Barking up the right tree

7th November 2003 at 00:00
To introduce "instructions" at key stage 1 in English, I bring on a box which contains everything needed to look after Scruffy, a puppet dog.

Things in it might include food, a dish and water; a dog collar, a blanket and a brush. I ask the children to guess what's in the box. They usually don't guess, so I let them take out objects one at a time and we discuss what each might be for.

Scruffy then comes out to check his belongings. There's usually something missing which they have to find, or guess what it might be. It might, for example, be a dog treat which I've wrapped in his blanket. Scruffy needs all these things because he's a pet and he needs to be kept healthy and fit. I ask: "If you were to tell somebody how to look after your pet, what would you say?" The children work in pairs choosing what to write as instructions. Those who would find the exercise difficult can use Scruffy as their starting point because they have all the props in front of them.

Before they start writing I introduce bullet points and their uses, for example, "Change the water once a week". They begin with an introductory statement about what the pet is and why he needs to be looked after and then make a list of things the person will need. They then add bullet pointed instructions in complete sentences, and end with a sentence on the lines of "if you do this Scruffy will be healthy and fit".

Maureen Chadwick, teacher, Yardley Primary School, Waltham Forest

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