Live to remind them they could use this resource at home.

In the last week of our topic we were very focussed on finding out what happens at the end.  Lots of the children had bought The BFG to read at home and some were bringing this in to read along with me.  For the last couple of chapters 30 children were huddled around perhaps 6 copies of the novel!  We collected up all the copies in the school for the final reading session and all the children were able to have a book to themselves or a share with one other child.  What a satisfying sound to hear the pages of all 20-odd copies turn at the same time with children riveted to the text.  Fingers followed the words, children failing to keep up were chivvied by their classmates and all was silent as we approached the closing paragraphs.  As the last line was read out, the spontaneous, collective sigh of satisfaction on a job well done could not have been fabricated.  It was actually quite emotional!

In her next and final blog entry, Linda will tell us a little about how getting involved with Authors Live has led to further involvement in Scottish Book Trust programmes.

Linda Murray

Linda Murray is a teacher at St. Peter’s Primary School in Galashiels. Her fantastic work with the Roald Dahl Authors Live event was part of Scottish Book Trust’s Teacher Ambassador programme.