Inanimate Alice and Me 5: Creating Episode 5


My first post about my project using Inanimate Alice with a group of P7 learners with dyslexia quoted the author:

Kate (Pullinger) described how her attention had been drawn to alerts to the publication online of episode 5, and not just one but several versions. ‘to have students taking a piece of writing by someone else and engaging with it in an entirely new way is a very exciting form of interactivity’.

And I went on to say:

The notion of text is evolving. We need to think again about what we understand by ‘literacy’ and the way that we read and interact with text and stories. ‘The children are redefining ideas of what authorship means, who owns the text, who is allowed to tell stories’. There are real opportunities for learning in delving into the digital realm to motivate and inspire youngsters, particularly perhaps those who have traditionally considered that storytelling is not for them.

Well, at last we have begun our own storytelling venture. The children were keen to get started weeks ago but I held them back. I don’t often discourage children from writing but I felt we needed to have studied the components of the original episodes before embarking on creating our own. This is not least because these inexperienced writers require strong models and significant support. 

We have spent a good deal of time examining the first 4 episodes of Inanimate Alice and exploring the common elements in the story line and in the presentation.

I used a terrific article, ‘What do Good Writers Do?’ to help me focus on the work to be done. Good writers can

identify and articulate what makes a narrative. They also understand the structures and features of the narrative before using what they know about narratives to transfer to their own writing.

I had prepared cards illustrating the storyline and presentational aspects about Alice for reference to help them develop these crucial skills. The cards – laid out on the floor throughout the session – helped them to ‘consider all factors before and during the writing process: characters, setting, plot, main idea, length, audience’. Thus they were able to ‘use their prior knowledge of the text type and the topic to help them develop a text’.

We debated whether this would be a joint or individual venture but the decision was made for us when only one computer was available. Welcome to the real world. As it happened I felt this was a positive thing: the collaboration between the children ensured that the soppiness of the girls was countered by the violence of the boys. Apologies for being gender specific but you’ll get the point when you see the final version!

We resisted the temptation to find pictures and structure our tale around them as I had done when using Storybird. Rather than having a specific plan for our storyline to develop in a logical sequence we went with the flow. I guess if Philip Pullman can do it, so can we:

I don’t exactly choose [themes and storylines] so much as surrender to them. I couldn’t write at all if I had to choose, in a sort of cold-blooded way, between this idea and that one. If they both excite me, I’ll write about them both.

When I wrote Northern Lights I had a rough idea of where it was all going, and I knew a few things about some places I wanted to stop at on the way. I knew it had to end in a garden; I wanted to bring in the hornbeam trees in Oxford; I thought I might have to go to the world of the dead. That’s all. I discovered most of it as I went along.

However, as we’re not (yet) as experienced as Pullman, some scaffolding is important. This is why basing our story on Alice’s adventures is so useful for these children who have found writing so very challenging.

The children were bursting with ideas which, to my pleasure, centred firmly upon the story rather than the telling of it. I suggested they use Audacity to record their story as an alternative to written text but this suggestion was summarily dismissed.

In the end I haven’t given them the option of using Storybird or Glogster. (I had also considered trying  Scratch  but couldn’t get access at school.) I felt learning these tools would distract from the composition. So PowerPoint it is.

While the children had refused any offers from me to read the text of the earlier episodes, they were content for me to scribe.

We ended yesterday’s session with a story that contained many of the elements embedded in Inanimate Alice but which was unique.

Next week, all being well, they will fill out the bare bones of the story with images, sounds and (possibly) music.  They will also put their own individual stamp on that skeleton.

Many young writers find being aware of an audience hard, especially those who do not read a great amount. I will encourage them to ‘use descriptions, details and language to help the reader visualize and make connections to the setting of the narrative’. I hope to ensure they ‘plant seeds throughout a story for characters and the plot to develop for the reader to keep interested and want to read on’.

The aim is to present their story to the whole class in a fortnight.

The motivation’s there; let’s hope there is enough time.


The Land of Me

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Here is a delightful vlog from mochabeaniemummy about playing and learning with The Land of Me , the’magical, interactive learning experience for adventurers aged 2 – 6′.

She  says that:

multimedia and IT is the way our children are moving forwards. I still love traditional storybooks, don’t get me wrong. The Smalls have more books than I do, they’re EVERYWHERE. But this somehow seems to improve on the storybook and importantly, the kids learn a lot and ENJOY IT in the process. As an ex-teacher myself, the most important thing was that learning be made fun.

I gave the software to our littlest grandchild for Christmas but haven’t taken a real look at it yet with her. It’s high on my ‘to do’ list.

Mochbeaniemummy’s review appears in the same week as the news that The Land of Me won the Mumsnet Best Award in the Entertainment category (video game) for a second year running.

A resource well worth exploring for children in the early years.

World Read Aloud Day: 9th March 2011

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 The right to read and write belongs to all people.

Scotland’s Stories

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News from LT Scotland:

The strange and fantastical stories of Scotland have inspired writers, artists and poets for centuries. Scotland’s Stories website aims to inspire children and young learners to explore this rich vein of literary and cultural heritage. It provides a variety of beautifully illustrated classic Scottish tales, with background information, transcripts of all stories as well as fantastic audio and video versions of the stories as told by some of Scotland’s finest storytellers.

Browse the variety of classic tales suitable for all ages here.