Read all about it

27th January 2006 at 00:00
We're all familiar with the added "extras" on DVDs. Now books are getting "special features" added to the end. Initially these were designed to support reading groups, with lists of questions for discussion.

Now they have expanded to include interviews with authors, "deleted scenes"

and suggestions for further reading. Particularly good examples are Harper's Perennial imprint, and one-offs like Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys.

Pupils latch on quickly to the idea of added features and love to design their own for the class reader. This provides an excellent framework for a wide variety of written forms: an extra story featuring the character; a chapter removed from the final book; an interview; a factual piece about some aspect of background.

I begin by asking them to provide a series of questions for discussion for a reading group (the idea of a group of people getting together to study a book for pleasure usually needs explaining!), and then ask them to suggest what other "special features" might be added.

A prize for the most inventive suggestion helps to get classes thinking laterally. The benefit of this type of exercise is that it makes children think about the wider applications and relevance of a story: a recent class studying The Merchant of Venice came up with the idea of using speeches made by BNP candidates as a discussion companion for the play. The other advantage of getting children to create a bank of added extras to accompany a text is that they sometimes produce a resource that can be used with the next class to read it.

Victoria Elliott English teacher, Harrogate Grammar School, West Yorkshire

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