#CurriculumBooks by @KarlDuke8

#CurriculumBooks May 2020

For the last few weeks I have been putting together a document which links (mainly) picture books to a range of curriculum areas and themes. Alison (@booksfortopics) hosts a wonderful website covering the curriculum superbly and I hope the picture book focus of #CurriculumBooks helps to add to those options as a teacher. The selections include those from my own collection, recommendations by @smithsmm and many from searching widely.


If you have any further categories that you would like adding to this list please get in touch via Twitter.

Thank you to @smithsmm for contributing his superb ideas and @MrGPrimary who is starting to put together a #CurriculumBooks website for easy access. Both legends.

It’s a large document so if the internet crashes I do apologise!




Books4Values: A useful picture book guide for assemblies and worship

Books4Values April 2020Relationships

Picture books are a gateway to enable understanding, empathy and love. The use of picture books in assemblies or worship, or to read to children both in school and home  has never been so important.

Thanks to many colleagues on Twitter, I have compiled a list of picture books linked to the values you may reflect upon in school and at home. This list will continue to be developed, so please send any ideas to me via @KarlDuke8. Thank you.

I hope you find the list useful and maybe you will discover a new book to share with children and colleagues.



Books4Values: Using picture books to bring values to life — MrD:HT

One of the great pleasures of school life is using a picture book to generate discussion and to provide the words and visuals to support learning and understanding. Thanks to a number of colleagues on Twitter, I have compiled a list of books (see link below) which could be used to support assemblies/worship and learning, […]

via Books4Values: Using picture books to bring values to life — MrD:HT

Books4Values: Using picture books to bring values to life

One of the great pleasures of school life is using a picture book to generate discussion and to provide the words and visuals to support learning and understanding.

Thanks to a number of colleagues on Twitter, I have compiled a list of books (see link below) which could be used to support assemblies/worship and learning, perhaps in PSHE or linked to other texts.

Every now and again I’ll update the list and feel free to do so yourself.

Additionally, if there are any values you wish to add to the list, please contact me via Twitter and I’ll amend the list accordingly.

Happy reading.


@KarlDuke8 @DetailDetects1

Books 4 Values Jan 20


PICTURE BOOK PSHE: Part 1/4 – An Introduction

I have to be honest. I would make every effort to use a picture book to teach a child how to tie their shoe laces, or the correct way to consume a club biscuit (bite around the edge first) or how to design a broomstick. So, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to know that I am a firm believer in using picture books in most, if not all, of the many aspects of the PSHE curriculum. For me, it is arguably the most important curriculum for primary children at this point in time; one or two (hundred) politicians may have benefited from being educated in the way that we educate our children through the subject.

In this series of blogs I want to look at how picture books can be used effectively by sharing ideas from personal experience and also point you in the direction of some quality texts which will help you on your teaching journey. So in this first of four there’s a Why?  a What? and a How? to be followed in Parts 2, 3 and 4 by just the How?



Like many schools, we have, over the course of the last three years at my current school, increased the use of books to drive discussion and raise awareness of a range of issues. PSHE is not a subject which disappears off the timetable when a particularly busy week hits – it cannot. There are too many children who rely on the messages to help them. The teaching of Personal, Social and Health Education gives us the opportunity to grow the whole child through developing skills such as resilience, self-esteem and critical thinking and increase an awareness of relationships, mental health, hygiene and safety.  In our school, I am proud that children are increasingly comfortable using vocabulary linked to contexts such as sexuality, diversity and equality. The use of picture books and the open nature of discussion have provided us with the tools to enable this to happen. It is an ongoing process, a constantly developing process, but one which we know is right for our children.

We are living in an astonishing era of picture books which, if used effectively, will develop ethical thinkers.  Our whole curriculum is driven by books of all kinds but it is the many aspects of PSHE which I believe are  taught most effectively by the influence of a picture book. Think about the following selection, consider how vital the messages are to share with primary children and how they promote ethical thinking:

Jessica Love’s Julian is a Mermaid provides the gateway for children to be who they want to be.

julian is a mermaid

Larissa Theule and Kelsey Garrity-Riley’s Born to Ride explores the suffrage movement in the America and in particular a girl’s fight for the right to ride a bike.

Born to ride

Mel Tregonning’s extraordinary graphic novel Small Things shares the story of boy who feels alone with his worries; such an important story linked to mental health.

small things

Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson’s Henry’s Freedom Box is a true story of slavery and how one man mailed himself to freedom.

henrys freedom box

Armin Greder’s The Island puts the spotlight on immigration and the treatment of those making the journey.

the island

Rachel Noble and Zoey Abbott’s Finn’s Feather is a powerful story of how a young brother deals with the passing of a sibling.

finns feather

Paul Fleischman and Kevin Hawkes’ Weslandia shares the journey of a boy who doesn’t fit in, deals with bullying and creates his own world.


That list could go on and on.

So, why does the use of picture books in PSHE help?:

  • enables a potentially uncomfortable subject to be introduced to the class in a format which is a friendly way in
  • provides helpful visuals to support understanding of a context
  • accessible to all learners
  • introduces characters/role models for children to empathise with, sympathise with and to be inspired by
  • develops critical thinking
  • enables a ‘slow read’ – providing a chance to make links across pages, whether through word or illustration. (for example, consider the design and colour of the fish in Julian is a Mermaid and then the colour of Nana’s dress – below)
  • provides a visual narrative structure for the teacher to ensure discussions are underpinned by an existing and relevant story
  • inspires increasingly mature thinking, conversation and discussion
  • promotes the power of picture books


Making the link:

We use the PSHE Association guidance based on the strands:

  • Health and wellbeing
  • Relationships
  • Living in the Wider World

Links are made between the objectives within the guidance and possible books that could be used to support each one.


Before I go into depth as the series progresses, here are a few examples of how books are used in our school.

An objective of Living in the Wider World for KS1: ‘understand ways in which they are all unique; understand that there has never been and will never be another ‘them”.

One of the key books we focus on is We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio. By reading this gem of a book, the children recognise that despite our differences we all have qualities to be celebrated. Children have the opportunity to discuss inclusion and acceptance.
were all wonders
Let’s look at the Health and Wellbeing objective for KS2: ‘to reflect on and celebrate their achievements, identify their strengths and areas for improvement, set high aspirations and goals.
the girls

An ideal text to link here would be ‘The Girls‘ by Lauren Ace and Jenny Lovlie. With Year 4/5 children last year we read the story, discussed the friendship, the similarities and differences between the characters and the children considered which character they most related to. We talked about the future, about their own aspirations which then triggered a discussion about gender, firstly considering the use of colour in children’s clothing and toys before moving onto gender bias in the workplace. By providing the children with role models, the class were able to share their own thoughts and barriers of gender were broken down. We also talked about sexual orientation and Pride linked to one of the images in the book. The book provided the stimulus and opened the gateway to conversations in a safe environment.

Later in KS2, Armin Greder’s The Island is used to support the Relationships objective: ‘to develop strategies to resolve disputes and conflict through negotiation and appropriate compromise and to give rich and constructive feedback and support to benefit others as well as themselves.

The islanders treat a new arrival on the island with suspicion and disdain. Children were asked to consider the two sides of the argument to try and empathise with the concerns of the island folk whilst also suggesting why the man had arrived there and what his needs were. The children were aware of news stories relating to the migrant crisis and soon they were making their own links between the characters life and those seen on the news. By creating an Island of Community of their own, they were able to consider how the situation may have been resolved amicably and supportively. They considered how the islanders may have been given feedback (through drama) and how the consequences of such intervention may have benefited everyone. They also focused on ensuring that amenities on the island enabled equality and inclusion.

And finally for now..

I thought it would be useful to share a few books which link to aspects of the PSHE curriculum. Please note that there are many uses for the books posted but I think they fit well into a particular aspect.

Living in the Wider World

Living in the wider world



Health and Wellbeing

Health and Wellbeing

Over the series I’ll be sharing how a number of these books have been used effectively in the classroom and hopefully provide you with some help in how you could use them too.

Thanks for reading.






Detail Detectives: Using picture book illustrations to develop confidence in writing – Part 4

Get in your Delorian and let’s travel back in time…(and apologies to those who have read the previous blogs – I won’t be long!)

A number of years ago, when working as a teaching and learning consultant in Lincolnshire, I began to explore the possibility of looking closely at the illustrations within picture books to help develop writing strategies and increase the practical aspect of writing development. As I worked with teachers they talked about a difficulty they often experienced: children seemed to be short of strategies to generate vocabulary when asked to write about the illustration in front of them when there appeared to be ‘too much to focus on’.

Subsequently, I created a series of tools that became know as Detail Detectives, named because the children became detectives to investigate an image in specific detail; their eyes became magnifying glasses.

Thank you to everyone in the past twelve months who have shared or used these tools, particularly @MrS_Primary for inviting me into his school to deliver training, @ReadingRocks for allowing me to deliver a session at #RRGoesToUni and to those who attended and to everyone @ClubPictureBook for their continuous support and encouragement. As I write @MissNCleveland has just shared a superb piece of writing inspired by a Detail Detectives strategy I posted about previously – Explosion – and I’ve added it below. Thank you.



Over the last year I have shared further strategies to support writing in Parts 1-3 and after a little break here is Part 4.


Detail Detectives: Collect4

For those of you who have been following @DetailDetects1 you will know that I am a huge fan of using grids to break up an image into smaller sections. Like Jigsaw, Beehive and Plot, Spot and Jot, Collect4 does just that but with an emphasis on collecting ideas before evaluating which of them to use. This strategy could also be used on a working wall, drawn on the table, taped on the carpet large-scale or on the playground.


Sydney Smith‘s illustrations from his exceptional new picture book, Small in the City,  are good examples to use. There are many aspects of this illustration which help to set the scene as the protagonist walks through the snowy street. I’ve placed a 4×4 grid on top. The number of columns and rows can be adapted. Children then place one counter/ring onto one of the boxes and ask the following questions:

  • What can we see in the box?
  • What is to the left or right of it?
  • What is above it?
  • What is below it?

These initial thoughts in the form of nouns can then be built upon using descriptive  and positional language. For instance:

What can we see in the box?

boy, coat, wellington boots, snow, pavement, scarf

Could become:

A boy wearing a green coat, woolly scarf and yellow wellingtons walked on the snowy pavement.

Try these – What is to the left or right of it?

snow, stool, shoes

What is above it?

pictures of fish, bricks, window

What is below it?

(not applicable to this image but imagination may be used to suggest: road, cars, motorbike, sledge)

These ideas can be developed by adding adjectives, verbs, adverbs and so on and consequently into sentences and paragraphs. The more comprehensive the list, the more choice to be made as a writer.

Repeat this using three further counters/rings one at a time. There may be some repetition, e.g. snow, but then that is where we decide that only one or two sentences are required to describe that aspect of the illustration. 

I have added red rings as this may be a strategy that two children work collaboratively on to share and discuss vocabulary and sentence choices.

Why Collect4? Children collect inspiration from 4 boxes.

Detail Detectives: Torchlight

lights on cotton rock

The quality of picture books at our disposal is quite extraordinary and another gem to add to the collection is David Litchfield’s Lights on Cotton Rock. If you are a fan of E.T, Close Encounters of the Third Kind or perhaps even Stranger Things, you will love it.

Torchlight is a simple yet effective idea for focusing the eye as a torchlight does for us in the dark.

On the illustration above a ‘torchlight’ has been placed (not the one held by the girl!). Starting from the actual point, work your way up the inside of the torchlight towards the top right corner. What do you see first? Sky. What comes next? Red hair. Then? A child’s face, open mouth, wide eyes, woolly hat. Finally? Stars in the sky. These initial ideas can develop according to the focus of the learning. cornelia.png

Now try two torchlights. The one starting at the left-hand bottom corner will provide some description of the setting before we move onto the second in which we see a boy and girl swinging through the jungle. So, again, start from the point of the first to see what you can find inside the torchlight. When you reach the end start from the point of the second. There is an opportunity here to collect many ideas and reject any repetition.

Just look at what could be missed if we didn’t look in detail: the shapes of the leaves, the different plants, the variety of creatures, the colour variation. With that in mind, the torchlight could be used to identify colours viewed or as a verb collector. Focus the Torchlight as you see fit. Children in the class could have a range of aspects to find before collating them together for modelled/shared writing.

Why not trying an actual torchlight too.

The illustration is from Nora Brech’s stunning Cornelia and the Jungle Machine by Gecko Press.

Detail Detectives: Snowball

Deciding what to write and how much is a challenge for many children. The stimulus needs to be engaging and provide numerous possibilities. Snowball provides a structure for the children to help construct a piece of writing with the intention that the writing snowballs. There is a close link to the strategy Writing by Numbers but the focus here is on confidence building. Like many of the strategies, I think it would be an excellent tool for a 1:1 or group session or modelled/shared writing.

snowball 4

In the illustration above, from Jacqueline Woodson’s The Day You Begin and illustrated by Rafael Lopez, I have placed five snowballs. Each snowball represents the quantity of ideas we’re looking for, with perhaps the focal point, in this case the mother and daughter, placed in the largest snowball. So, for instance, we may only expect one idea for the smallest snowball, two ideas for the next one and so on.

Lets start with a word – leading to a sentence about the tree – in the smallest snowball.

Then let’s move to the river for two ideas, perhaps about the fish, the flow or the colours.

Our next snowball is placed on the palace. So, let’s generate three ideas about what we can see there.

Our next snowball is in the sky with a book, bird and a star to describe, perhaps using more than three ideas.

Finally, the largest snowball. We can go to town here describing the mother and child, their clothing, what they are doing, their held hands and perhaps their relationship with the sky and the whole illustration.

Snowball is a build up of ideas, identifying the focal point first, before selecting four other elements of the illustration which will create the scene before we reach that focal point. There is no right or wrong here, it just depends what your focus is and what you want the children to achieve so play around with the positioning and order of the snowballs. Alternatively, give children the freedom to select the position of the five and what the focal point would be.


Detail Detectives: Gi_Ant

This is a strategy I’ve used before to try and help children view an image differently, to take a viewpoint within the illustration – and to jump into it eventually.  And yes, to those who know, it’s by Anthony Browne.

The idea is simple: to find and describe elements of the image which differ significantly in size and then transport yourself into the image; what would you see if you were a giant in the picture? What would you see if you were an ant?

So, what can we see in the illustration which is large in scale? In this case, the trees, the branches, the forest as a whole.

What can we find which is small in scale? The grass? The girl’s shoes? Buttons? Of course perspective and depth could play a part but that would potentially confuse things- let’s keep it simple.

Is there anything we can find which we haven’t mentioned yet?  Girl. Axe. Trunk.

anthony browne

After collating a list of large (giant) and small (ant) elements plus the things that don’t fit into those lists, let’s jump into the picture. The lists will help this part.

You are a giant walking through the woods. Look down, what can you see? Be careful, what could you stand on?  This may provide opportunities to introduce language linked to looking down, e.g. ‘Down below…’ or ‘Beneath my feet…’ Think about how small those things are from your position. Could you use language linked to size?

Now, imagine being a tiny ant. This time think about what is all around you (grass, flowers, the camp fire) and what you view as you look up. Consider the size of the girl, the trees, the axe. Again, lots of opportunities to use the language of size and perspective, e.g. ‘Up above…’ or ‘High in the distance.’

Thank you for reading Part 4 of the series. Do please get in touch if you have any questions and, if you use any of the strategies, feel free to share.

Duke Skywalker  @DetailDetects1  @KarlDuke8






What would ‘To me…’ be without ‘To you…’?

Pop Quiz:

Let’s throw a few names into the bubbling cauldron of creativity to begin with, shall we?

Wilder and __________

______________ and Wise

_________ and Walters

How about…

Laurel and __________

_________ and McCartney

McFly and _________


______________ and Iron Man (sob)

_________ and Mindy

Jay Z and _____________

French and ___________

Oh, let’s not forget the most incredible duo of all…

The Chuckle Brother! Sorry. The Chuckle Brothers.

Double acts. Two people putting their skills together to create magic. Working on their own they have individual talent. They possess a skill or skills from which they can earn a living and bring joy to those around them, listening to them or watching them.

But, put two people together who work so wonderfully well as a duo and what do you get?

Magic. (Think Smith and Dyson at #PrimaryRocks for those that were there)

I’m still relatively fresh to this Twitter lark but the majority of my time on here I spend conversing and sharing ideas about books and more often than not picture books. I am fortunate to spend time once a month discussing a specific picture book or illustrator/author in @ClubPictureBook in which the illustrations of a picture book are scrutinised with Sherlock’s eye (the Cumberbatch version) for hidden meaning or suggestion. The name of the illustrator of the artwork is always at the forefront of our minds. In fact, more often than not, the illustrator is the reason we have chosen the book in the first place.

Here’s another short list, pop-pickers:

________ and Blake

________ and Scheffler

________ and Rackham

________ and Klassen

I think we all could add in the missing names. Why?

Because we recognise the partnership.

The team.

The magic that happens when author and illustrator add their ingredients to the picture book cauldron and create something extraordinary. Roald Dahl’s stories may still be magical without the illustrations of Blake, but, ‘boy’, (pun intended) they magically add to the writing. The wonderful A.F.Harrold’s genius on a page would still be genius on a page, but he constantly acknowledges in his social media presence the vision that is created from the skills of Emily Gravett, Joe Todd-Stanton or Levi Pinfold. Imagine having that triumvirate as a team to work with! I’m sure they feel equally blessed.

Perhaps, because I concentrate much of my time absorbed in picture book illustration and conversing about them in general, I often notice when the author is recognised in a tweet but not the illustrator; this often happens regularly in book lists or recommendations. Now, before you go searching through my tweets for occasions when I have also failed to acknowledge the artist because I’m sure I have at times, (I did so in a #PictureBookCurriculum blog a few months ago and was rightly picked up on it) I do think we can all do better. I am included in the ‘we’.

Imagine Rebecca Young’s Teacup without the talent of Matt Ottley. Imagine Charlotte Guillain’s The Street Beneath my Feet without Yuval Zummer’s stunning visuals. Imagine (a personal favourite of mine) Rachel Noble’s Finn’s Feather without the beauty of Zoey Abbott’s illustrations. Imagine books by Mac Burnett without Jon Klassen. For me, more often than not, it is the illustrations that attract me, that pull me in, that help me to lose myself and that excite me. They take me to worlds know and unknown. Combined with the words we are first observers and then participants within a magical potion which toys wonderfully with our imagination, manipulates us and leaves us begging for more.

This is not a post to create tension between the word and the image. I value them both immensely. It is a post that aims to highlight the discrepancy which can occur in a tweet or book list. Acknowledge the pencil, the paper, the paint, the pastel, the palette, the panorama, the perspective, the pigment, the positive space and the print. Acknowledge the artist’s gift.

A picture book is just that. A book with pictures. Take away the pictures and it’s a book with words.  The illustrator has equal importance; let’s not forget them, let’s acknowledge them. Let’s celebrate them.

After all, what would ‘To me…’ be without ‘To you…’?

MrD:HT  – BA (Hons First Class) Graphic Design and Illustration – DeMontfort University, Lincoln, 1995)










Picture Book Curriculum – Issue 4: The Arrival by Shaun Tan


the arrival

Visiting Salt’s Mill in Saltaire, near Bradford, is one of life’s great pleasures. A Victorian mill transformed into the most spacious, atmospheric and beautiful book shop you can imagine. Yes, there’s also products for the home, restaurants, an antique shop and many works of art by Bradford’s own David Hockney displayed, but it has always been the bookshop that has held a special place in my heart.


Well, on the third floor, there is one table there, a regular circular table which is the first piece of furniture you reach. Every time I visit this table has the most incredible books on display; books that anyone (apart from @smithsmm probably!) may never have seen.

About twelve years ago when I ventured excitedly towards ‘that table’ I came across ‘The Arrival’ by Shaun Tan. I was a consultant at the time who encouraged the use of picture books as an incredible tool for learning, so I knew of his work on ‘The Viewer’, ‘The Rabbits’ and the wonderful ‘The Lost Thing’, but this was a new one on me. I think many of you have had that same feeling as you have discovered the book in the years since its publication. I could not put it down. I could not believe the amount of time, Tan must have put into this book. This book was special.

At the earliest opportunity I shared ‘The Arrival’ with colleagues and then to teachers in Lincolnshire and I’d like to think I did my bit to promote this visual treasure. I emailed Shaun Tan at the time to express how incredible I thought this work of art was and to say we were now using it in schools because the opportunities were endless. His reply is still attached to a print I own from ‘The Arrival’. I remember asking him whether there had been interest from any film companies at the time and he said that there had been many, particularly from the UK.  Amongst the many teachers who were using the book in 2007/8 was @SarahLouP. Through the source material and her exceptional teaching the children produced writing of such quality.  On my (very hopeful) request, Tan sent a thank you card to them for using ‘The Arrival’ with an original piece of artthe-arrival-2.jpgwork on it.

It has been wonderful to see how ‘The Arrival’ has taken off in this country over the last decade or so and it remains not only my favourite book but my favourite one to use in school and is a huge part of our Year 6 curriculum at BcL.

In the English section, I have organised the ideas into the chapters of the book and created a name for each one to help. Thank you again for reading #PictureBookCurriculum – I hope you find the ideas useful. This is very much the tip of the iceberg.


Chapter 1: Departure

  • Mystery Cards: give the children each individual image one at a time from the start of the book (below). Ask them to develop a storyline from each image and build a plot. It’s interesting to see how often the Titanic plays a part! Obviously it’s imperative the children do not know the story at this point.
    arrival 3
  • If you were a migrant moving to a new land, what would you put in your suitcase?
  • Wrap a personal photo in brown parcel wrap. Write about it’s meaning to you.
  • Collect metaphors for the threat (the creature’s tail) that appears to be hanging over the town.
  • Drama: recreate the still images using sepia photography. Alternatively, make them come to life through scripting a scene, like the one around the dining table or at the train station.
  • Compare and contrast the table scene at the beginning of the story with the one at the end. How have emotions changed? What has stayed the same?

Chapter 2: The Arrival 

  • The journey on the ship is mainly kept from us. Recount the journey on the boat and the people he may have met. Alternatively, write as another person on the ship who is observing our traveller.
  • Drama: Interview the migrant coming into the country. What would you ask? What would you want to know? As the migrant, what would  you want to ask? the arrival 5teh arrival 4
  • Describe the bustling town scene using your senses and #DetailDetectives strategies (beehive/story-line/jig-saw) @DetailDetects1
  • Describe the traveller’s guest house room. How is it different from his home?
  • Ask the children to only communicate using drawings as our migrant has to do initially to help people understand.
  • Inspired by the scene in which he opens the suitcase and remembers his family, write emotively about that moment. If he could hear the voices of his family from the suitcase, what would they be saying to him.
  • There is a hidden letter in the suitcase from his daughter/wife. What does it say?
  • Recount his journey so far as he looks into the suitcase and the emotions he has experienced.
  • Present a vlog of the first day in the new home. (create a contrasting one later in the story as he settles down)

Chapter 3: Discovering 

  • Write a non-chronological report about a creature which lives in this land or create your own.
  • Explore the use of ‘a story within a story’ as seen when our traveller meets numerous people from this new land
  • Explore dialogue between characters to develop the punctuation of speech.
  • Write the narrative for the girl’s story as she recounts her life in child labour
    arrival 6
  • Describe ‘the land of the giants’ (above) and the subsequent escape.
  • Present the above as a news item to camera

Chapter 4: Hope

  • Recount the old man’s recollections of war and the reason why he had to find a new home
  • Write a job application for one of the positions shown.

Chapter 5: The Arrivals

  • Write a poem showing how time passes (the life cycle of the flower)
  • Write a letter home sharing his quest for employment and make the letter into an origami bird.
  • Compare the departure to the families arrival in Chapter 5.
  • How does the girl feel when she finally arrives in the new land? Write a diary of the first days in the new land.


As always, if it’s tenuous don’t do it, but there are opportunities to explore the use of 2D and 3D shapes to create landscapes. Our migrant also plays a game later in the book using shapes. The children could create their own point-scoring game using shape. Any story involving a different currency opens up the opportunity of comparing values.


  • Make comparisons between the girl’s experience in child labour/slavery and those in the past, e.g. Harriet Tubman (The Underground Railroad) and Victorian workhouses.
  • Research Tan’s inspiration for the boy with the placard.
  • Explore migration and the reasons for it.
  • Research boat journeys made by migrants both historically and in present times.


  • Research great historical boat journeys discovering ‘new’ worlds.
  • Map reading: explore the symbols used on ordinance survey maps and use maps of other countries to show how symbols help travellers who speak different languages (these can be found cheaply in many charity shops).
  • Explore maps from other countries to find key rivers, mountains, cities and landmarks.
  • Create a map of the new land our traveller has migrated to. Use references from the book to help.
  • Our traveller experiences many new foods; taste a range of exotic foods and locate the country/climate they are grown in.


  • Shaun Tan uses clay to visual his ideas. Create a creature that would live in the new land from clay.
  • Recreate the end pages of the book using sepia/pencil portraits from the class.
  • Origami: explore making a range of different birds/creatures
  • Cloud Art: investigate the different cloud formations as our traveller observes on his journey. Create a piece of art showing these changes.
  • Shaun Tan takes everyday objects and shapes and imagines them at a different scale, which is how his buildings are often formed. Take an everyday object and design a building from it.
  • Hands play such an important part in the ‘The Arrival’. Create hand-inspired artwork to show love, friendship and hope. (RE links)
  • Paint the same flower through four seasons
  • Recreate the soldier’s footsteps through different terrain using photography.
  • Explore the links between Nevinson’s ‘Paths of Glory’, war photographs by Frank Hurley and ‘Parade to War’ by John Steuart Curry with the war scenes in Chapter 4 (Thank you @MissSMerrill for these ideas)

war war2

  • Retell an extract of the story using photography with children taking on the roles.


  • Explore the feelings of loss/sadness when someone departs
  • Wrap a picture/present for a loved one
  • Which origami animal would you make to send back with a message to your family?
  • Look at a range of different picture books which explore migration.
  • Write a letter of acceptance to a friend expressing the qualities you recognise in them.


  • Design a mode of transport which could at home in the new land.
  • Create a 3D model, using a range of construction  techniques, of the families home town, complete with the metaphorical threat.
  • Follow recipes which include a range of exotic foods, e.g. an exotic fruit salad. Why not invite parents along to taste?
  • Design and make a musical instrument to fit into the scene in Chapter 3.


  • Create a soundscape to a selected extract, e.g. the land of the giants image.
  • Produce news items for significant extracts from the story, e.g. the recollections of the citizens
  • Use green screen to recount key emotive moments in the story.
  • Create an animation of an origami creature moving


  • The bird could be seen as a symbol of hope throughout the book. Investigate whether there are other stories from religions which explore this idea.
  • Design a giant gateway to a city (like the one shown in Chapter 2) which expresses a hand of friendship, hope and togetherness. Other values could be used.


  • A key theme of the story is ‘new beginnings’- how could this be linked to religious stories?
  • How do the family put their trust in him?
  • Which values do you feel are represented in ‘The Arrival’? Express why.
  • At which points of the story are certain values expressed by those he meets?


  • Hope
  • Friendship
  • Courage
  • Compassion
  • Trust
  • Peace


  • Suitcase including a wrapped photo frame
  • Each child is given an origami bird with a message inside
  • Recreation of the dining table at the start of the story
  • Clay models of creatures

I do think that if I sat down again to create ideas for how ‘The Arrival’ could be used across the curriculum many different thoughts would come to mind and I may follow this up in the future with part 2! However, whether you use the book in school at the moment or plan to do so in the future, I hope you find the blog useful.

And Shaun Tan, thank you.

Karl Duke











Detail Detectives: Using picture book illustrations to develop confidence in writing (Part 3)

As everyone who follows me on Twitter knows, I absolutely adore picture books. The monthly discussions @ClubPictureBook are wonderful and I have made so many like-minded friends through sharing books on a regular.  However, I not only have a passion for collecting picture books and talking about them, but a drive to ensure picture books are used throughout school and that they are used in the classroom to inspire our developing writers. Our school curriculum is reading-inspired because I want books to be at the heart of learning.

The Detail Detective series aims to provide strategies for teachers to support children who are struggling to develop ideas. Thank you to everyone who has responded so positively to the first two blogs of the series and particularly to @MrS_Primary for inviting me into his school to share Detail Detectives. It has been wonderful to see how he has used the strategies so far and I look forward to sharing them @RRGoesToUni in March.

In this blog I will be sharing the strategies: Explosion, Ripple Writer and Push the Button.



There are many everyday tools on Word which can be used to help our children become Detail Detectives. The ‘explosion’ shape can be added to an image and we can use the points to focus on specific areas. Look at the example above using an illustration from Torben Kulhmann’s outstanding book, ‘Armstrong’.

I have highlighted four particular objects or areas that the points ‘point’ to, these include the teddy bear, a pile of newspapers, a cardboard box and the wooden panels. Children could be asked to write a sentence about each of these aspects of the image. They may repeat using the other points. We may now have a bank of sentences describing the scene but we haven’t yet described the focal point of the illustration: the mouse looking through the telescope. So, now lets move inside the Explosion and write about our hero.

Alternatively, shrink the Explosion again. What could we now focus on?

explosion 2

Now, we view the telescope stand, the lens, the pile of books and, finally, the mouse. So, with the first Explosion we have set the scene and with the smaller second Explosion, we have identified the focal point for our writing. Additionally, each aspect could be numbered to provide an order as we gradually move towards the mouse.

Ripple Writer

Ripple Writer

Like many of the Detail Detective strategies, Ripple Writer helps the writer gradually move in towards a focal point but the journey taken will enable a number of sentences to be created. Let’s start in the outer circle here using an illustration by Anthony Browne. What can you see within the outer circle?

The patchwork quilt.

The flowered wallpaper.

A girl’s head on a pillow.

Let’s write sentences about those aspects of the scene.

Now let’s take the next step on the journey. What can we see?

The gorilla lampshade.

A wooden lamp.

A bedside table.

A spotted dickie bow.

As we move into the next circle the mouth and fur of the gorilla comes into focus. Using the examples given a significant number of sentences could have been written about the scene before we have even reached a possible focal point: the gorilla’s eye.

Push the Button

Push the ButtonAs teachers we often encourage children to use their senses when writing. For Push the Button you will need some small (thumb-sized) images like the ones above with each one representing a sense. No prizes for guessing where I found the images to use but, having said that,  I’d happily buy you a chocolate bar if you work out the origin of the ear image!

Using one sense at a time, ask the children to move the button around the image. They may decide where and when to stop moving the button or may work with a partner. The example above uses Brian Selznick’s artwork from The Marvels. One of the ears is hovering over the fire. What could you hear there? The crackle of the wood? The spitting of the fire?

Now move the sound button again. Stop at different areas of the illustration and consider the sounds heard.

Try with different sense buttons. Hopefully, through using each sense button, we will have accumulated a number of ideas to build on.

I hope you find these ideas useful and when added to the bank of strategies from Part 1 and 2 you have a wide selection to use with your children. I would love to see how Detail Detectives has been used in your classroom so please feel free to share.

Shortly, I will be starting a new series based on how picture books can be used to inspire the curriculum. Looking forward to it!

Thanks for reading.


Duke Skywalker  @KarlDuke8

Picture Book Curriculum – Issue 3: Arthur and the Golden Rope by Joe Todd-Stanton


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There are not many author/illustrators at the moment who provoke as much excitement when a new book is published as Joe Todd-Stanton. His ability to create adventurous stories in comic-like book form has created a huge fan base and his work is frequently celebrated by the likes of @smithsmm and @PaulWat5, amongst many others, on Twitter. His new book, A Mouse Called Julian, will be on a bookshelf near you soon.

The first book of Todd-Stanton’s that I came into possession of was Arthur and the Golden Rope – one of (I hope) an ongoing series linked to the Brownstone family alongside Marcy and the Riddle of the Sphinx and The Urn of Uruk.

In this series I aim to provide a number of ideas for how to link a picture book to the curriculum. They are just ideas which may, in turn, trigger others.


Research and write a biography of Thor/Odin

Compare the Marvel versions of Thor/Odin with Todd-Stanton’s characters and those in other retellings

Create a museum guide for the Brownstone family vault

Write a short story to add to the Brownstone collection of books possibly introducing a new family member

Write the stories for Eleanor Brownstone’s Discovery of Crystal Kingdom or Eric Brownstones epic battle with the hundred-headed snake king of Tuckernuck Island (possibly reduce the length of title!)

Compare Arthur’s adventures with the film Jason and the Argonauts

Describe Arthur’s town in amongst the mountains

Write a poem from the point of view of Atrix: Atrix’s wonderous and frightening tales

The illustrations on page 14/15 suggest Arthur’s other adventures: flesh out one of these stories

Create a non-chronological report about Arthur’s adventures (creatures, adventures, items found, dangers)

Complete a ‘verb journey’ of the book, collecting the powerful vocabulary on the way that would describe Arthur’s adventures

Journalistic writing: The Day the Black Wolf Attacked

Detail Detectives: Story-line – describe the journey of the map.

Poetry: Sounds in a Jar – imagine the sounds Arthur heard on his journey – write a poem about them or alternatively, give the children a jar and walk around the school/the local town/a forest and capture the sounds

Fly on the Wall: recount a day in the past when Arthur or a relation returned to the vault with an incredible artefact – what did the fly see?

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Create a Brownstone vault reading area

Sit around a fire, role-playing as Atrix, and tell mythical stories to the townsfolk (the children – see next idea)

Children come to school dressed as one of the townsfolk (page 20) and rewrite the story of the wolf putting out the fire from their chosen perspective

Describe the journey by night, filled with danger, that Arthur takes

Arthur’s library challenge: give children a series of facts to find in the library/using the internet and perhaps linked to periods of history

The Wind Weaver bird is a hero in the story. Explore other stories in which birds take a leading, and perhaps, heroic role.

Write and perform  Thor’s speech at the end of the book, or alternatively, in the role of Arthur


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Explore Iceland and the countries around the Norwegian Sea

Compare temperatures of the countries included in Todd-Stanton’s books (Iceland, Egypt)

Contrast the climate, landmarks, history of Iceland and Egypt or with the UK

Link to learning about mountains


Learn about Viking Gods such as Thor and Odin

Compare Arthur’s quest with others in myths and legends including Theseus and the Minotaur

Linking to a period of history, design and create the story behind an artefact for the Brownstone vault

Investigate the most famous artefacts discovered in history – this could link to a country you are studying and may link to Religious Education

History Detectives: What is the most valuable artefact ever discovered?


Paint the Wind Weaver (each child painting a feather?)

Create a 3D model of the World Tree

Create maps in the style of the Norse World on parchment

Use appropriate materials to create an artefact for the vault, e.g. a clay pot from Ancient Greece and perhaps inspired by a visit to a museum

Use a shoe box to re-create a model of the Brownstone vault

Journey into the woods to collect small items like Arthur – create a piece of art inspired by nature artists

Design/paint a magical creature which would inhabit the forests or mountains around Arthur’s town

Create a journal showing Arthur’s adventures (using a range of media)

Decorate ‘sound jars’ (page 40)

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Explore sounds (like those captured in the sound jar)

Solids and liquids: melting and solidifying (inspired by the fire being put out by the black wolf and its impact on the town: ‘everything will be frozen solid in less than a week’)

Explore light and shadow by creating puppets of Arthur and Fenrir as seen later in the book

Create a boat for Arthur which floats on the Norwegian Sea – investigate bouyancy


(As always, I don’t like to make tenuous links – but there’s no harm in throwing in one or two ideas)

Give artefacts in the vault (or from actual history) a value. Solve problems involving money or measures

Inspired by the Hand of Time, learn about Roman numerals

Solve problems linked to distances from towns/cities in Iceland


‘Arthur the Meddler’: conscience corridor – should Arthur be allowed to be the hero? Had he led the wolf to the town? Write a letter of support to him

Explore the value ‘courage’ in relation to Arthur

Compare Arthur overcoming obstacles with real-life examples involving people from history, e.g. Harriet Tubman

Journey to the god of storms: what would you take in your rucksack to keep yourself safe?

If you could create a ‘World Tree’ which represented everything good about the world, what would it include?


Write lyrics telling the story of one of Arthur’s adventures

Create a soundtrack to the journey across the sea/ up the mountain

Explore sounds/instruments which could represent different characters in the story

Physical Education: 

Using a range of PE equipment (indoor or out) set a range of challenges to overcome linked with the book (working individually, in pairs or as a group)

Create a dance which tells the story of Arthur and the Golden Rope

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Courage, Hope, Thankfulness, Friendship

Ok, so that’s just a few ideas to get you thinking – I hope you find them useful. Arthur and the Golden Rope is one of my favourite books and if you haven’t discovered it yet, I urge you to do so.

Thanks for reading. Issue 4 will be on it’s way soon…mmm…which book to choose?