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A fable at work

Bill Laar looks at how to get the most from a picture storybook that can be found in many school libraries

THE PAPERBAG PRINCE. By Colin Thompson. Red Fox Pounds 4.99. A fable for older children.

OUTLINE

A poor man's concern for the environment brings him contentment. The story shows nature's triumph over humanity's destructive ways.

SPECIAL QUALITIES

Visually mesmeric. Will intrigue children and introduce them to the realms of fantasy and abstraction.

HOW TO USE IT

Meets national curriculumNational Literacy Project requirements for: Reading

Range: offers "challenging subject matter that broadens perspectives and extends thinking; more complex narrative structures and sustained ideas"; figurative language.

Key skills: reflects requirements that children should consider in detail the quality and depth of what they have read and respond imaginatively to plot, characters and ideas.

Writing

Range: example of writing as a means of developing, organising and communicating ideas, and of various kinds of writing - argument, commentary, narrative.

Key skills: planning and drafting.

Activities

* Use the exchange between the old man and the woman from the council to help pupils "to understand the need for punctuation and to use capitals, full stops, question marks, exclamation marks, quotes and some commas and apostrophes accurately" (NLP sentence level work: grammar and punctuation, Year 5 Term 1).

* Collect words with common roots into families and investigate spelling patterns, for instance: scavenge, average, avenger, vengeful; merge, emerge, emergency (NLP word level work: phonics, spelling and vocabulary, Year 5 Term 1).

* Elements of work for juniors on English, history and geography combine in an uncontrived way. Pupils can explore ideas and viewpoints about moral, social, environmental and economic issues, reflect on particular sets of values and respond to the book's imaginative treatment of time and space. There is room for activities such as identifying ways in which the main characters represent conflicting lifestyles, or interpreting and using evidence to construct oral and written biographies of the old man.

* Study the meaning and purpose of metaphor by helping pupils focus on the viewpoints and moral positions of the characters, the significance of the Poison Pool, and the use of fantastic illustrations to suggest undreamed-of worlds and possibilities.

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