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Paint the house red

Gwynneth Bailey finds literacy, maths and art in a timely picture book

The Time it Took TomBy Nick Sharratt and Stephen TuckerIllustrations by Nick Sharratt Scholastic Press, pound;9.99 Outline

Tom finds some red paint, and it takes him 3 seconds to decide what to do with it; he paints the living room in 3 hours. It takes 3 weeks to sort the mess out and 3 months later, Tom celebrates his birthday in the room; 3 years pass before Tom finds some blue paint...

How to use it

Read the story over two days. Finish the first session just before Mum sees the mess and explodes (in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 seconds). Brainstorm ideas for the conclusion. Homeschool link: Ask pupils to re-tell the story at home, discussing likely outcomes.


* Can pupils recall and order the various units of time, from seconds to years? Give exercises (ie, make a chart) to test them.

* Ask pupils to close their eyes and raise hands when they think a minute has passed. Homeschool link: Ask pupils to find methods for counting seconds, such as: "1 thousand, 2 thousand", "1 elephant", and so on.

* Count with the second hand on a large clock. Then ask pupils to count to 60, eyes closed. See if accuracy increases.

* What can pupils do in a minute? (Build multilink towers; thread beads; star-jumps, etc.) Help children record personal bests on a database or chart and repeat the activities later. Have they improved?


* Was it an awful thing Tom did? Discuss.

* Role-play Tom explaining his conduct to his Mum. Examine Mum's reactions.

* Teach speech bubbles: writing first, then wrapping talk inside a bubble.

* How would pupils' parents react? Collect angry adults' favourite expressions. (Warning, Tom's mum says: "Oh bum.")

* With an adult reading the text, mime the three pages when Tom recounts buying materials and furniture.

* Use "Tom" and "Mum" to write an acrostic poem: "Tin of red paint, Opened with a struggle".

* This book is based on the number 3. Make up stories about another single-digit number, using units of time in a similar way. If your pupils are practised in oral rehearsal, working out ideas verbally will enable them to sort out a plan. Writing could then be attempted in pairs, guided writing sessions transcribed by a helper, or word-processed from the pupils' spoken story.

Art and design

* Design and make a clock with moveable hands.

* Examine artist Nick Sharratt's style, especially his economy of line. Draw faces, hair outline, ears and jaw without lifting pencil or brush.

* Study Tom's four facial expressions on the "3-minute" page. In Sharratt's style, draw similar faces, showing annoyance, frustration, anger then success.

* Draw Tom's Mum in a series of faces, as she discovers the all-red room.

Gwynneth Bailey is English co-ordinator at Alborough County Primary, Norfolk

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