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A load of nonsense;Open book

Peter Graham on how to use Lear's classic poem across the curriculum.

Outline: "The Jumblies" is a poem from A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear, published in 1846. The intrepid travellers with green heads and blue hands go to sea in a sieve, returning home after a 20-year adventure. Its wonderful eccentricity, rich vocabulary and humour stimulates the imaginations of children and adults.

How to use it English: * Read the poem aloud a few times, allowing the children to experience its breadth of vocabulary and strength of rhythm.

* Check understanding of the vocabulary. Explaining words such as "sieve", "crockery-jar", "warbled" and "dumplings" will enhance the poem's appeal.

* At text level, the children should identify a list of adjectives and use a dictionary to confirm meaning.

* Investigate the poem's rhythm structure and compare it with that of a limerick. A Book of Nonsense is full of limericks, and pupils will love composing their own. Some of Lear's poems are dated and inappropriate, however, so use your professional judgment.

* Produce invitation packs for a Jumbly party, including invitations, maps and directions.

Science: * In pairs or groups, undertake a series of experiments using water. Pupils can carry out observations on evaporation, dissolving and separating mixtures, filtration, investigating saturated solutions and revision of floating and sinking.

* Take notes during experiments, presenting results using tables, graphs and display work.

* Use the topic as a basis for a science workshop or part of an open day when pupils can demonstrate their experiments.

* Use the results to compile a water experiment science manual in the literacy hour. Include instructions for the various experiments and the presentation skills required.

Technology: * The sieve was not such a great idea: ask the children to design, make and evaluate a boat fit for the Jumblies to travel in.

* Individually or in groups, the children can hold a presentation explaining the seaworthiness of their creations.

* Organise an end-of-topic award ceremony in which each design or model boat is assessed by pupils. Present Certificates of Seaworthiness and hold a ballot for the Jumbly Design Award.

* Use the models to boost your three-dimensional displays.

* Build papier-mache models of the "Land Where the Bong Tree Grows".

* Draw sketch maps of the models from different angles, take "aerial" photographs and introduce simple grids to expand work on co-ordinates.

* Create maps of different scale.

* Describe another Jumbly adventure in a hot-air balloon. The children can use references to produce a diary or logbook.

Mathematics: * Rank the model boats in order of length, height or width.

* Sketch boat shapes on square paper. Enlarge two, three or four times.

* Estimate the number of days the Jumblies spent on their journey. Confirm using different procedures for written calculations.

* Imagine the number of days in a Jumbly year. Calculate for half a year or a month. If a Jumbly day has 16 hours, for example, design a watch or clock face showing the division of time. Try it for a Jumbly 32-hour or 36-hour day.

Art: * Make a time-line or collage frieze, each section illustrating a day in the life of a Jumbly.

* Use the "aerial" photographs of the papier-mache models to form a single patchwork-style photograph that can liven up the school entrance or the library.

A Book of Nonsense is published by Dragon's World, pound;6.99. "The Jumblies" also appears in many anthologies.

Illustration by Nicki Palin from Owls and Pussy-Cats, OUP pound;5.99.

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