Monthly Archives: January 2016

Learning about characteristics through games

MB Games / Hasbro  watch this space… I seem to have two little game entrepreneurs on my hands!  Last week we started to look closely at the characters in Star Wars and Thomas The Tank Engine (TTTE) in order to widen vocabulary and think about characteristics alongside features.  It has proven to be a really worthwhile activity, and much more fun than simply writing about characters on a book review sheet.  Although, if you do decide to give this activity a go, be warned – it is long!

The boys have decided to make my life slightly trickier by insisting on these two topics, and so the Guess Who activity has been a brilliant way to merge the two, creating the same outcome, yet working t totally different levels.  I’m not a huge TTTE fan and was rather surprised to find a whole website dedicated to outlining each character. Apparently Thomas has a lot more friends than just Percy, Gordon and Edward.  You never do stop learning do you??!

We don’t do an awful lot of story writing and planning, so for this term I decided to make it a focus.  Our learning sequence is to first look at the characters, drawing them and recording characteristics.  I have scribed for L and C has made notes alongside his game making.  Next we will look at settings, describing the opening for the story which will then be made as a backdrop to a short stop animation film.  I am hoping that the animation will then lead into a short written story for C as he would like to enter the BBC’s 500 words competition.  Story writing is so much easier when there has been a practical hands on or play based experience to refer to.  In the same way, drawing pictures before writing provides the opportunity to rehearse ideas, get the sequence organised, before attempting to write the story in words.   This is interesting, as so often I have seen children told that they can draw only when they have finished the writing, despite an increasing understanding that if you can’t say it, you can’t write it.   The play and the drawing all help with this in a HE learning environment.

So this is how our game has developed.  Hopefully I have managed to give you an idea of all the learning that has come from such a simple activity.

First we planned how many characters to make and the boys removed that number of cards from the original game, making sure that they removed the same people.


C went on to measure the card as accurately as he could, applying his recent learning of decimals, while L measured by placing cards along a sheet of card to see how many we could cut from one large sheet:  Lots practical application of maths to start.  I must have been too involved at this stage as I didn’t take any photos!

The boys then set about drawing their chosen characters.  This of course involved a LOT of attention to detail from C, who spent hours on this!  He did also make notes for each one as he went along, discussing what he already knew about the characters and finding powerful descriptive words.

L and I also made notes as you can see below…


I think the longer C took, the more characters L was finding.  I had to ask him to stop in the end!

Some good problem solving next as C realised that in order to play it properly we actually needed 3 copies of each picture, so up to the photocopier we went…

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Where the little one had a little lesson in technology.  Children are so fascinated by photocopiers!




Finally, all the new cards were inserted and we are ready to play!


We are pleased to say it works!  You have probably realised by now that it actually doesn’t matter who you take out as it is best to play only with the new cards.  Otherwise it’s totally obvious when you’ve picked an original and your partner would win instantly!  The note taking came into play here as well, as the boys needed to ask searching questions about personality traits.

I’ve planned this in the past for Roald Dahl characters, and think it would work well for any set of books with strong characters.  I’d love to hear from anyone who’s given it a try!

We’re back…Happy new year!

Finally, we are back into some kind of routine and I have actually made a few attempts to write already this year but after a few false starts I realised it was too early. This is after all a learning blog so it would feel wrong to be writing about our christmas, the Lapland UK visit (amazing by the way!) which set our christmas off to a magical start, the 12 days of christmas nightime walk in the Forest of Dean, christmassy crafts or the boys’ presents.  There are plenty of Pinterest accounts and blogs to read about everyone’s perfect christmases!   I will quickly mention Boggle, great word game that suits all ages, L uses his sounds better in Boggle than any other game at the moment.  Great present!  And the IQ games:   Little brain teaser puzzles that some friends introduced us to.  Shortly before christmas C had been learning about direct and indirect speech and I managed to persuade him to practise this in his letter to FC with a “Mummy says that I would probably like….” type sentence.  Santa agreed with Mummy and conveniently dropped some off.  Perfect.

For the second year running we are really appreciating not having to get up in the dark, rush out in the cold, come home in the dark and most of all to be able to enjoy birthday and christmas presents as part of our learning time!  For the second year running I am asking myself how did I ever manage to get up and out every morning?  With proper clothes??  And make up???  I feel like it was a different person!

IMG_0045 Our new term officially started with a trip to Southampton City Art Gallery, where we took part in an engaging workshop, learning about some of the pieces and the stories behind them and then recreating a pixelated painting with collage.  C was so pleased with his he wanted to leave it there.  It is now proudly displayed in the Education room, although I think he secretly hoped it was going to go up in the gallery!  I really was proud of them here.  They showed that they really do know how to behave in galleries and museums and were very respectful, listening well and offering answers and ideas.  Again I reminded myself how lucky I was to be able to be there to see the learning taking place, chuckle at L and is funny contributions, and his seriousness, and admire that C didn’t put his hand up for a couple of questions as he thought they were “quite easy, and some of the younger children probably wanted to answer”.  How lovely.  He often shows such sensitivity towards others.  Maybe not his brother, but certainly other children!  The way that HE children mix really is remarkable:  Older ones looking out for younger, younger children not feeling intimidated by age, and of course ability never comes into it.  HE relationships are really quite special.


choosing materials
choosing materials




and the finished product
and the finished product

We bought C a watercolour set for christmas.  Both boys still love to create and we stayed in the gallery drawing Ben Johnson paintings until it closed.  Next time I must remember to take a sketch pad myself, I do love watching them but not for over an hour as they sketch!

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Our chosen topics for the new term are Star Wars and Thomas The Tank Engine.  An interesting mix!  I am managing to incorporate animation as the combined outcome.  So far so good.  We started by thinking about characters and set about replacing the cards in Guess Who.  L and I worked through a website that gives a character analysis of EVERY SINGLE Thomas character.  Goodness there are a lot!  C only replaced about 5 or 6 as his drawings were incredibly detailed, but he did record their key characteristics as he went along.  Both boys have learnt some new terms from this work which I’m hoping will be used in their upcoming stories.  Stories which will then turn into stop animation productions.  I have taken lots of step by step photos which I will post next week if anyone wants to have a go.  It was a really worthwhile activity for thinking about characters.  Although I am feeling slightly bad that I have planned this for others and didn’t realise just how long it took – sorry if that’s you!