As teachers, children and parents are becoming more familiar with online learning and navigating a new “normal”- albeit temporarily- which includes different communication methods; collaborating online; more responsibility for getting themselves to lessons and completing work set online and independent learning without peer support.
In the meantime, I have been taking advantage of online lessons by taking some small group guided reading sessions. In school, Y6 have daily whole class guided reading sessions where we all study the same book and then children complete related tasks. However, with Google Meets, I can give my undivided attention to one group (without interruptions from other children in the class!) and the Google Classroom provides an additional platform for deep and detailed discussions on the book.
The books we read are pitched at slightly higher level than the children’s reading age and abilities. This allows them to enjoy the book but they still encounter some more ambitious vocabulary and writing style of excellent authors.
With my Monday guided reading group, we have been reading The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera. A stunning book with beautifully evocative descriptions of land and sea which tells the story of eight-year-old Kahu, a member of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, who fights to prove her love, her leadership, and her destiny as the legendary Whale rider in a patriarchal society.
Having read the first few chapters, I tasked the children with writing a similar opening description as they had read in the book. I was so impressed with the descriptions that were produced- absolutely breath-taking and which prove yet again that high quality texts can inspire, enhance and help boost children’s writing greatly. By copying the style of different authors that they are reading, children can begin to develop their own unique voice and style of writing.
Below are samples of some of the excellent writing children have been producing Masha’Allah. Please do take the time to enjoy them and well done to all of them!
Here is the original text:
In the old days, in the years that have gone before us, the land and sea felt a great emptiness, a yearning. The mountains were like a stairway to heaven, and the lush green rainforest was a rippling cloak of many colours. The sky was iridescent, swirling with the patterns of wind and clouds; sometimes it reflected the prisms of rainbow or southern aurora. The sea was ever-changing, shimmering and seamless to the sky. This was the well at the bottom of the world and when you looked into it you felt you could see to the end of forever.
Ihimaera, Witi. The Whale Rider. Penguin Random House New Zealand. Kindle Edition.
In the years that have passed, long ago, there was a yearning. A melancholy emptiness, a desolate vacancy. The silver mountains and white snow, like swirling stepping stones up to heaven. The luscious green rainforest, a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours. The shimmering sky, with clouds of cotton gliding with the help of the whirling wind. The sea, a vast mirror, glittering and shimmering in the light. Ripples of blue, and golden sand could be seen through the crystalline water. It was a deep blue expanse, attracting all eyes into its depths. Its royal blue majesty was captivating. The body of water breathed, its surface rising up and drifting back down with rhythmic ease. Waves of crystal azure crept up the shore before running away, and this natural process was a relaxation, a passage in which one escapes the worries and anxieties of this mortal world. If it is looked at deep enough, one can almost see to the depths of another world.
As I trek through the isolated island jungle, the piercing howl of the howler monkey sailed into my ear. High above, clouds like cotton candy float across the blue sky. Under the shining sun the mysterious, vast sea surrounds the island, whipping the shores repeatedly while limpets hang on for dear life and crabs claw dance on the steaming sand. Beyond the boundaries of the lustrous grains of gold, green-clad figures tower up high, providing homes for animals, insects and birds alike. Deeper in the jungle, grass, as sharp as knives, blanket the floor, while leopards stealthily creep over them. The regular silence is only broken by the seldom whisper of the weaving wind. Near the heart of the islet, melancholy and drooping, cloaked figures bow to each other like people at a funeral. In the heart of this humid vegetation, a waterfall gushes down, making a scintillating pool on the base…
In the old days, in the years that have gone before us, sea, a vast reflection of the sky, felt an unusual feeling. It was a deep emptiness, as if a black whole had opened in the middle of it. A yearning. And as she gazed at the swirling mountains, at its chalk-white tops of blank snow, she knew. She knew what was missing. Sky glanced down at sea, and sighed at her iridescent beauty, her shimmering gown of glittering sequins, and shifted so the beauty oscillated a little. Below the sky was a luscious, verdant rainforest of a rich malachite. The sky was quilted with white cotton. The sea was a deep chasm to the bottom of the world; and if you stare into the abyss the abyss stares into you…
In the ancient years, the land and sea had always felt desolate and eerie, magnificent though they were, they created an atmosphere of blankness. The towering mountains spiralled upwards infinitely, blurring at their pinnacles, while the forest appeared alive and vivid, healthy and bursting with colours. A congregation of snow, white clouds lit up the blue and drifted lazily around in the ultramarine sky, shaped by the wind. Waves of transparent water wrapped around the edge of land. The mighty ocean glinted in the sunlight as the striking, varicoloured reef beneath the waves, illuminated unworldly in the crystal clear water.
The world, a beautiful, majestic sphere of lush, leafy green trees and the calm, blue well that was the ocean had no end and stretched to the end of the horizon. The sky was the container that held the earth and on it was illuminating patterns of clouds and the wind. The tall snow-capped mountains were a beauty on the horizon. The viridian green rainforest was teeming with life and all of the animals lived in total peace. The ocean was a dark ,deep and blue menace to some, but life-giving to most. The earth was a place of total harmony, until a creature named human arrived.