Category Archives: Education

Ross Mountney Has Been At It Again.

A beautiful picture book

A beautiful picture book

 

I love picture books; I can sit and admire them again and again. They also help to raise my spirits if I feel that I need jollying along. When I received my copy of The Wrong Adventure by Ross Mountney, I was delighted because Ross is a very dear friend. It doesn’t get much better than one of your favourite types of book being penned by someone you love and respect.  I have a feeling that this picture book will get a lot of use.

The lovely lady herself

The lovely lady herself


This is the second book in the series where Little Harry – from a Home Educated family – gets into more bother. The book is delightful and full of the innocence of a small boy that is trying to make sense of the world. I love the way Ross echoes through Harry’s character that learning can take place anywhere. Young children learn as they encounter new things and this is the essence of Home Education – you go about the world and learn how it works. The illustrations are extremely charming too. These are done by a Home Educated young man, James Robinson and really transport us into the idyllic world that is on offer.

Reading books like this actually helps small kids to speak. They listen to the story over and over while gazing at the pictures and the reason that you have to read the book to them 200 times is so that they can learn what every single word means. Little kids are amongst the best students in the world; they are born with an ability to try and try until they can conquer a skill. Books like The Wrong Adventure are priceless resources therefore to our adorable tots. Enjoy!

 

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What Has Ross Mountney Been Up To?

There is only one thing better than reading a wonderful book and that is when you are reading a wonderful book that is written by someone that is dear to you. It gives me extreme pleasure to be telling you about A Home Education Notebook by Ross Mountney.

A Home Education Notebook

This is a book for anyone that is interested in education. Yes. I stand by that. Folks often think that books like this are only to be read by those that are on the Home Education journey. However, if you are truly interested in education, you will understand the need to explore all philosophies in the hope of getting a fuller picture.

A Home Education Notebook is divided in 52 chapters so that anyone who is educating their children themselves can dip into it whenever they feel a wobble coming on or they suspect that the earth is opening them up and swallowing them.  Basically, there is a chapter for every week of the year – however, I couldn’t wait that long to read it all.

Ross Mountney

I think that sometimes people get the idea that because writers write about education, it must be very serious and proper – or even downright dull. Let me tell you that if you want to read someone that is funny, opinionated and often outrageous then Ross Mountney is your girl.  She really doesn’t pull any punches – although Jane, her editor at Bird’s Nest Books often has to restrain her a little.

Joking apart, when I close A Home Education Notebook, I get the feeling of someone who cares vastly about people and their experience of education. Ross has been writing about Home Education for a long time and she’s experienced so many people exploring this avenue that it is part of who she is. Like me, she believes that learning is for life. The only time you should stop learning is when you are no longer here.

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Creative Child Poverty

I read about child poverty every time I see a headline and it never fails to worry me. However, there is a different type of poverty that is rife and I feel that it is going to get worse as it seems that if something does not make a profit, it is worthless these days. I am, off course, referring to creativity.

I will be honest; if it was not for creative activities a huge part of my life would be colourless. Creativity keeps me going; it gives me hope and satisfaction and it keeps me company when I feel lonely or even isolated. It wakes me up at 5.30 a.m. every morning and makes me get out of bed whatever the weather. I honestly do not know what I would do without it.

This is not about me though; it is about our children – the children of our country – the children of our world. In other words, it is about tomorrow’s scientists, entrepreneurs, captains of industry, actors and writers. All of these professions need creativity and yet it seems to be so lowly valued.

cartoon children

I’m not an expert, and this is just my opinion, but as I read about hundreds of thousands of teenagers having to resit their English GCSE, sometimes more than once, I have to wonder what is going wrong. When I read a school librarian’s blog and she states that primary school timetables are often so tight that certain classes do not have 20 minutes to spare to visit the school library, I realise what it is. Many of these children are victims of creative poverty.

It may be that their parents before them have suffered the same and so they grow up in homes that are starved of creative thinking. When the children get to school the teachers are as heavily corseted as a Victorian lady with prescribed aims and objectives that they don’t have the freedom to promote creative thinking.

If only primary schools could be allowed to nurture a passion in children for reading and writing by encouraging creativity all the way through the timetable, instead of worrying about constantly ticking boxes.

If only teachers could be allowed to be truly creative and be permitted to engage this passion, I feel it would pay off at a later date with the children.

If only…

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Why we need to get kids into Shakespeare in Primary School

We at Loony Literature headed up to Hull Truck Theatre last week to see the RSC perform The Famous Victories of Henry V – this is a play, for kids, that brings together all the exciting moments of three plays – Henry IV parts I and II and Henry V.

We need more of this

Basically, we need more of this – it is that simple. We have mentioned before that some teenagers can spend more than three years getting a GSCE grade C in English Language which includes a Shakespeare play. This is because they study it for two years at school but if do not get a C or above, they have to do it again.

We have also said to anyone who will listen that kids need to be introduced in a fun manner to Shakespeare in primary school not in secondary school. By the time they study a play at secondary school they need to be relaxed about The Bard. The Famous Victories of Henry V by the RSC was everything and more than we could have wished for.

Simon Yadoo as Sir John Falstaff in The Famous Victories of Henry V. Photo by Richard Lakos.

Simon Yadoo as Sir John Falstaff in The Famous Victories of Henry V. Photo by Richard Lakos.

The cast was made up of young actors apart from the extra talented  Simon Yadoo who played Falstaff/Henry V. The energy of the players was electric as the young actors went among the audience before the play started making sure that they knew what the plot was.

The name of the game at this event was audience participation – those actors worked that audience as if they were back in Elizabethan England. There were props handed out to some of the children and they had to give them to certain characters during the play.

The audience were taught a song about Falstaff’s wine which everyone sang with vigour while waving their arms about. This was obviously a winner as a group of girls sang it loudly in the lavatory after the performance.

A young boy of about eight sat behind us and he had to stand up and shout. He was truly earnest and we were certain that that little boy would never forget that moment all his life. His eyes showed that.

We want them to laugh until their sides ache

The RSC have also taken this production into some schools and we need more of this for our country’s children. Shakespeare is meant to be performed; this is the second item that we need for kids. We need them to experience crafted actors, like Martin Bassindale who played Henry V, bringing the characters to life. We want them to laugh until their sides ache like they did at this production when Mistress Quickly, played by Daniel Abbott, shook his bosom at them.

Dale Mathurin as John, Martin Bassindale as Prince Hall, Daniel Abbott as Mistress Quickly and Nicholas Gerard-Martin as Dericke in The Famous Victories of Henry V. Photo by Richard Lakos.

Dale Mathurin as John, Martin Bassindale as Prince Hall, Daniel Abbott as Mistress Quickly and Nicholas Gerard-Martin as Dericke in The Famous Victories of Henry V. Photo by Richard Lakos.

When kids have experienced this they will begin to understand what the Bard is all about. One teacher said that before the RSC visited their school, they used to have the ‘collective groan’ when Shakespeare was mentioned but now there was excitement in the air.

Schools need to go to more theatre trips and more theatre companies need to be working with them, hand in hand. We don’t only want the kids of our country being introduced to Shakespeare in this manner, we want them to see Frankenstein making his monster and Dr Jekyll transforming into Mr Hyde.

We have a world famous literary heritage

As with everything, a major problem is budget. We are not experts on these matters but surely putting money into the problem when kids are in primary school would balance out all those English GSCEs that teenagers are resitting around the country. We are talking hundreds of thousands of resits here, not a mere few.

We have a world famous literary heritage and it is only when we make our kids proud of it will the level of GCSE resits drop.

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Filed under Education, Exciting Excursions, Help Your Child To Be Sucessful, Inspiration and Us, Shakespeare Diary, theatre in education

Help Your Child To Be Successful – A Simple Way To Introduce Shakespeare Early

If you live in some parts of the world, Britain, for instance, your child will have to study Shakespeare to get an English GCSE. It is often problematic, so much so that students resitting the course still cannot engage with the Bard. It is taking some students three years or longer to get a C for English and it upsets me. Three years normally gets you a degree. I’m not saying that is just due to Shakespeare because I know that it is not but it is a part of it.

I’ve said this before and I will not stop saying it, it’s because the groundwork needs to be done when they are little. If your eyes are bulging at this point, I don’t mean that you should get a four year old to deconstruct Hamlet, I mean drip feed it in a fun and exciting fashion.

Start off with Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

  • Puck is often represented as a child – this will instantly allow recognition.
  • Puck can do magic. Small children often feel powerless in a world where they really don’t have much say. They will want to creatively engage with Puck because they can imagine being able to change things.
  • Puck is mischievous – think  Just William and Horrid Henry.

4 fun ways to introduce your child to Puck, a Shakespearean character:

Through drawing

Do your own version.

Do your own version.

Set up your drawing or art equipment and then show your child the above drawing of Puck by Victorian artist Arthur Rackham. Explain that Puck is a sprite that is in a play for stage called A Midsummer Night’s Dream by a very famous man called William Shakespeare. Don’t forget to mention that he lived about five hundred years ago.

Tell them that Puck is also called Robin Goodfellow and plays naughty tricks in people’s houses and in the woods. Explain that he is also a shapeshifter and transforms himself. Invite your child to draw or paint their own version of him. When they have finished ask them why they have done it like that. How do they view Puck?

Through movement and dance

Make sure that your child is in comfortable clothes and that you have cleared a floor space. Watch this short video of Puck dancing. Ask your child why Puck moves like that in the video – is he trying to send us a secret message without words? Invite your child to copy some of the movements. When you have done that, talk about how they think Puck might move and help them to make up their own dance. You could then film it.

Through drama

Use this quotation from Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Act III – scene 1 – lines 100 – 106 (Arden)

Through bog, through bush, through brake, through briar;

Sometime a horse I’ll be, sometime a hound,

A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire;

And neigh, and bark, and grunt, and roar, and burn,

Like horse, hound, hog, bear, fire, at every turn.

 

Talk about it being in a woodland setting so they would have to act out wading through a bog making sure that they did not sink, fighting scratchy bushes etc… Once they have mastered the landscape, they can imagine that they are Puck and they have to transform themselves into different creatures – what would they be like? How would a hog get through a bog for instance? Again, you could film the end product on your phone.

Through making up a story

It’s important to remember that before children can write stories by themselves, they need to be able to create them; doing this regularly will help your child to be successful at English. Ask your child what they would do if they could be Puck for an afternoon. What would they transform themselves into? Would they play cheeky tricks on others or would they help somebody?

Once you find out what they would really love to do, turn it into a simple story.

  • The beginning is when they find out that they can be Puck for an afternoon.
  • The middle would be the one thing which they would do.
  • The end is the outcome of what they do.

When the story has been worked out, if the child is too young to write – do it for them. There is nothing that will give a child the desire to write more than seeing their own words down on the page.

I hope this helps. Remember even four year olds can be introduced to Shakespeare if it is done simply and gently.

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6 Great Activities To Introduce Kids to Charles Dicken’s “Christmas Carol.”

Create a Victorian Ghost Story Atmosphere.   On Christmas Eve, it is a family tradition in our house to sit around the fire and by candlelight we tell ghost stories just like the Victorians did.  This is a great way to introduce children to “Christmas Carol”.  For older children read the original Charles Dicken’s “Christmas Carol” and do it in stages on the run up to Christmas.  It will be something which they will look forward to particularly if you create the right atmosphere with candles, hot chocolate and marshmallows and a sense of fun thrown in.  For younger children, there are some excellent versions of the story which  have illustrations in and will introduce them to the basic concept of the story.  The main thing is to create the atmosphere and have fun.

Scrooge, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Car...

Scrooge, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Introduce Scrooge  I was first introduced to “Christmas Carol” by watching the old 1951 version starring Alistair Simm as Scrooge.  It was Christmas Eve and the snow floated down outside as I watched it, it was an afternoon which was to mould my attitude to Christmas.  If the children are older you could watch it all the way through, however, for younger ones you only need to watch the first six minutes for them to get a fascinating insight of the character of Scrooge.  Tell the kids you’re going to show them a film clip of a man called Scrooge and they have to decide if he is a Christmas baddie or not.  As you watch the first six minutes ask them why he is not nice and get them to boo him.  It’s also great fun to shout “Baddie! Baddie! Baddie!”  You can even get them to vote as to whether he is the worst Christmas baddie ever or can they think of worse ones and why are they worse than Scrooge.  The important thing is to get a conversation going as to why we don’t like Scrooge and to have fun, fun fun.  For older kids, ask if they think Scrooge can ever become nice and then question why they think that he can or can’t and then tell them that they need to watch the whole film to find out whether he changes or not.   You can watch it here.

Make your own Christmas ghosts on film.   Watch Horace Gawp’s Christmas Carol below, check out our ghosts and then make your own.  It is easy and great fun to do.  All you have to do is get the kids to put some of their dressing up clothes on or use different clothes than they normally wear.  If there are any hats or wigs in the house these can be used.  Putting clothes on which are far too big or small will give a comic effect.  Once the clothes are on, get the children to pretend that they are a long lost ancestor – they don’t have to exist – you can pull them out of the air for instance, you can have great uncle Theophilus Windbag.  Tell the children to pretend that they have come to visit each other or you with a message for the future.  When they have worked out their message, get them to act it out and film them.  It doesn’t need to be very long.  Upload your chip to your computer and if you have ‘windows live movie maker’ – you can use that.  If you haven’t got ‘windows live movie maker’ on your computer upload your film to Youtube. (For You tube, upload your film and click on “enhancements “- you will see a menu of different colours, it is probably best to choose the lightest but play around with different ones to get the effect which you wish.  Don’t forget to save your final choice.)   For ‘ windows live  maker’, click on that.  In the top menu click on “add videos and photos”  and it will ask you to choose which photo or video you wish to use.  Click on the film clip you have just made.  When your film pops up, look at the top menu and click on “visual effects”.  You will see one which is all white, this is the one which we used for our ghosts, however – play around to see which suits you best.  Once you have done this, return to the “home” menu at the top and save your film.  You will be asked to give it a title and that’s it you have created your own speaking ghost.

Create your own Christmas Ghost Story.   Once you have gotten in the mood for Christmas ghost stories, it is a good idea for the kids to create their own.  I use the term “create” as opposed to “writing” because I know that as some stage most adults are able to read and write, however, to me, it is more important to concentrate on encouraging children to think creatively.  Once they are bursting with ideas then they can be recorded but the pressure to put pen to paper before the ideas have been thought often creates a creative blockage.  So if you start off with a framework of a person who treats others badly at Christmas time but gets visited by three ghosts who want to show him something from his/her past, present and future, then you have got a basic plot to work from.  Character wise – start off with Scrooge (or whatever you wish to call your main character) and perhaps discuss why this person treats others so badly and hates Christmas time.  You will be surprised how much this gives you to put into your story.  The main point here is to get the kids thinking and having fun.  Let them create three ghosts, get them talking about where they want their story to be and in what time period.  It is amazing how creative kids become once the pressure to sit down and write is off them – so get them shouting out their ideas, looking on the internet for what their ghosts can look like and generally having fun.  It doesn’t matter if the story never gets finished because the end product is not what this exercise is about.  The object of the exercise is to get the kids to know a little about Christmas Carol and Charles Dickens and most of all it is to give them the confidence to be creative.  Encouraging them to be creative is one of the most important gifts you will ever give them as creative thinking is quite simply problem solving – this is needed every day of our lives and the  more children do it, the better they become at it – need I say more?

Marley's ghost, from Charles Dickens: A Christ...

Marley’s ghost, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Playing at Christmas Carol.    When I was a child we would watch a film or television programme and then we would go outside and play “Batman” or “Robin Hood”.  When kids play like this, they are effectively creating drama.  So if you’ve read them the story or watched the film, it’s a great idea to let them play some scenes from “Christmas Carol”  Which child wouldn’t like to be the horrible Scrooge?  They can get out all their inner niggles without getting in trouble.  How exciting to play Marley’s Ghost with the chains and frightening the life out of that horrible Scrooge.  Let them improvise with their own words and their own rendition of the story, join in with them until they get the hang of it and let them get lost in the old fashioned world of playing.  Who knows, they might come up with their own shortened version which they want to put on for the family for Christmas.  Children never fail to surprise me with the depths of creativity once a seed has been planted.

Ignorance and Want, woodcut — from A Christmas...

Ignorance and Want, woodcut — from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Visit a stately home in the run up to Christmas.    Hardly anybody can build up a Dickensian atmosphere like these folks.  There the children will see the costumes and decorations in reality.  Many places have got special events on this year which will especially demonstrate how Christmas was in Charles Dickens “Christmas Carol.  The National TrustEnglish Heritage and Historic Houses Association are good places to begin looking.

We hope these “Christmas Carol” activities have been of use to you but most of all we wish you a very Merry Christmas.  Have fun.

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Writing For Kids – Three Easy Steps to Help Kids Create Characters.

Follow these three steps to get kids to create their own characters in a fun and easy way. From our sister site willblyton.com

Will Blyton - The Alternative Detective

 

 

I see so many people who remind me of animals and I don’t mean that in a nasty way as I am a great animal lover, what I mean is if people remind us of animals in reality, why not get children to use animals as a way of helping them create characters when they write stories, act sketches or make their own comic books?   Using these three easy steps, we can give children the confidence to realise that they too can create story people.

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 Step One

 

This fun step shows children how people can actually remind us of animals and how  it actually works so that they get a full understanding of what we are trying to achieve.  I have given you  a choice of three different ways of doing this, you only need to pick the way which appeals to you the…

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Literacy – “Frankenstein’s Revenge” Extract with Questions and Activity.

Here at Loony Literature, we know that if children are introduced to the classics in a fun way, before they have to study them, they will find the whole experience fun instead of daunting or boring.  I wrote the play “Frankenstein‘s Revenge – a play full of shifty manoeuvres and time travel” to introduce 9-12 year olds to Frankenstein.  The play is written for children to understand the basic concept of  Frankenstein and to experience acting for themselves in a relaxed atmosphere.  The play also explores prejudice so even though, it is silly and fun, it does have a social message which gives lots of scope for discussion.  Below is the beginning of the play so that you can choose who you are going to be and then simply read your parts or you can actually pretend to be in The Laboratory and act it out.  This is followed by questions so that you can determine if the children have understood the plot so far.  Next, there are questions about how Doctor Frankenstein acts so that the children can explore the concept of character in the play.  Finally, there is a fun speaking and listening activity which encourages children to act and improvise.  It doesn’t all have to be done at once, it can be broken down into sections if that is preferred.  Have fun and let us know what happens.

Frankenstein’s Revenge – a play full of shifty manoeuvres and time travel.

 

ACT ONE

 

Scene One

 

Toadstool  – Nearly two hundred years ago, a writer named Mary Shelley wrote a very famous book called Frankenstein.  The book is still being read today and has inspired people to write stories, make films and write plays ever since.   Frankenstein’s Revenge is a look at what happens when Doctor Frankenstein meets his creator, Mary Shelley.

 

Frankenstein’s Laboratory.  A wolf is tied up.

 

We see a cake stand with ten body parts on it.

We hear singing to the tune of Ten Green Bottles.

 

Chorus –

Ten body parts sitting on a plate,

Ten body parts sitting on a plate,

And if one body part should accidentally be ate,

There’d be nine body parts sitting on a plate.

 

Toadstool picks a body part off the cake stand and gives it to the wolf to eat.  He exits.

 

Partial blackout.

 

 

 

Scene Two

 

Setting – Frankenstein’s laboratory.

Frankenstein is looking at body parts in his laboratory.  His fiancée, Elizabeth walks in looking like a ghoul.

 

Frankenstein – Elizabeth – what are you doing here?

 

Elizabeth – I have come with news.

 

Frankenstein – It will be news when people see that you no longer wash.

 

Elizabeth – It is no time for jokes.

 

Frankenstein – How did you get in?

 

Elizabeth – The front door was open.

 

Frankenstein – Where is that wretch Toadstool?

 

Elizabeth – I didn’t see him.

 

Frankenstein – I do not know why I pay him.  He is useless.

 

Elizabeth – I did not come here to talk about your servant.

 

Frankenstein – You should not be here in my laboratory.

 

Elizabeth – I had to come.

 

Frankenstein – I’m not sure that it is wise to be seen out looking like that.

 

Elizabeth – I have brought news which will turn your world upside down.

 

Frankenstein – Disturbing my important work turns my world upside down Elizabeth.  Now go back to Geneva and brush your hair.  I am busy.

 

Elizabeth – I am dead, Victor.

 

Frankenstein – Elizabeth, I admit you do not look yourself at the moment but I am sure that some water and a cloth will help – oh and if you tie your hair up, perhaps.  I must get on.

 

Elizabeth – What do I need to say to make you listen to me?

 

Frankenstein – I understand, Elizabeth.

 

Elizabeth – You do?

 

Frankenstein – Of course, it must be a dreadful strain waiting to be married to such a brilliant man.  You must ask yourself constantly – will I be good enough?

 

Elizabeth – Victor!

 

Frankenstein – I really must get on, my dear.

 

Elizabeth – Tell me what are you doing there?

 

Frankenstein – It is my secret work.

 

Elizabeth – You have been hanging around graveyards, digging up bodies – yes?

 

Frankenstein – Well, maybe – a little.

 

Elizabeth – You got eyeballs and a skull…

 

Frankenstein – I will change the world, Elizabeth.  I have got the bony fingers, the sloppy liver and the fat, lolloping tongue. Now if you don’t mind…

 

Elizabeth – You are going to work day and night sewing them all up in a skin.

 

Frankenstein – I am going to work day and n…  How did you know that?

 

Elizabeth – You’ve done it before.  It is what you are destined to do forever.

 

Frankenstein – What have you been drinking, Elizabeth?

 

Elizabeth – If a distinguished professor came with news, you would listen to him. Why will you not listen to me?

 

Frankenstein – I need to finish my experiment. Then I will be…

 

Elizabeth – You will still be here.

 

Frankenstein – Everywhere there will be silence as the great scientist, Doctor Victor Frankenstein enters the room.

 

Elizabeth – Think Victor!  You sew your body parts together then what happens?

 

Frankenstein – My dear, I do not have time for these silly little games of yours.

 

Elizabeth – You create a monster which makes you want to vomit.

 

Frankenstein – Ah, you see my dear, there I have you.

 

Elizabeth – What do you mean?

 

Frankenstein – My creation will be beautiful.  I have been very selective with my body parts.

 

Elizabeth – Whatever do you mean?

 

Frankenstein – All the ones with warts and bristles got thrown back into the grave.

 

Elizabeth – What can I do to get through to you?

 

Frankenstein – Now you see your silly games have not worked Elizabeth.  So run along and let me continue with my work.

 

Elizabeth – Go back to Geneva and play with your dolls, Elizabeth.

 

Frankenstein – You are going to be married to the world’s greatest scientist – is that not enough for you?

 

Elizabeth – Victor, do you not remember abandoning the monster and in return he wreaks revenge on you?

 

Frankenstein – Oh, who indeed would be clever enough to wreak revenge on the great, Victor Frankenstein?

 

Elizabeth – You have given me no choice.  Elizabeth goes into her bag and brings out a book.  She puts it under Frankenstein’s nose.

 

Elizabeth – You are not the world’s greatest scientist, Victor – you are a character in a book.

 

Frankenstein – Let me see what jokes you play on me, Elizabeth.

 

Elizabeth – Come to the sitting room, Victor.  I think you will need to sit down.

 

Frankenstein – Oh your little games…

 

Frankenstein takes the book and smiles fondly at Elizabeth. 

 

Partial blackout.

 

 

Questions to ask about the scene.

 

Plot

When Elizabeth turns up at Frankenstein’s Laboratory, he is shocked to see her.  Why is he shocked?

Elizabeth makes an announcement about why she looks the way she does.  What is it?

What has Victor Frankenstein been up to?

Elizabeth tells Victor that he created a monster.  How did he feel about the monster once he had created him?

Victor hated the monster; it appalled him so much it made him want to vomit.  What, according to Elizabeth, did he do then?

What does the monster do when Frankenstein has abandoned him?

Elizabeth makes a second shocking announcement to Frankenstein.  What is it?

 

Character

Do we like Victor Frankenstein?

Why do we like/ dislike him?

How does Victor Frankenstein see himself?

How do we know how he sees himself?

What problem has Elizabeth got when trying to tell Victor her news?

What do you think Victor thinks of Elizabeth?  For instance, does he see her as his equal?

Why do you think Victor sees Elizabeth in the light in which he does?

How do you think Victor is going to respond to Elizabeth saying that he is a character in a book?  Why?

 

Exercise

Victor Frankenstein thinks that he is so clever he does not need to listen to what anyone else has to say, especially a woman.  The objective of the next exercise is to demonstrate how important speaking and listening is.

 

This exercise takes place on a train.  Divide into pairs.  One person is to be the ticket man on the train.  He has had a bad morning, three teenagers were laughing at the boil on the end of his nose and he feels as if he wants to send all children to Mars.  The other person is a child who has bought a ticket at the station but when the ticket collector comes to check it, the ticket is nowhere to be seen.  Create a scene between the two where the child decides to tell the truth but the ticket collector will not believe him no matter what he says.  After an allotted time the scenes can be acted out.  It is also a good idea for the pairs to swap over parts so that each person can experience how frustrating it is to speak to someone who hears us but does not actually listen to what we are saying.

 

Questions to ask

Why was the ticket collector not listening to what the child had to say?

Is it right to assume that all people will act badly?

How do we feel when someone will not listen to us?

Why is it important to listen to what the other person has to say?

Frankenstein's Revenge - a play full of shifty manoeuvres and time travel.

Dare you enter The Laboratory?

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How Drama Can Help Children With Their Reading.

Charles Dickens party.

We used Drama to get Will to read and now we are using to try to encourage other kids to read, act, film and write.

 

An often overlooked subject is Drama and yet it is one of the most valuable tools in giving children the desire to read for themselves.  Sometimes, when we think of drama, we think it is something which children go out to and learn from other people with stages, costumes and lighting.  Well, although I am a huge supporter of drama schools, I want to point out that you can use drama at home too at little cost and energy even before you start thinking of sending your child to drama classes.

After three years at school, my son became a reluctant reader which was a huge shock to me as he had grown up in a home full of books and had been read to constantly.  Books have been a huge part of my life and have given me a sense of joy; they have also helped me through my darkest hours and for my son not to have this advantage seemed like a dreadful waste to me.

Once children have been put off reading, it can be difficult to get that desire back – in fact, the more you try, the more they seem to back away from it.  One of the most useful tools you can use in a situation like that is a children’s play which is funny and has a subject which the child is interested in.  When Will was seven, he loved history, he still does, so I bought a copy of a play called “Claudius’s Head” which I was going to provide a link for but I cannot find it on the internet now, strangely enough.  We read the parts out with a bit of acting and Will was more than happy to join in, I think it was because the focus was no longer on him reading.

I also used this idea on other children when they came over to play to see what happened.  The children who struggled with reading and were therefore put off reading, enjoyed it because there was so much laughter at the play and the acting.  In essence, they didn’t seem to notice they were reading.

I found that it is not even necessary to do the acting, you can sit with your child reading the play and it is totally different from them reading to you or vice versa.  It is a shared activity; therefore it is more like playing.  It offers the child a sense of being equal and that it the key to the child being more relaxed.  When they are reading to you, it can feel as if they are being tested, no matter how relaxing the atmosphere.  When you are reading to them, you are in charge and they feel as if they have to sit and listen.  I am not saying that there is anything wrong with reading to your child or them reading to you, in fact, I shout the benefits loud and clear and these times can be some of your most precious memories.  However, when a child has been put off reading, it becomes an extremely sensitive issue and therefore the two of you being equal often helps to redress it.

Children who have been put off reading, have often been made to feel stupid whilst learning to read.  Every time they have to read, the dreadful memories come hurling back at them.  It becomes a vicious circle, the child feels at a disadvantage and the adult’s desperation can often be sensed by the child and make them feel worse about reading.  When you read a play together, everything changes in the child/adult balance because you become other people in the parts that you play.  This often eases the tension which a child who is sensitive about reading feels.  When we fuse becoming other people with reading a dialogue instead of narrative, the child is no longer in such a sensitive position and can possibly forget the feeling associated with reading.

Using these methods worked with Will who had been put off reading whilst learning to read at school.  I have to stress that there is a difference between reluctant readers who have been put off reading this way and children who suffer from Dyslexia.  With reluctant readers it is usually an emotional cause, whereas with Dyslexic children it is that their brain can often display the text differently to them than it is.  Therefore, Dyslexic children might need specialist help and definitely need as much understanding and attention as possible.

Will thrived using drama to get him over his reluctance to read.  From there, I used other plays like “Jennings and The Roman Remains” (a radio play) and gradually Will lost the emotions associated with reading and became the avid reader he is today.  Reading plays with Will, when he had been a reluctant reader, is one of the reasons I wrote “Frankenstein’s Revenge – a play full of shifty manoeuvres and time travel”.   I am truly grateful that Will now loves reading and if anything I write or do goes on to help other children to become enthusiastic readers then the cycle will have been completed.

Frankenstein's Revenge

Frankenstein‘s Revenge – a play full of shifty manoeuvres and time travel.

Have you had a reluctant reader in your family?  Or maybe you were a reluctant reader yourself and have strong memories.  On the other hand, you might have come across a wonderful way to get children interested in reading.  I have a strong interest in children and reading so please feel free to comment on your own personal experiences.  I would love to share them with you.

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Filed under Education, Frankenstein's Revenge, Parenting

My Frankenstein Diary 10 – How Do I Promote My Book?

Frankenstein‘s Revenge cover for Kindle.

 

Okay, so you’ve written a book but that’s not the end – it is actually the beginning of a new part of the book’s journey.  How the heck do you promote your little baby?  I have just published “Frankenstein’s Revenge – a play full of shifty manoeuvres and time travel.”  It is a ghoulish comedy written to promote awareness of Mary Shelley and Frankenstein.  It is also written to encourage children to write, act, make sets and film.  If I had approached literary agents or publishers to represent or publish this manuscript, I would have received a distinct “no” simply because it is a play.  In fact, I think quite a few literary agents and publishers have “no plays” written in their information.  This has not stopped me because with all my projects, I look at the long term payback.  I think over the years Frankenstein’s Revenge will have slow but steady sales.  I also feel that it is the Loony Literature product which offers brand awareness the most.  We have The Laboratory and all the costumes so with “Frankenstein’s Revenge” we can really demonstrate what Loony Literature really stands for.

So how can we promote our books?  For a long time, I worked in sales, public relations and promotions.  My experiences took me from the pubs in Toxteth, Liverpool just after the riots to the yacht racing at Cowes Week.  Sometimes I would be with Royalty or sporting heroes, other times I have been in public houses in notorious areas like Moss Side in Manchester where many feared to go.  It was a deep and intense tapestry of life.  What did it teach me?

On reflection, the main thing it taught me is that you have to care.  At this point, you might be thinking, “What the heck is she talking about?  Of course, I care about my book.”  I’m not talking about your book; I’m talking about your readers, your customers.  If we think of them simply as buyers, eventually they will, quite rightly, see right through us.  When I think back over the years at different projects I have worked on, the most successful ones have always been when my customer’s best interests have been at heart.  In pubs and nightclubs, giving the customers the best night out possible has meant the product has walked out the door.  We hardly needed to promote it, the entertaining experience we offered did that on its own.  When promoting cosmetics and skin care, simply sincerely caring that the customer gains bags of confidence from using the products, means great sales.  I could harp on forever – don’t worry, I won’t.  So now, taking my point into consideration – how do I promote my play?

Initially, I had intended to write a teaching guide to go with it.  It was going to be something which would be used by teachers, home educators and parents/guardians.  However, after receiving letters and messages from teenagers and children who have been inspired by the Loony Literature website, I have decided not to write the guide for sale.  Parts of the play will be acted out by us and put on the website with ideas for writing, acting, making sets and filming.  I am putting it directly into the hands of the young people.  Why?  It all comes back to that caring – every time a child gets the nerve to act, write or do something creative because of Loony Literature, I think my chest is going to burst, it makes me feel so happy and proud.  I cannot think of a better way of promoting Loony Literature or Frankenstein’s Revenge.

Drawing of actor T.P. Cooke as Frankenstein's ...

Drawing of actor T.P. Cooke as Frankenstein’s monster in an 1823 theatrical production (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So that’s me sorted out for the time being but what about you? Who is your book aimed at?  It is essential that you distinguish who your target is and then focus directly on them.  If you have written a cookery book called “Pork Recipes For Greedy Pigs”, you have to target your audience.  There are millions of vegetarians out there and folks who won’t touch pork for religious reasons.   You have to find the people who love cooking and pork and then truly want to show them new ways to cook pork.  Everybody wants to improve their lives – that is for definite.  You simply have to want to improve the lives of your intended audience.  Once you start thinking along those lines with your book, more ideas will emerge on how to promote it.  It is all to do with setting your mind on the right track.

At Loony Literature we will be working on getting our marketing ready for view this summer.  Read about the ups and downs in My Frankenstein Diary.  Good luck with your marketing ideas – do let me know how you go on.

 

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Filed under Creative Writing, Education, For Teens, Frankenstein, Frankenstein's Revenge, Inspiration and Us