Use the fabulous tale of Handa’s Surprise to encourage talk with these exciting activities from independent literacy consultant Jane Bunting…
The best picture books create very special places that offer rich opportunities for children to talk as they respond to the story. The wonderful tale of Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Browne compels young readers to look closely at the colourful pictures, to talk about the detail of what they see and to make connections with their own lives and experience.
When you introduce Handa’s Surprise into your setting it is important to offer the children opportunities to recreate and explore the storylines for themselves. You will, of course, notice children beginning to do this independently. Listen in as they play and you are bound to hear them trying out the language from the book and gradually absorbing it into their own. Closer observation will help you to pick up on the ways in which they are spontaneously playing the story. Weave this into the provision, working with the children to create role-play areas linked to the book throughout the setting.
Transport your book area to Kenya by lining it with African print drapes and pinning one drape to create a tent-like space. Pin up photographs or postcards of some of the animals and landscapes that are native to Africa and display these alongside any African models or artefacts that you or the children might have. You might even consider playing an audio CD (quietly) of African birdsong occasionally!
Collect a box of picture and information books together that are set in Africa (you can download a free booklist from this page). Introduce the children to the Story Lion (or any other African animal of your choice) – a soft toy who chooses a new favourite book from the box to read each day. Children will look forward to coming in and looking to see which book this toy is reading to itself in the corner. This will quickly become the book that everybody wants you to read to them and to read themselves. Make sure you or another adult spend some time sitting in the tent, sharing and talking about the books with individuals or small groups of children.
A good way to begin an exploration of all things fruity is with a pre-arranged visit to a market stall or a greengrocer’s to select and buy some fruit.
Arrays of fruit and vegetables can be particularly bright and colourful and will encourage lots of excited talk. For many children going shopping somewhere other than the supermarket may well be a new experience. Most stall holders or greengrocers welcome children and will be very willing to show them around, but arrange a meeting with the owner beforehand, so that they know when to expect you as well as the sorts of things that you want the children to experience. If you are lucky they may also be happy to share their expertise, to tell the children about where the individual fruits come from and to show and pass around less familiar fruits for them to see up close. They may even demonstrate how to weigh fruit and be willing to let individuals have a go.
1. Before you go
Tell the children that they are going shopping to buy the ingredients to make a fruit salad. Discuss with them which fruits they want to buy. Using shared writing, make a list and take it with you so that the children can tick off each item as it is bought. Talk together about the sorts of things they will see and find out about and jot down any questions that children have.
Where possible take along a camera (for both still and moving images) and if possible, a recording device. This will mean you can easily revisit and talk about the outing once you get back to the setting.
2. While you are out
Make sure children get a chance to use the camera to take photos of some of the things that catch their attention. Collect any wrappers, labels and leaflets that you can. Greengrocers often display posters and other promotional material that they may be happy for you to take away.
3. When you get back
Capture children’s immediate responses and recollections of the trip by scribing them into a class big book as you talk together.
Upload the photographs or video clips onto the interactive whiteboard. This will provide the children with lots to talk about as well as lots of entertainment. Enlarge and print out some of the photographs of the trip and ask the children to help you to put them in order and to display them. Have some speech bubbles ready and scribe into them some of the comments that the children make. Some children who are less confident talking in the bigger group may be more willing to talk when engaged in this sort of more intimate and practical activity. Encourage the children to add their own mark-making as well.
Some children will be interested in creating their own market stall or greengrocers. This will offer a range of possibilities for incorporating mathematical, problem-solving and literacy learning opportunities into their play. As usual, if you involve the children in the planning of this you will get some unexpected ideas and suggestions and it will provide a chance for the children to articulate some of the things that they individually have found most powerful about the whole experience.
Provide opportunities for children to make their own fruits and vegetables out of salt dough or modelling clay. Display some of the photographs from the trip alongside for them to use as reference as they work. Then, organise the fruit and vegetables into arrays within boxes. This will generate lots of mathematical discussion and problem-solving, with children counting, comparing, contrasting, matching, estimating and calculating. It will also mean that the stall can be carried and set up outside more easily.
Place any posters that you collected from the visit in the new shop and invite children to add to these by making some of their own. Encourage the children to think about what sort of job posters have. Ask them to think about the poster they are making and what message they want to get across to the customers in the shop.
These ideas are taken from the Handa’s Surprise Talk and Play Story Pack by Jane Bunting. Published by Yellow Door, this resource offers a wealth of activities using this well-loved story as a springboard into cross-curricular learning.
Handa’s Surprise © Eileen Browne 2006. Licensed by Walker Books Ltd, London.