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Bringing Texts to Life

Case Study
  • Authored by: Sue Watson
  • Status: Approved


What were your reasons for doing this type of development work?

Outdoor Learning is part of our School Development Plan this year, to use the outdoor learning environment to support classroom teaching.

Who might find this case study useful?

  • Teacher

Key points

Point 1

Drama and outdoor activity injects enthusiasm and purpose for writing into the class

Point 2

To provide a positive writing environment


What specific curriculum area, subject or aspect did you intend to have impact on?

  • English - writing

How did you intend to impact on pupil learning?

The main aim of the project was to improve writing across all levels, for children to be excited by writing and have a sense of achievement and pride in their writing.

I wanted to pull in reluctant writers, particularly boys. The genre of adventure would appeal to the boys but what would the impact be on girls?

What were your success criteria?

To move threshold 2c/2b writers to be secure 2b writers.


PLEASE NOTE this page has three tabs - click 'Next tab' below or use tabs above to see Teaching approaches and CPD approaches

What information or data did you use to measure progress towards your success criteria?

  • Observation outcomes
  • Periodic teacher assessment
  • Pupils' work

What did you do? What teaching approaches (pedagogy) did you use to achieve the intended impact?

  • Collaborative group work
  • Independent learning
  • Problem solving
  • Use of pupil talk for whole-class teaching

Describe the teaching approaches you used

I used ‘Five Fall Into Adventure’ as my text to support writing. We had already read ‘Five on a Treasure Island’ the first book in the series as a class text. This introduced the characters and the concept of mystery and adventure. Initially we focused on character descriptions in the text using illustrations to convey ideas. The break-in into the study at Kirrin Cottage generated huge discussion and great speaking and listening opportunities – working in groups, listening to the opinion of others. They key turning point was the mysterious disappearance of the characters George and Timmy and the appearance of a note. At that point a note dropped out of my book (part of the note was missing & the paper was aged & torn) “Oh you’ve dropped this, Miss,” said one of the girls. Very casually I asked her what it was. She read the note aloud and the excitement was overwhelming! The note was signed Georgina - a clue she was in trouble and a clue the class immediately recognised. Very quickly the children wanted to search for the missing parts of the note which I had planned to hide on the school field along with other clues. The next day the hunt was still on for the missing part as they “had to rescue George”. The children actually asked if they could check the field. Again casually I agreed as long as it didn’t take too long. Unknown to the children we had left the missing parts along with a dog lead, a jumper labelled with a ‘G; a torch, half a Mars Bar, dog treat bag, a key, a shovel and we buried a cash box with a notebook of secrets inside. As the children retrieved clues, they started to piece them back together to share ideas. This was all driven by the children’s determination to find George and Timmy. Despite the half term break the energy and enthusiasm continues and they continued to retrieve more clues daily (not planted by ourselves!) They have heard Timmy barking and George talking. They have found rabbit holes Timmy has dug out and gaps in hedges where characters have disappeared. The energy knows no limit at this point.

Before we embarked on this longer text, the children were used to reading picture books outside, recreating aspects of the text, drama etc. to ensure they were comfortable with the idea of living the text. It is important for you as the teacher to be comfortable with a range of short sharp drama activities that you can adapt to a longer text.

I read small sections, stopping at a key point. There was lots of pair talk about what was good and why, picking out key vocabulary, offering opportunities to write as a character with a partner in a group, and all the time reading, re-reading assessing and improving their work. We used tape recorders to allow them to hear how it sounded, to go back and and improve, to realise the impact of the the word on the reader. They wrote as the burglar at one point; they wrote newspaper articles.... a whole range of opportunities.

The Famous Five books by Enid Blyton are published by Hodder in hardback and paperback. But the actual book isn't important; it is the process involved - the process of engagement with an exciting adventure text through real experience. The choice of text must be based on personal choice and knowledge of pupils.

What did you do? What approaches to CPD and learning for adults were used?

  • Classroom enquiry
  • Modelling
  • Training

Describe the CPD approaches you used

Having been involved in raising boys' writing achievement, I wanted to try using a longer text towards the end of Y2, rather than a picture book. I had always used a Famous Five as a reading book within class and it had always been popular, so I decided to use this. I just used my imagination to make it come to life for the children. The Famous Five books are littered with opportunities. I have to select the books I use carefully because some are not appropriate for today, as they were written in the 1940s and 1950s. The books are excellent for the build-up of suspense.

Medway was involved in the Raising Boys' Achievement in Writing joint research project which reported in Sept 2004:


Medway has a focus on drama in its work to support literacy.

What CPD materials, research or expertise have you drawn on?

Who provided you with support?

  • Middle leader
  • Subject leader

How were you supported?

Both my TA and Deputy were key in the plan, immersing themselves in the ‘plot’, helping to plant clues and joining in with whole class excitement.


What has been the overall impact on pupil learning?

Across the class there has been 100% involvement in the text, the plot, the suspense. One boy with an IEP proudly said to me ‘ I am just including suspense in my story; the boat is about to shatter.’ This reflects the attitude and approach the children had to writing their own adventure stories.

The children became immersed in the style of writing and started to incorporate the language into their speech and writing. They became very comfortable with that genre of vocabulary, and realised how it was creating a mental picture that a simpler text didn't offer. They became confident to play with words and sentence structure and were able to amend their own work, adding adverbs and similes and were able to understand and use these terms

Thoughts you think are relevant to overall impact on learning

The children had a good understanding of story structure, character development and the majority were able to tackle this independently.

Quotes you think are relevant to overall impact on learning

"I’m going to have to liven up my reading of The Secret Seven, Annie is so full of The Famous Five and Searching for clues." – Parent.

Quantitative evidence of impact on pupil learning

  • Periodic teacher assessment
  • Test results

Qualitative evidence of impact on pupil learning

  • Observation outcomes
  • Pupils' work

Describe the evidence of impact on pupil learning

Adventure stories were well structured from L1 to L3. Levels 2 to 3 all had character descriptions, development of plot and a resolution. Based on end of year predictions only 1 out of 29 pupils had not progressed, with many moving up 2 sub levels on writing within this unit of work alone.

The girls tended to use the teacher's modelling to support their writing, whereas the boys tended to make braver word choices and more complex sentence structures.


What has been the impact on teaching?

I and my TA have enjoyed becoming part of the story and the pleasure the children have gained, we have also gained. Watching their enthusiasm when writing, their desire to share with us their ideas has given both of us a sense of achievement. Out Deputy Head is also pleased with the writing outcomes and firmly believes this has been achieved because of the impact of bringing the story to life.

It was satisfying to develop more and more opportunities as the text went on - I became more confident at stretching the boundaries for the children, seeing how far I could take them.

Evidence of impact on teaching

  • Teacher perceptions

Describe the evidence of impact on teaching

Raised expectations for lower achievers to include more complex ideas in their written work.

What has been the impact on school organisation and leadership?

Not applicable to this case study.

Evidence of impact on school organisation and leadership

Not applicable to this case study.


What is the crucial thing that made the difference?

Believing in the story as adults, being able to immerse ourselves in it.

Involvement and support of others around, eg TA and Deputy headteacher.

What key resources would people who want to learn from your experience need access to?

Access to an outdoor environment and an ability to work with and adapt whatever outdoor environment is available.

What CPD session and resources were particularly useful?

The access to drama strategies given through the Boys' Writing Project.

Support from the headteacher in allowing freedom to be creative.

If another individual or school was attempting to replicate this work, where would they start and what would the essential elements be?

  1. Find a quality text and locate opportunities within to use outdoor environment.
  2. If using Famous Five you need to create and build up suspense before starting the clue search. A range of writing activities which could be quite brief in conjunction with the use of drama and speaking and listening activities would create the necessary platform.

What further developments are you planning to do (or would you like to see others do)?

The approach is already being used in Year 3 with Philip Pullman’s ‘Clockwork’ and again with great success. So we will try different texts next year.

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