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Lesson ideas for key stages 2 or 3

Stories provide subtle starting points, and this one has several. The challenge in the classroom is to avoid turning post-reading activities into an examination, and hitting that familiar dead end of "I don't know" in response to open questions such as "Why do you think Old Jake would want to build a rocket?". We want pupils to encounter The Silo's theme of conflicting loyalties without being too prescriptive. Here goes:

* Open discussion questions.When would you go to the police? What might a friend do that would make you tell an adult? Why do children regard "grassing" as such a sin? What does "acting weird" mean? Why do Jessie and Ben respond differently to the existence of the rocket? Is their gender difference relevant? How should you respond to teasing that you are someone's boyfriend or girlfriend?

* Acting out a story with a predetermined end isn't improvisation, but performance of an unwritten script. So instead of acting out the discovery of the rocket, how about pupils in pairs discovering a secret in an adult's garage, but they can't decide what the secret is before they start their improvisation.

* Role play. Police or parents question Jessie and Ben.

* Write the story of a particular friendship, and explain how it started.

* Ben saved Jessie's life in a swimming accident. Write about an experience which could have turned into catastrophe, and make it catastrophic.

* Writing to encourage a feminist reading: re-tell the story from Jessie's point of view.

* The story uses Ben's precise timings of the journey to build up to his moment of truth: "five, four, three, two, one". Write a story which uses a countdown technique based on a clock ticking to lead to its climax.

* The story mentions key points on Ben's journey home. Pupils could draw a labelled map of the journey, and a similar one for their own journey home with timings. This could be turned into a prose account.

* Finally, there's always that old standby, the newspaper report. Lead off with suggested headlines: "Rocket discovered in dead farmer's silo" or "Schoolboy gets a rocket".

David Buckley teaches English part-time in Sheffield.l English special pages appear in TES Teacher magazine on May 5

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