Dahling into a new world
Encouraging pupils to review books online won an award for Jeanette Swain's school
One way in which we introduce our Years 1 and 2 pupils to technology is with online book reviews, organised as a year group discussion forum.
Using Fronter, our virtual learning environment, the pupils write reviews of personally selected or suggested texts; recent favourites include Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson, which is good for adjectives and rhyme, and The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl, for its plot and characters. Other pupils can post responses, prompting more discussion.
All of these will be in answer to carefully designed questions about what they've read: text structure, reflections on the main themes and sub- plots, analysis of the characters through identifying how they are portrayed by the author and the significant events that affect them and recognising how language is used to influence setting.
The idea is to get them thinking about how different parts of a text are combined to produce an overall effect.
Pupils are expected to back up their ideas with explained reasoning, such as using the word "because" to support their views, or using an adjective from the story to reflect on a chosen character or story setting. For example, a Year 2 child wrote: "The story was set in a cold, dirty house," which was a good start.
Using the discussion forum encourages pupils to respond to the reflections of others and to use these thoughts to think about their own.
Teachers can also respond to the children's views and elicit a higher level of thinking through extension questions that require youngsters to respond in more depth. For example, one child wrote: "My favourite character is little bear." To encourage a more detailed approach, she was asked to describe the character by creating a detailed profile that was then shared with her class.
Breaking down text has helped to improve children's reading and story writing ability.
The youngsters can access the activity at their own level and their own feelings towards a book can be expressed and shared through this excellent learning tool
Jeanette Swain is a teacher at Ranvilles Infant School, Fareham in Hampshire. The school was winner of the extending learning opportunities category at last year's Becta awards for ICT in education.