Authors Live—Counting Down to Roald Dahl Day

Late July – sitting in warm evening sunshine in a holiday cottage garden in Herefordshire, reading Roald Dahl’s The BFG in time for Term 1

As I reread this wonderful novel I take notes to help me remember areas I think would provide the most learning for my children.  I have already decided to focus on developing my new class’s abilities in imaginative writing and now the fun begins!  What can I use to develop and encourage the children’s imagination and help nurture a love of books?

As the sun begins to dip, the list of possibilities begins to grow:

  • A Party Pack Invitation in the post to launch the topic and build the excitement
  • A literacy plan to design individual giants and create their own stories
  • Weave a Dream pictures and Dream catchers
  • Large-scale wall display depicting both the BFG and his fellow giants
  • Snozzcumber grow kit to appear one morning – instructions required

Now to let the ideas simmer…

Early August – in front of the laptop at home watching rain lash the windowpane, againBookworm Balloon

Back home and ready to plan my cross-curricular topic: what to include and what to set aside?  What can be adapted when the children take ownership of their learning?

There are so many learning opportunities available it really needs some discipline to create structure – what do I want the children to learn and how am I going to facilitate this? 

But first, some procrastination…let’s surf to find some resources.

An Authors Live with Roald Dahl!  Wow!  I have to have some of that!

I have used this resource before and found it a fantastic vehicle for children to gain a real understanding of authorship.  Children are always so enthused after one of these events and we use this as an opportunity to spend time in and with a particular novel.  How fortuitous to be able to do this with a novel which is actually our whole topic!

Registering for the session is a must.

Mid-August – checking emails after work one evening

Scanning down the emails I notice one from Heather at the Scottish Book Trust inviting me to consider applying to be an ambassador for Authors Live.  What a great idea!  Choose a colleague who has never made use of Authors Live before and encourage them to do so, taking part in some of the suggested activities along the way.  Later, lead a CPD session to encourage colleagues within the authority to make use of this terrific resource.  I can do that…I think!

Having chatted with Heather on the phone I have asked a department colleague from my own school to join me in taking part in this event.  Aileen agrees and we set to, arranging a plausible lead-up to the day.

Early September – in a classroom once the children have gone home

Aileen and I consider carefully what is happening in our classrooms and how we can introduce the idea of the Authors Live event.  For my class this is a natural progression through our topic and very easy to incorporate into our learning.  For Aileen’s P2s, there is a little more challenge but we come up with a plan which dovetails their mini topic of The Yoga Ogre by Peter BentlyThe Ogre is rather unhealthy and P2 have already written letters advising him of ways to improve his health.  We plan for Ogden to respond by sending them a letter thanking them for their advice and asking them to confirm the rumour that there are giants at St Peter’s (he thinks he may be getting one as a neighbour).  He wonders if they would investigate and get back to him.

The week of the Authors Live – P3 classroom, St Peter’s, Galashiels

Primary 2 drop by one morning as part of their giant hunt.  Primary 3 have large images of giants on the walls of the corridors and naturally the P2s feel we can provide them with plenty of information for Ogden.  Primary 3 are more than delighted to share their knowledge, which provides details for the P2 letters and helps me to take note of the P3 children’s current understanding of their topic too.  The P3s spontaneously invite the P2 class to join us for Authors Live.

P2 head off with photographs and notes.  Later they write their letters back to Ogden to reassure him that the BFG is a kind giant – but do avoid the Bloodbottler.

Kids Decorating Cupcakes13th September – Authors Live Event

Despite the invite coming from the Primary 3 class, we use the P2 room as they have the better seating area and smartboard set up.  Aileen and I have built this up for our classes; mine are particularly excited to think they are helping me out with a project for the Book Trust.  Aileen discovers her children aren’t very sure what an author is and has great discussions with P2 about the role of an author.  We settle in to watch the session and the countdown begins…

The children enjoy the programme and join in whenever they are prompted to do so.  Some of the discussions with the authors are a little beyond our younger ones but they have fun working out which novelists they know (or, at least, their books).  Every time they are asked to interact with the activities on screen, the children respond appropriately – and with gusto!

Every time the BFG is mentioned the children look at each other knowingly and nod in a rather proprietary manner as though these extracts and activities have been laid on just for them.  When the BFG himself appears?  Well!  Their day has been made!

After lunch we come together again to celebrate Dahl’s birthday by covering little cakes with yellow icing – and they can all tell you why we have chosen yellow icing.  Fifty-four 5-7 year olds icing at the same time is some sight.  Later we pair up a P2 with a P3 and try to come up with Gobblefunk names to describe our cakes.  This is an extension to an activity the P3 class completed the previous week.  By the end of the day we have a boardful of words.  As the children leave for home, they receive a bookworm-shaped balloon with the Authors Live website attached and a little explanation of our day for the parents. 

The Live day is over, what next?


Linda Murray

Linda Murray is a teacher at St. Peter’s Primary School in Galashiels. Her fantastic work with the Roald Dahl Authors Live event was part of Scottish Book Trust’s Teacher Ambassador programme.