Bill Laar with ideas on using a classic story for the Year 4 literacy hour
This version of St George's battle with the dragon to save a defenceless princess cries out to be read by children. It also meets the National Literacy Strategy's objectives for pupils in Year 4, Term 1, while enthralling and challenging readers.
How to use it
This book supports teachers meeting the challenge of the literacy hour.
Text level work
* Read the text aloud with roles and dialogue given to groups or individuals.
* Suggest how the main characters (the dragon, the king and so on) and their natures are defined and conveyed through the use of language and constructed from small details.
* Identify the period of time over which the narrative occurs, drawing on evidence from the text, and noting how the writing occasionally speeds up the narrative.
* Create dialogue for scenes strikingly conveyed both verbally and visually (such as the horror of the daily human lottery for sacrifice to the dragon).
* Act out the lottery using pupils' names and let them devise strategies to escape the sacrifice.
* Write a script for a radio commentary on the battle, as witnessed from the town walls, based on textual detail.
* Devise a dialogue between the King and a messenger who brings him news of the rescue of his daughter.
* Write brief character sketches of friends - or pets - that convey through the use of small details one engaging and one less attractive characteristic (this can be done as a class or a group piece of writing).
* Distinguish fact from fiction in the author's 'Afterword'.
* Create a diary entry from Sabra, the rescued daughter, on the anniversary of the duel.
Sentence level work
* Identify and list "powerful" verbs used in relation to the dragon. Suggest why they are more effective in the context of the story than their more commonplace synonyms.
* Identify the tenses of verbs, decide whether this provides a rule for verb use in narrative and work out their present and future tenses.
* Identify adverbs; decide why so few adverbs are required, by referring to the nature of the verbs used; identify verbs that would be positively qualified by the addition of adverbs and suggest adverbs for this function.
* Find points where the comma is used to momentarily slow down narrative pace and focus the reader on a particular aspect of the story.
Word level work The text illustrates many phonic and spelling strategies for Year 4 pupils.
* Blend phonemes for reading and use the initial phonemes to create word families, for example: "cr" in "crumbling"; "tr" in "trashing"; "fl" in "flickered"; "ng" in "slinking"; "ed" in "circled".
* Identify syllabic patterns in multi-syllable words: "palisade"; "encouragement"; "devastation".
* Segment words into phonemes for spelling.
* Use phonicspelling knowledge as a cue, together with contextual knowledge when reading unfamiliar texts. "The rider was aware of a charred acrid smell in the air"; "The girl cast one imploring look towards the town."