Carefully chosen, a good newspaper story can be turned into a rich curricular resource, says Gerald Haigh
The news story style
The key point in any newspaper (or TV news) item is that it gives the essential details of the story briefly, with no dramatic frills, in the first paragraph, and then fills in the background in subsequent paragraphs. It's not a bad way to write, but you can discuss why it isn't always appropriate for every writing genre (the slow unfolding is often better in a suspenseful short story, for example).
Curriculum link - writing
Writing genres, writing for different audiences.
When you have a good story, let it tell itself. Don't try to embellish, be over-elaborate or stylistically clever. Examine your use of adjectives, similes and metaphor. Too many may spoil it.
All the key people - Fry, his collaborator Green, and Michael Bond - are quoted verbatim (word for word), another important part of a news story.
Curriculum link - English
Use and punctuation of direct speech as supportive evidence in factual writing, and as dialogue in fiction.
In a school newspaper report, if someone has performed well, include a supportive quote from a manager, senior person, a contemporary, or a spectator.
The power of celebrity
Stephen Fry isn't an "A-list" star - at least probably not for children and teenagers. But he's famous enough.
Curriculum link - PSHE
Discuss the cult of celebrity - whether we admire celebrity for itself or for achievement.
Try to think of achievers (national or local) who are not "celebrities" in the Posh and Becks sense.
Stephen Fry is undoubtedly sincere in his bid to help the bears - celebrities are often in a good position to do charitable things ordinary people can't. But it's also true the story has a plug for the film he's working on.
Curriculum links - REPSHE
To what extent do we work to our own agenda, even when we're trying to do something helpful or charitable?
Ask children to think of a personal charitable act - giving a coin, organising a sale - and to be honest about the emotions and feelings involved when doing things for others.
You need to pinpoint the bears' habitat in Peru on a map, or older children can find it themselves.
Curriculum link - geography
Look at the location and characteristics of Peru and other South American countries (rainforest, wildlife, and so on).
How would you get to the capital of Peru? Research how you would get there - flights, connections, distances. Use the internet, or arrange for someone from a travel company to talk to your pupils about how they might get there.
The documentary prequel
The story tells us that Fry once filmed a documentary on Paddington's early years.
Curriculum links - English
The exploration of characters "outside" their stories is an established way of exploring literature.
In a bookplayfilm that's familiar or being studied, set up a "what would this character do if faced with this problem" question for discussion andor writing.
Is this really Paddington's ancestor? Only in the sense that it's the only bear in South America, despite the headline. Does it look like Paddington? We deduce from the story that Bond had never heard of it before, and set his books in Peru only because somebody told him there were no bears in Africa.
Curriculum links Englishgeography
The use of animals with human personalities is a common one in children's fiction. Why is that? What limitations andor contrasting flexibility does this device give the writer.
Could you write a story about an ugly or dangerous creature (poisonous millipede? Boa constrictor)? How might you approach this in outline? (Use of sympathy, menacing, funny. What about the voice? Can you do a good millipede voice?) Suitable for discussionwriting activities.
The bear has a Latin name. What precisely does it mean?
Curriculum link - English
The use of Latin names in biology and botany.
Research the Latin names of familiar plants and animals and find out what the names refer to.
The story can lead into work on other areas of concern - other species and locations, the disappearing rainforest, global warming.
Curriculum links - sciencegeography
Research the ecological changes going on in equatorial and tropical countries, especially in South and Central America.
Find an example of another creature which is as threatened as the spectacled bear - the bonobo ape in Africa, the golden lion tamarin monkey in South America.
School challenge to make a newspaper in a daywww.newsday.co.uk
Conservation news and projects www.bp.comconservation; www.wwf.org.uk.
Wildlife TV programmesbackground www.bbc.co.uknatureprogrammes
This feature supports National Literacy Strategy activities for Years 4 and 5, andQCA Geography Unit 16, What's in the news?