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Snow by Walter de la Mare

Ideas to use in school

Using picture books

This is the first of some blogs I am writing on the theme of using picture books in the primary classroom. I love books. I love reading them to my self and out loud, curled up on the sofa with a hot chocolate or sat in front of thirty or so children. When I was teaching full-time I liked to choose a book that could give me lots of cross-curricula links and I have included some of those ideas too. These are not lesson plans to cut and paste straight into your weekly planning, just some ideas and direction to give you a starting point.

The first book I am going to share is a picture book on a single poem by the English poet Walter de la Mare. He was born in 1873 and died in 1956. The edition I have used here of Snow by Walter de la Mare, and it is published by Faber and Faber Ltd, ISBN 978-0-571-31219-1. It is beautifully illustrated by Carolina Rabei, in a retro-style that reminds me of books from the 1950s. This is a quiet, understated poem about the wintry anticipation of Christmas.

Literacy ideas

1. Ask the children to close their eyes whilst you read the poem to them, no peeking! You may need to read the poem through twice. It is a short poem but with many illustrations inspired by the words. Invite the children to share their ideas about what they imagined in their heads on a flip chart. You will need copies of this list for later.

2. Next read the poem to the children but this time share the illustrations. Were there any words that they didn't understand, possibly gleam, bough, forlorn, sill, stoops, etc? This could be an opportunity for the children to check out the meanings in their dictionaries.

3. The arrival of snow is usually an exciting and much-anticipated weather event. How does Walter de la Mare set the scene - is it upbeat and lively or calm and thoughtful? The first twelve lines give you so much information. He tells us was isn't happening with 'no breath of wind, no gleam of sun'. Use the heading Winter, challenge the children to work in pairs and write down all the things they think of when they think of this season.

4. Walter de la Mare has chosen his words very carefully and used some lovely adjectives. This might be a good time to introduce, or re-visit, how an adjective helps to describe something. These are wow words that make a real difference.

5. Compare It heaps its powdery crystal flakes, of every tree a mountain makes with the snow fell, and think about which one is more interesting and imaginative? Go back to the list of things the children associated with winter and add adjectives to help describe those things. This could be done individually or in small groups.

6. Invite the children to build their own poem on the theme of Winter and Christmas. It doesn't have to rhyme, guess what not all poems have to! The sentences are short but the ideas should tell the reader something they should be imagining. It's like painting a picture with words.

Musical idea

1. Collect a range of materials that make rustling, swooshing, tinkling and ringing, (paper bags, cellophane, newspaper, sleigh bells, wind instruments, cardboard tubes to blow down, triangles, etc). Sit in a circle with the noisy materials in the middle. As you read the poem pause and invite children to select the material that makes the same noise as the words in the poem.

Art idea

Collage

  • Children can have a go at making their own village or town scene by cutting or tearing the various grey paper into undulating strips to glue down on their A4 card backing board.
  • Put the darkest shade at the back and layer until they have white paper at the bottom of the picture.
  • Add detail in black, white and red on the houses and trees, include a robin.
  • Draw pictures of themselves to cut out and add to the collage.
  • Dot white paint on once everything is dry. Use the circular wood to dip in the white paint and dab over the picture.
  • Hang the pictures on a washing line or display board to create a wintry scene. Who used some clever thinking in their pictures? Did everyone make exactly the same scene? 

Drama and PE

Use the poem as a foundation for some movement to words. Work in pairs and then groups to convey the chill of the poem and the different sections outside and inside the home. What is it like to walk through snow, to throw snowballs, make angels with your arms and legs lying on the floor. You could create a small orchestra with the noisy materials to accompany the performances. Children could perform the poem reciting parts in turn, performing their movement ideas and with sound too!

Numeracy

With younger learners play how many ... can you see. Each page has a delightful illustration that has things to count, such as how many reindeer are pulling the sleigh, how many stockings are hung up on the mantlepiece, how many window panes are there, although you might want to avoid how many snowflakes or bricks!

More confident children might like to add up how many windows on each page and then do a grand calculation to find out how many windows are in the whole book. You could suggest counting the trees too. There is lots of positional vocabulary of what is in front, behind, underneath and next to in the illustrations.

Older children could work out how many months, days, hours and minutes to next Christmas or how many from the last Christmas. Can they think up a way to count all the snowflakes on one page without having to count all the dots of paint one by one?

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