Bill Laar offers thoughts on teaching about a sensitive story
In Rose Blanche, a young girl in Nazi Germany coming to understand the consequences of war, helps Jewish children from her town who have been imprisoned. It is an apparently simple story, but subtly constructed and complex in meaning and implications. It will inspire reflection and debate among older pupils as well as supporting children's reading development and enhancing their understanding of the ways in which writers organise language and employ specific strategies.
How to use the book
It relates to English curriculum requirements (range, skills and standard English, and language study in oracy, reading and writing) and National Literacy Project objectives (text level, sentence level and word level).
Text level work: comprehension and composition
Pupils can: * Interpret the narrative as a documentary and, identifying key elements of plot, setting and character, represent it as a chronological sequence of events or a historical footnote, drawing on examples from textbooks.
* Identify and explain some of the deeper implications in the narrative, for instance, humanity's capacity for compassion but also for cruelty.
* Suggest the reasons for Rose's change from a passive to an active role and speculate about the significance and implications of her action.
* Analyse the relations between children and adults, and how they change. Refer to text and pictures.
* Discuss the use and the purpose of symbolism: the constant portrayal, for example, of adults who have their backs turned to the action; the frequent reference to seasonal and climatic change.
* Create a character study of Rose through the use of an interior monologue; infer why Rose keeps her actions secret from her mother; what this suggests about how events have changed people's attitudes; search for examples of trust, betrayal, moral cowardice, compromise.
* Suggest reasons for the secrecy that surrounds the plight of the imprisoned children and speculate about their eventual fate.
* Identify ways in which writer and artist convey particular moods.
* Represent, through scripts, narrative, storyboards, taped drama, specific situations in the book: for example, the ultimate fate of the mayor.
* Analyse the use of language: ways in which information is conveyed in brief but clause-laden sentences; the use of figurative language: the description for example of the "second invasion" that ends the book; "the barbed wire moaning".
Sentence level work: spelling and punctuation
Pupils can: * Analyse the ways in which sentences are commenced through a variety of words and phrases (the use, for example, of subordinate clauses).
* Investigate the structure and meaning of complex sentences by separating out phrasesclauses and the points they make.
* Consider the ways in which sentences are begun and formed by the relationship of main and subordinate clauses.
* Identify how particular punctuation marks are used to shape the meaning of sentences and paragraphs.
Word level work: phonics, spelling and vocabulary
Pupils can: * Investigate unfamiliar words by inference from surrounding text.
* Use the correct technical terms (punctuation, paragraphs, commas, quotation marks, syllables, adjectives) when discussing the text.