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‘Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you hear? ‘ by Bill Martin is a classic picture book which is likely to be enjoyed by young children. This is most obviously due to its large, bold and colourful illustrations. Also its repetitive and simple text makes it easy for younger readers to join in and as a result, enjoy the book. The book not only comes in normal children’s book size but is also available as a big book. This makes it a useful book to use with children in the classroom and can thus be used effectively in whole class teaching.
Children, when sitting on the carpet will be able to clearly see the book as the teachers holds it up and reads it with them. However it can also be read by children alone or with an adult. I feel that from my experience of literacy in the primary classroom, it would be an effective book to use with Key Stage One children. The book can not only provide an enjoyable read for the children but would also allow for further study in line with the National Literacy Strategy objectives for Key Stage One.
I have observed and carried out teaching of the literacy hour for year one children where a picture book provides the basis of their literacy lessons for the week. Therefore I feel that the book, ‘Polar bear, Polar bear, What do you hear’, could be studied in a number of ways to meet some of the objectives in the National Literacy Strategy framework for year one children. Firstly the book is a patterned text. Throughout the book there is repetition of… ‘What can you hear? ‘ and… ‘I hear a….. in my ear? Polar bear, Polar bear, What do you hear?
Therefore in line with the National Literacy Framework and the National Curriculum, it is a type of text which must be read and studied in Key Stage One. In year one, term one, in the range of study for fiction and poetry, children need to study… ‘stories and rhymes with predictable and repetitive patterns… ‘The National Literacy Strategy (pg 20). Similarly, in line with the National Curriculum programme of study for English, children should study… ‘stories, plays and poems with patterned and predictable language…
‘ The National Curriculum (pg 47). Therefore, in summary, I believe that this book is ideal for use in the classroom to cover this range. Children could be encouraged after reading the book, to decipher this repetition within the text. This would enhance their understanding of the structure of patterned texts. The book could also be incorporated into literacy for year one children through guided reading. The book would be ideal given that it is a patterned text; there aren’t a vast amount of new words in the book.
However there is a balance between simple, common words… ‘I can hear a… ‘ Polar bear, Polar bear, What can you hear? , and also words which children will find tricky, ‘bellowing’ and ‘flamingo’. It will allow for development of speaking and listening skills by encouraging children to use appropriate expression and intonation to add to the enjoyment of the story. This may aid children in gaining confidence in their speech. For example, I could prompt the children to read the punctuation and also make the noises that the animals make.
I could also introduce the variation in tone of voice to indicate questioning. All these contribute to effective speaking and listening skills which children should be encouraged to develop. The book follows a similar format to the book ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? ‘ This is because the reader is introduced to a new animal on each double-page spread. I feel that this is an excellent book for developing children’s prediction skills. Due to the books repetitive format, children will be able to enjoy predicting which animal will be heard next.
Therefore in terms of its use in the primary classroom, it can provide a class based discussion on types of animals which may be referred to next within the book. This promotes the speaking and listening skills of the children given that they will be able to contribute their ideas orally and also listen to other children’s ideas. This is likely to provide excitement and enjoyment on the children’s behalf which is likely to result in a positive attitude towards their learning. When on placement in a year one class, I observed a literacy based lesson on diary writing.
The children contributed their ideas in a circle where they took turns by passing a soft toy around the circle. I felt the children benefited greatly from the circle time due to them being positive about the experience and their learning. I also felt that from the circle time exercise, children were beginning to accept that they need to take turns and only the person who has the toy can speak. As part of the National Curriculum, through classroom interaction, children need to… ‘take turns in speaking… ‘ The National Curriculum (pg 44). Therefore from the circle time, children may learn to do this.
In line with the National Curriculum objectives, children in key stage one, when in class discussion, are required to… ‘take turns in speaking… ‘ as well as… ‘take different ideas into account… ‘ The National Curriculum (pg 44). Therefore through discussion in predicting the animals, children will be able to develop these skills. This book would also be valuable for introducing the use of question marks, as each double page spread includes a question and an answer. In year one, children are required in the National Literacy objectives to…. ‘to identify questions and write their own…
‘ The National Literacy Strategy (pg 23). From this, they should then be able to… ‘add question marks to questions… ‘ The National Literacy Strategy (pg 24). Therefore the book allows for study of this. I have created a lesson plan which could be followed in teaching year one children (Appendix 1). Firstly, children will be introduced to questions through them being read to the children in the book. I could highlight these questions further by asking the children to create the same questions with me and modelling them on the board for the children to see.
Immediately… ‘ there is an explicit link between reading and writing… ‘ Shared Writing pamphlet (2000). This is because I am using the text to model the writing of questions. Modelling is extremely valuable given that without actually being able to see accurate questions written, they are unlikely to be able to write their own. I could also deliberately make mistakes so that children can begin to recognise what is the correct structure of a question and thus, reinforce my teaching points. Also on a double page spread, there is both a question and a response.
Therefore I could discuss the differences between the two by asking the children for their ideas. This would also promote their speaking and listening skills. Children could engage in paired talk so as they can interact to share ideas with another child. Children would be encouraged to develop skills in speaking fluently and clearly as well as listening and responding to ideas. By comparing the two sentences, the children are likely to be able to identify which sentences are questions and why. This could provide the shared writing and reading aspect of the literacy hour.
Moving on to the main section of the literacy lesson, based upon the format of the questions in the book, children could write their own. This could be by exchanging the animal for other animals or even their names, for example ‘Lucy, Lucy, What can you hear? ‘. Also for differentiation of the more able children, they could alter the structure of the questions in the book further by changing the sense used. I. e. from hear to see. This would help the children to work towards the objective… ‘to be able to write their own questions… ‘ The National Literacy Strategy (pg 23).
It would also link cross curricular to science where in year one, children learn about the different senses in the ‘Humans and other animals’ aspect of the National Curriculum. In this aspect of the lesson, you could use ICT to further develop their understanding of questions. This could be through a clicker grid; I could give the children the words and punctuation needed to form the questions in a grid. They would then be able to click on the words to form their questions. Children could work in pairs as this would build up skills in working efficiently as a team.
This may be especially effective for boys given that it is often the case that they don’t like writing. For differentiation of the less able children, I could use the talking feature so that the children can actually hear their questions thus promoting their speaking and listening skills. This would help them to ensure that they have formed them in the correct way without seeking help from the teacher. However, it would also develop the children’s ICT skills. As part of the National Curriculum for Key Stage One children, they are required to… ‘explore a variety of ICT tools… ‘ The National Curriculum (pg 99).
Therefore through this activity they would be exploring the features on the tool, Clicker. For the plenary of the lesson, I could encourage children to share their questions with the class. This would promote their speaking skills where children need to learn to… ‘speak clearly, fluently and confidently to different people… ‘ The National Curriculum (pg 44). Also the children would need to learn to listen to other children’s questions and if appropriate give their views on the questions they hear. Thus develop their listening skills where children are required to… ‘listen, understand and respond to others…
‘ By carrying out this whole class activity, children may develop their concentration skills and also learn to take turns. This is often a difficult concept to grasp for young children. Also often at a young age, children find it hard to sit, listen and appreciate other children’s ideas or work. Alternatively, I could assess the children’s understanding of forming questions, by creating questions on the board with the help of the class. I have observed a literacy lesson where the teacher ended the lesson in this way. This was in forming a sentence, with a capital letter and a full stop.
The teacher cut up each of the enlarged words and mixed them up. The children then, as a class, put them in the correct order. I felt that this was successful for most of the children. This was because those children who maybe hadn’t understood fully when writing their own sentences had the opportunity to grasp the idea in the plenary. It also allowed for the more able children to consolidate their understanding further. Also I feel that this is effective given that the teacher can assess individual understanding by asking particular children which word would come next.
However, on the other hand, it doesn’t allow for the teacher to assess all the children’s understanding, in which case maybe it isn’t as successful. The book could also provide the opportunity for children to extend their comprehension skills and also use methods to extract greater meaning from the book. I have carried out a group activity as part of the literacy lesson, where the teacher had formed a story bag for the book ‘Dear Zoo’. First I read the story which was their book for the week. I then opened the bag which contained toy animals which the children each held up when the animal appeared on the page.
I also carried out a comprehension exercise which was in the bag. This required the children to attempt to remember aspects of the book such as ‘Which colour parcel did the lion come in? ‘. I felt that this helped to develop the children’s understanding of the book further and meant they could recall aspects of the book from memory. However, on the other hand, with there being toy animals in the bag, the children were more concerned with playing with them rather than concentrating on the task. Also the children argued over which animal they held up. Therefore I felt this inhibited their response to the activity.
For the book ‘Polar bear, Polar bear, What can you hear? ‘ a story bag could be used in a similar way as that which I carried out. I could read the book with the group of children once and perhaps then allow the children to read a page of the book each so as to promote their reading skills. I could then give each child a set of laminated cards for each of the animal in the book. This would eradicate the problem which I incurred where the children argued over which animal they held up. As I read the book for the second time, the children would need to use their listening and memory skills to indicate which comes next in the book.
For the comprehension exercise, I could ask questions such as ‘What sound does the flamingo make? ‘ and ‘What colour was the lion? ‘ This would require the children to again, use their memory to answer the questions. It also requires the children to study the book in more depth rather than just reading it. Finally, in order to enhance the children’s imaginative skills and understanding of the different settings of stories, I could change the setting of the story. From this the children could predict what animals would appear in the book. For example, a farm setting would require the children to give examples such as cows and sheep.
Moving forward from this, the children could then rewrite a part of the book based upon a farm setting. In term 3, as part of the text level work in non-fiction books, children are required to… ‘write stories using simple settings, e. g. based upon previous reading… ‘The National Literacy Strategy (pg 25). This aspect of the activity would meet this objective given that it would be based upon the format of the book ‘Polar bear, Polar bear, What can you hear? ‘ Also to bring in role play, I could use hot seating to promote speaking and listening skills.
A child could choose an animal from the book without telling the other children. The children then have to ask questions in order to work out the animal they have chosen. In summary, I believe that the book ‘Polar bear, Polar bear, What can you see? ‘ has a range of effective uses in the classroom. In promoting speaking and listening skills, it can be used in role play, guided reading, and shared reading and writing linked to the objectives in the National Curriculum and National Literacy Strategy. However, also to meet objectives as part of text and sentence level work.