The 12 days of Christmas calendar of books


On the 1st Day of Christmas …
Title, author, publish & brief overview Reading activities Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling activities

How to Catch Santa

 How to Catch Santa, Jean Reagan & Lee Wildish. Hodder Childrens.

Essential tips on how to catch Santa.

Y2 – Focussing on language and what it really means

  • These are the opening lines in the book: After waiting for days and days and days, it’s finally Christmas Eve. And that’s when you can try to catch a Santa. Discuss with pupils why two words are in italics. Read the sentences so that pupils can hear the emphasis on these words. Share the whole text with pupils, and ask them to hunt for other words in italics and discuss the reason again.
  • Focus on this sentence: ‘But you might only catch a glimpse of him.’ What does ‘glimpse’ actually mean? What other words do we know for ‘look’? Display the words ‘peek, stare, glower, gawp, glare, peep’ and ‘gaze’. Ask pupils to act these out. Why has the author used ‘glimpse’?

Y2 – Functions of a sentence: How to write questions

  • Within the text there are many questions, including a double page spread (How do you squeeze down chimneys? Do elves ever sneak a ride in your sleigh? Do you really eat cookies at everyone’s home?) Teachers can discuss what a question is and how we can create grammatically accurate questions. Providing children with less obvious ways to start questions, (can, do,) may encourage more creative questions. Teachers could also teach subordinating conjunctions to begin questions, for example, If you could sleep in any country, where would you choose? Because you are so famous, do you ever get star-struck? When you are really tired, what do you do to relax?

Y3 – Teaching ‘a’ and ‘an’ (consonant and vowel)

  • At the beginning of the book there are some letters to Santa from different characters. Teachers could share letters with pupils and ask them to highlight the use of ‘a, an, the’ before nouns. Teachers could challenge pupils to write a very greedy letter to Santa using all of the letters of the alphabet – I would like an animal that moves, a bouncing ball, a circus tent, a dragon, an eagle, etc… Teachers could extend the task by asking pupils to identify the writer of the letter, Gran’s Letter to Santa, A Doctor’s letter to Santa etc… If the class are reading a class novel, perhaps pupils could write letters to Santa from the characters in their book?

Writing opportunities

  • The title of the book could be a writing task in itself. After reading the book, pupils could plan their own ‘masterplan’ for ‘how to catch Santa.’ Using ideas from the book, other books and films, pupils could create a military precision guide for catching Santa. Pupils may like to change the title and apply their knowledge in another context, for example, ‘How to catch The Tooth Fairy, How to catch a ghost, How to catch Santa’s elf’ or ‘How to catch an Angel?’
  • Pupils could imagine that Santa has been caught and they are about to interview the successful person who caught him. What questions would they ask? Create a bank of questions for the interview – What was your plan? Did you think you would be successful? Were there any pitfalls? What is your next venture? What will you do with Santa now that you have caught him? Teachers could choose a colleague to dress up and be interviewed. Record the interview and then model how to write up questions and answers.


On the 2nd Day of Christmas

Title, author, publish & brief overview Reading activities Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling activities

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the BeastUrsula Jones and Sarah Gibb. Orchard Books.

A magical retelling of this classic story. In this edition, the tale is told with elegance and humour.

Y2 and Y3 – Developing vocabulary

  • This text is extremely rich in ambitious vocabulary and is a wonderful book to use to help pupils acquire new language to incorporate into their own writing. Here are some examples that could be shared before reading the text as prior knowledge, shared while using the text to aid inference, or shared after reading the text as discussion points.
  • ‘but they were picky about husbands’
  • ‘and all the suitors backed out of the room so fast they jammed in the doorway’
  • ‘he staggered towards it’
  • ‘steam rose from his soaked coat’
  • ‘it frightened the wits out of him’
  • ‘good riddance’
  • ‘has she come of her own accord?’
  • ‘she was terrified of enraging him’
  • ‘she woke in a panic’

Y2 and Y3 – Writing expanded noun phrases: choosing adjectives carefully

  • Before reading the book, display some examples of expanded noun phrases from the book: rich merchant, young men, poor bride, little place, clothes shop, ramshackle little building, best rags, ghastly trees, diamond tiaras, fur coats, merchant’s debts, ship’s cargo, violent blizzard, deserted courtyard, vast mansion, soaked coat, deep snow, archway of roses, ear-crunching noise, magic mirror, handsome prince and ask pupils to discuss how good the adjective is. Does the adjective add extra detail? Does the adjective describe the noun and create an image for us? Does the adjective add detail? What does it actually tell us? What is your favourite example? Display green grass, bright sun, huge giant and wet lake. Are these good examples of creating detail? Discuss how the grass is usually green, the sun is usually bright, giants are usually huge and lakes are usually wet. Are these adjectives adding any detail? Read text to pupils and ask them to comment on other adjectives. Challenge pupils to create expanded noun phrases to match these amazing illustrations – the house, the beast, the sisters etc…

Writing opportunities

  • Pupils could write contrasting diary entries for Belle the night she arrives at the mansion – her fears, anxieties and feelings of loss when her dad leaves, and then another entry for the end of the book – elation at marrying a prince, hopes and dreams for the future. The teacher could model a similar task by writing the Beast’s diary entries before he meets Belle and perhaps the night he almost dies. The teacher could analyse features from his/her writing with pupils to generate a success criteria for pupils’ writing.
  • Writing a sequel – what happens next? Pupils could choose a character to focus on and decide what happens next. Encourage pupils to be creative, Will all end well for Beauty? What will the sisters get up to next? Will Beauty’s dad have another adventure?

On the 3rd Day of Christmas

Title, author, publish & brief overview Reading activities Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling activities


Where’s Horrid Henry? Francesca Simon. Orion Childrens.

Ten brilliant search-and-find adventures with the nation’s favourite mischievous boy.

Y1 and Y2 – Developing skimming and  scanning skills

  • This book has detailed pictures where the teacher can display some objects for the pupils to find. This can be completed within in a certain time, to increase the motivation from the pupils. Horrid Henry and Delores are on every page as a bonus for pupils to find.
  • Teachers could also begin to describe a character and slowly add more detail if pupils need more clues, ‘I am thinking of a woman, she is standing near the ice cream stall, she looks cross because she is pointing her finger, she is near a boy who is running with a book, can you find her?’

Y2 – Functions of a sentence: writing statements, commands, questions and exclamations

  • Each double spread has a different setting: ‘Horrid Henry’s Birthday Bash, Old Town Museum, Christmas Chaos, Sandy Bottom Beach, Scruff’s Pet Show, Mellow Mall, School Sports Day, Camp Cramp and Horrid Henry’s Haunted House.’ Teachers can display the settings and ask pupils to generate a statement, a question, a command and an exclamation to match the setting. Pupils could read their example and others can identify if it is a command, exclamation, question or statement. Teachers could label the four corners of the room according to statement, command, exclamation and question. After the pupil has read their example, the other pupils could move to the correct labelled corner and state the punctuation required for the end of the sentence.

Y3 – Introducing dialogue

  • Teachers could introduce dialogue through speech bubbles by using post-its to decide what characters might be saying to each other in these illustrations. Following on from generating the speech bubbles, teachers could model the conventions for punctuating dialogue by using inverted commas, commas and end punctuation. Teachers could create some examples of dialogue related to the picture and challenge pupils to match the dialogue to the correct character and insert the correct punctuation.

Y4 – Recapping functions of word classes (noun, verb, adjective, preposition, determiner and pronoun)

  • The teacher could review the function of each of the above word classes. For Year 4, the teacher may be introducing pronouns and/or determiners. Pupils could share a double spread picture in pairs, the teacher displays the criteria, for example, for an expanded noun phrase including a preposition, and pupils will write this on their paper to share with peers. This activity will continue where the teacher changes the criteria – a subordinate clause in the present tense.

Writing opportunities

  • As the pictures are so detailed, these double spreads are perfect to use as a stimulus for pupils writing short descriptions. Teachers could provide pupils with an element of choice – choose a picture that you would like to describe. Younger pupils can write simple sentences, for example ‘Old Town Museum,’ The boy is taking pictures. The football is on the stairs. The baby was sick on the picture. The teacher is shouting at the children. The cat is hiding under the cushion. The girl is sleeping like a caterpillar. The children are sharing the book.
  • Older pupils could write a commentary to match the picture – describing different sections of the picture using interesting language. An added challenge – for example stepping into the picture and describing everything using prepositions and prepositional phrases – on the stairs, under the balcony, above, below, on the left, near the stairs etc…
  • Teachers could review the organisation layout expected in a newspaper – headline, introductory paragraph, paragraphs for detail, quotations from bystanders and a conclusion. Choose a page from the book, for example ‘Sandy Bottom Beach’ and think creatively to imagine a story – heatwave, shark attack, mermaid sighting, monster sighting, jellyfish attack, sandcastle extravaganza or giant crab emerges from the side. Teacher collects ideas from pupils – some may need prompts.

 On the 4th Day of Christmas

Title, author, publish & brief overview Reading activities Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling activities

The Tooth Fairy’s Christmas

The Tooth Fairy’s Christmas, Peter Bently and Garry Parsons. Hodder Childrens.


When the Tooth Fairy is lost on Christmas Eve, who will rescue her?

Y1 and Y2 – Making inferences about pictures and text

  • The pictures in this book are great for asking questions that require the pupils to infer. Open the first double page spread and pose the questions, ‘How do we know this is the Tooth Fairy’s home?’, ‘What might she choose to wear if she goes outside?’, ‘What do you think the Tooth Fairy was in the middle of doing when the letter arrived?’.
  • Look at the text on the second page: The winter wind blasted her this way and that. It blew up her knickers and blew off her hat. She shivered with cold from her ears to her toes and an icicle grew on the end of her nose. Ask pupils to find two ways from the this text that we know it was cold.
  • This is a great text to sequence the events. Teachers could display four or five events and insert the first one for pupils: Santa rescued the Tooth Fairy when she was lost, Santa delivered Tim Tucker’s gift, the Tooth Fairy got lost, Santa took the Tooth Fairy home and Tim Tucker’s puppy barked.

Y1 – Punctuating simple sentences

  • This simple text is perfect to inspire pupils to write simple sentences. Choose a page where there is potential for more text, for example the double spread where the Tooth Fairy realises that she is lost. Pupils could write sentences directly onto the snow as a writing frame – The fairy sees Santa. She looks very cold. The trees have no leaves. There is a blizzard. Where am I? Can somebody help me? Who will find me? Teachers will need to model sentence structure with pupils. After pupils have spent time orally rehearsing different sentences, the teacher needs to select one to write on the board. Count the words in the sentence with pupils and begin to write the sentence, counting and checking that all of the words are there. Highlight correct use of finger spaces, capital letters where required and correct end punctuation. Teachers may choose to demonstrate both a statement and a question.

Y2 – Choosing and using plausible adverbs

  • Pupils in Year 2 need to both recognise and know how to use adverbs correctly. Sometimes younger pupils choose adverbs that are not plausible, for example, ‘She ate her dinner gracefully.’ Although this is grammatically accurate, there are many more plausible adverbs. Teachers could display a range of sentences for pupils to insert missing adverbs. Teachers might decide to support less able readers by preparing a word bank of adverbs – the focus of this session would be to choose the best adverb to complete the sentence. Here are some sentences to use for this activity.
  • On a cold Christmas Eve, it was snowing _______________ outside.
  • The Tooth Fairy saw Santa flying ________ in the sky.
  • Santa and the Tooth Fairy travelled ________ in their bubble.
  • The Tooth Fairy whispered __________ to Santa.
  • The Tooth Fairy had to push Santa _________ to move him.
  • The Tooth Fairy slept __________ in her bed.

Writing opportunities

  • Pupils could write in the role from the different characters’ perspectives at different points in the story. Teachers could support Year 1 writers by displaying some of the pictures from the text so that pupils have a scaffold to support their ideas.
  • Pupils could write letters from Tim Tucker to Santa or the Tooth Fairy. More able pupils could write in role as Tim Tucker’s puppy and explain/describe what it was like to see Santa.
  • What is the present that Santa has left for the Tooth Fairy? Pupils could use what they know about the present to suggest what they think might be in there. What is unlikely to be in there? Pupils could write lists of what Santa might think the Tooth Fairy needs.


On the 5th Day of Christmas

Title, author, publish & brief overview Reading activities Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling activities

The Queen’s Present

The Queen’s Present,Steve Antony. Hodder Childrens.

When the Queen needs a special present, who better to help her find it than Father Christmas!

Y1 and Y2 – Skimming and scanning

  • The illustrations are incredibly detailed in this book and pupils will delight for a long time spotting different characters and objects. Steve Antony has released a list of things to find in this book including the following: butler, Queen, corgi, The Mona Lisa, King Tut, three camels, the sphinx, three panda cubs, maneki-neko (waving cat), shooting star, parasol, 3 yachts, karate elf, wind chime, kangaroo, bonsai tree, chirping robin, the Queen’s hat, the sneaky swan, Mr Panda, penguin, Mariah Carey, Mrs Christmas, young reindeer calf, guitar, basketball hoop, gingerbread man, Christmas carollers, unicorn, dolls house, mistletoe, a thrown snowball, Christmas tree fairy and an elf with antlers.
  • In order to be prepared for the KS1 reading test, pupils must be able to skim and scan to retrieve. Looking for specifics in the illustrations will support training pupils’ eyes.

Y2 – Using commas in a list

  • Year 2 pupils should be able to construct sentences that use commas in a list. Teachers could demonstrate how to use commas in a list using this book, for example, ‘The Queen flew to Paris, Japan, America and China to find a present. Santa took the Queen to The Eiffel Tower, The Statue of Liberty and The North Pole.’
  • Teachers could focus on a specific picture and ask the pupils to record what they can see using commas, for example, I can see Santa, the Queen, a reindeer, some elves and a sleigh in the picture. There is a singer, a panda, a dog, the butler and a snowman in the picture.  Pupils could continue to write sentences using commas in a list related to the pictures.

Y3 – Writing sentences using subordinate clauses

  • Teachers could use this book to introduce how to use subordinate clauses. The following subordinate clauses could be displayed and then the teacher could ask pupils to complete the sentence so that it makes sense: After the Queen travelled around the world, until they reached the North Pole, even though they flew around the world, because she was looking for presents, even though they went to many countries, although the Queen flew with Santa. In following sessions, the teacher could challenge pupils to write a range of sentences using subordinate clauses.

Writing opportunities

  • Where else? Imagine there is a missing page – which other landmark might Santa fly to? Teachers may wish to share some other landmarks such as the Taj Mahal, Northern Lights, Christ the Redeemer etc. and write the missing page.
  • After exploring the pictures, pupils will notice the inclusion of Mr Panda and the butler in many of the pictures. Challenge pupils to choose a character to write in role as to recount the adventures. Suggest unusual characters such as Mr Panda, the butler, one of the elves or Santa’s sleigh. How will their recount begin? If they choose an elf, he might be very greedy/naughty/loving etc… and this should translate to the recount. What style are they writing in?
  • This picture book takes Santa and the Queen on a whirlwind tour of the world’s best known landmarks for example The Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and the Sydney Opera House. Teachers could research each of these landmarks with pupils and perhaps collate fact files – country, language spoken, flag, capital city, population, food eaten there etc…
  • Pupils could also research what Christmas traditions each of the countries has and present their findings using multimedia. Pupils could also research traditional toys made in each country.

On the 6th Day of Christmas

Title, author, publish & brief overview Reading activities Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling activities

The Cat who ate Christmas
The Cat who ate ChristmasLil Chase and Thomas Docherty. Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

It’s Christmas and Jingles the kitten has knocked down the tree and torn open the presents. What else could possibly go wrong?

Y2 – Making inferences about characters – reading between the lines

  • Year 2 readers are expected to ‘read’ characters, including their appearance, behaviour, personality, reactions, dialogue, interactions with other characters. In order to embed this skill in Year 2, it is important to present pupils with examples from high quality texts. There are 6 main characters in this text, including Jingles the cat. Here are some examples to display and share with pupils, alongside some ways to interrogate the texts.
  • “Mum spent ages making these,” said Alex, as he smoothed out the bent corners of a tinfoil star. Pg 1.0 Why does the author add what Alex is doing after his dialogue?
  • “Now, into your PJs. Quick!” said Mum, as she chased them upstairs. Pg 14. Can you insert another action Mum might do as she speaks?
  • Alex squeezed his eyes shut. Pg 17. How is this different to ‘closed his eyes?’
  • Jingles winced. Pg 30. What does this tell us about how Jingles felt?
  • Rose stood on her tiptoes and opened the cupboard. Pg 65 Why does the author tell us this?
  • But she wasn’t cross, not really. Pg 78. How does the ‘not really’ change the meaning of the sentence?

Y2 and Y3 – Writing a section of text that includes a series of linked sentences

  • It is important that in the summer term of Year 2 and the autumn term of Year 3, pupils are presented with opportunities to organise their ideas using a range of conjunctions (both co-ordinating and subordinating). These could be displayed for pupils to try to incorporate into their writing: and, so, but, if, when, because, even though etc… After reading the text, ask pupils to summarise the main parts of the plot and use conjunctions to structure their writing. This could be shared as an example: The whole family was excited because it was almost Christmas. Everyone was busy preparing for the big day but, Jingles had other ideas! When nobody was looking, he began to get up to all sorts of tricks and mischief.
  • Pupils may benefit from a series of sentences where the conjunction is missing and they have to choose an appropriate conjunction to complete the sentence.

Writing opportunities

  • In this story, the character Jingles gets up to mischief. This is the perfect stimulus for pupils to use their imagination and create a new adventure for Jingles. Pupils may benefit from prompts to aid their thinking – how could Jingles destroy Easter/birthdays/sports days? Could Jingles save the day? How could Jingles be the hero?
  • This is a good text to show the transition between a picture book and a short text. Pupils might benefit from writing sections that include both dialogue and action. More able writers could share sections of this simple text and edit it to include more challenging sentences (multi-clause) and ambitious vocabulary (parenthesis, semi-colons and colons).

On the 7th Day of Christmas

Title, author, publish & brief overview Reading activities Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling activities

The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker, Jane Ray. Orchard Books.

Christmas Eve is a magical time of year where the Sugar Plum Fairy, Clara and her Nutcracker delight in this festive story.

Y2 – Find and Copy & Finding Information in a picture book

  • The text in this book can be used to practise finding and copying or retrieval in a context.
  • Friends and relatives, young and old, all came, stamping the snow off their boots and greeting each other with hugs and laughter. What two things do the friends do?
  •  It flickered with candlelight, its branches hung with sugared almonds, gingerbread and delicate glass ornaments. Find and copy a word that means the same as ‘fragile’.
  • Then the grandfather clock in the hall struck eight and dinner was served – roasted meats, plum pudding and fruit jellies. Give two things that were served for dinner.


Y2 and Y3 – Expanding vocabulary by using illustrations to build description

  •  The illustrations in this picture book are detailed and precise. The transition from being a year 2 writer to becoming a year 3 writer involves pupils thinking about the best use of the adjective. KS2 pupils need to add adjectives for precision, detail and qualification. It is important when shared writing to explicitly model the thinking process, for example, ‘What would be the best adjective to use here?’. Collect some ideas and then evaluate how worthy they are. What does this adjective actually add to the story? Model choosing and editing.

Year 3 – Editing writing to make improvements

  • Year 3 pupils should be able to proofread their own and others’ writing to check for sense, tenses, spelling and punctuation. However, editing must also be taught, where pupils are asked to actually make changes that improve the quality of writing. Teachers could share a section of text from this book and ask Year 3 pupils to edit the writing and make changes.

Writing opportunities

  • This is the perfect text to write diary entries. Pupils could choose a character that they would like to write in role as and then write from their perspective. Pupils should be given time to digest the character they have chosen – how would Clara open her diary? Will the Sugar Plum Fairy retell a similar sequence to the Nutcracker? Pupils should be encouraged to comment on other characters in their diary, for example Clara may refer to Freddie.
  • What other adventures might the characters get up to? Can pupils think creatively about further adventures for the characters? What might happen next time? Use images of fantasy worlds to stimulate a real adventure for the characters.


On the 8th Day of Christmas

Title, author, publish & brief overview Reading activities Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling activities

The Orchard Book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales
The Orchard Book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Saviour Pirotta and Emma Chichester Clark. Orchard Books.

Ten timeless favourite fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm.

Y1 and Y2 – Making inferences about characters

  • All of these stories have strong characters that pupils can really get to know. While reading the stories, teachers should model a voice over for pupils, for example, I wonder if we can trust her/him? I was not expecting that, were you? Well that was obvious, wasn’t it? That can’t be true, can it? Ah I knew that would happen, did you? In order for pupils to make strong inferences and read between the lines, this voiceover must happen regularly in both Year 1 and Year 2 classrooms.
  • Teachers might challenge pupils to pose these statements and questions too. At pivotal points while reading, teachers can pause and collect ideas from pupils. This will develop comprehension skills and encourage pupils to read for meaning.


Y2 and Y3 – Expanding vocabulary by using illustrations to build description

  •  These are the ten stories: he Sleeping Princess – the story of Briar Rose, the Magic Gingerbread House – the story of Hansel and Gretel, the Magic Bear and the Handsome Prince – the story of Snow White and Rose Red, he Golden-Haired Girl in the Tower – the story of Rapunzel, Little Mouse and Lazy Cat – the story of Mouse and Cat in Partnership, the Princess and the Seven Dwarves – the story of Snow White, the Swans and the Brave Princess – the story of the Six Swans, the Naughty Princess and the Frog – the story of the Frog Prince, the Girl who Spun Straw into Gold – the story of Rumpelstiltskin and the Twelve Dancing Princesses – the story of the Shoes that were Danced to Pieces. Within each of the stories, there is a beautiful double spread illustration. This is the perfect opportunity for Year 2+ pupils to apply their understanding of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs if asked to use post-its to describe the pictures. Before reading some of the unfamiliar stories, teachers could set up a carousel activity with various pictures where each table has a focus – for example, one group adds nouns and adjectives to the picture and another adds verbs and adverbs.

Writing opportunities

  • Pupils could retell these stories in different forms, for example through a comic strip (give pupils a template to record drawings, prose and dialogue); through poetry (use Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes as an example of how to do this) and through a performance (pupils could stage the scenery, costumes, make masks etc. and perform their own version of the familiar tale for an audience).
  • Can we retell one of these classics from the perspective of an abstract object – a feather, a tree, some straw, an apple, the poison? Can more able writers imagine how an abstract object might ‘see’ events unfolding in a classic? Encourage and support pupils to make choices as they respond creatively to this task. Teachers should provide tasks like these for pupils who are on track to a greater depth as it forces the pupil to make deliberate choices and is evidence of real application through true independent writing.

On the 9th Day of Christmas

Title, author, publish & brief overview Reading activities Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling activities

Bat Hospital (Animal Rescue)
Bat Hospital (Animal Rescue), Clare Hibbert. Franklin Watts.

This book follows the ups and downs of the lives of orphaned bats at the Tolga Bat Hospital in Australia.

Y3 and Y4 – Understanding how content is related and organised

  •  Lower key stage 2 pupils are expected to read and interpret texts that are organised in different ways. This is an ideal text to share with pupils as text boxes, sub-headings, photographs, captions, fact files, a contents page and a glossary are all included.
  • Teachers can pose a range of retrieval questions, comprehension questions and inference questions using this text.
  • Questions can be presented as find and copy, give two ways and inserting information to complete a table.

Y3 and Y4 – Using fronted adverbials, subordinate clauses and conjunctions (co-ordinating and subordinating)

  • After sharing some of the double page spreads for example, ‘Preparing Meals, The Flight Cage and Foster Care,’ pupils could take notes. Teachers could display word banks with fronted adverbials and subordinating conjunctions to encourage pupils to use them as they create informative paragraphs about bats.
  • As part of Years 3 and 4, pupils should edit and proofread their own writing to make improvements. Teachers could teach the skill of proofreading by choosing a section of text from this book and deliberately making errors for pupils to correct – these errors should focus on grammar and punctuation content from previous year groups in addition to the content for the year group pupils are actually in. Reviewing previous knowledge is essential for pupils when acquiring new knowledge.

Writing opportunities

  •  This book is the perfect template for pupils to familiarise themselves with the structure and organisation of a text so that they can recreate a similar text about the animal of their choice. Again, giving pupils choice of the subject matter (allow independent research) will encourage more independent writing.
  • Non-fiction texts can often be used to inspire poetry. Teachers should use a poem with a repetitive refrain, for example ‘And that’s not my best fact!’ and then share it with pupils. Pupils could then create a poem about bats where they state a fact and then repeat the refrain.

On the 10th Day of Christmas

Title, author, publish & brief overview Reading activities Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling activities

The Kew Gardens Children’s Cookbook
The Kew Gardens Children’s Cookbook, Joe Archer and Caroline Craig. Wayland.

Packed full of step-by-step guides that show how easy it is to grow vegetables in a garden, containers, window boxes or an allotment. Mouth-watering recipes that are simple to follow and fun to make.

Y3 – Developing skimming and scanning skills

  • This book includes many non-fiction articles alongside recipes. Some of the topics covered are: How do plants reproduce? Preparing your vegetable patch. Sowing and planting outdoors. What parts of a plant do we eat? Each of these double spreads look similar to the non-fiction texts chosen in the KS1 and KS2 Reading tests. Pupils can really familiarise themselves with the way non-fiction is organised as well as maximising the use of this text by asking pupils to retrieve information, for example, We eat many parts of a plant. Give two. The text can also be used to ask ‘find and copy questions’, for example, Find and copy a word that means the same as often.
  • Extracts from this book would be perfect to use in small reading sessions where the teacher wants to personalise questions to match the needs of every individual.

Y3 – Recapping verbs and tenses

  • Since the recipes in this book are mainly written in the present tense, using a range of imperative verbs, this is the perfect text to ask pupils to ‘hunt for verbs’ across a double spread. Once they have identified and located all of the verbs, challenge pupils to write the verbs in as many tenses as they can. Are they regular or irregular verbs? Can Year 3 pupils write sentences accurately in the past progressive? (This is the expectation for the Year 2 expected standard.)
  • The GPS Framework outlines the expectations for pupils to spell contractions, plurals, prefixes, suffixes and tenses correctly. Since there are many recipes in this book teachers could audit pupils’ understanding of spelling plurals accurately. Once teachers have identified where there are gaps in pupils’ understanding of how to form plurals, spelling activities can be taught to allow pupils time to apply their knowledge in a context.

Writing opportunities

  •  Pupils could choose some dishes that they would like to make. Teachers could arrange for pupils to make the dishes – cooking competition. Pupils should write captions that lure the audience to eat their dish.
  • They could stage adverts for the TV too. They could also write a commentary for the cooking show or a restaurant critique article.

On the 11th Day of Christmas

Title, author, publish & brief overview Reading activities Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling activities

A Child’s Christmas in Wales
A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Dylan Thomas. Orion Children’s Books.

Celebrated poet, Dylan Thomas, recalls his own childhood Christmas with wit and magic in this beautiful children’s classic that has become one of his most popular works.

Y5 and Y6 – Using ambitious vocabulary and ‘reading between the lines’ for meaning

  • Here is an example from the opening of the text: ‘Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes.’. Pupils will be challenged by the vocabulary in this text. They will probably need support to read for meaning. This is an ideal text to generate discussion and pose the question, ‘What does Dylan Thomas mean on this page? What is he trying to communicate to us? Does everyone think the same about his poem?’.

Y5 and Y6 – Writing multi-clause sentences related to the images in the text

  • Recap what a phrase and clause means, and challenge pupils to recall different types of sentences. Model writing sentences with subordinate clauses and relative clauses. Challenge pupils to write multi-clause sentences inspired by the illustrations in the book. Remind pupils to use expanded noun phrases. Who can use a fronted adverbial naturally? Can we write a sentence using a semi-colon or colon?

Y5 and Y6 - Embedding dialogue in a text

  • Teachers should model the conventions for punctuating dialogue. Using the dialogue in the book as a stimulus, pupils could continue in their own style. Challenge pupils to include dialogue to inform, dialogue to reveal a characteristic, dialogue for humour, dialogue to entertain, dialogue to betray a character or dialogue to move the plot on.

Writing opportunities

  •  Can UKS2 pupils read this poem and use it as a stimulus to write in a similar style about Christmas? Teachers could collate some of the sentence openers so that pupils can use them in their own writing.
  • Can pupils turn this poem into a short story? This may involve pulling out some of the main threads – phrases from the text and modelling how to convert the 1st person into the 3rd person. If pupils are successful, this will show real independence and a secure understanding for a challenging text.


On the 12th Day of Christmas

Title, author, publish & brief overview Reading activities Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling activities

Santa Claude
Santa Claude Alex T Smith. Hodder Children’s Books.

Meet Claude – no ordinary dog! When a burglar whooshes down Claude’s chimney on Christmas Eve, he clinks on the handcuffs! But Claude soon realises it isn’t a burglar – it’s Santa Claus!

Y2 and Y3 – Raising the bar with vocabulary and discussing the meaning of words in their context

  • Here is some of the challenging vocabulary in the text: jaunty jumper, terribly glamorous, clattered, beret, bustled, swizzly, rummaged, hairpins, dastardly, triumphantly, nooks and crannies, excelled himself, titivating, shimmied and chap. Teachers could share this vocabulary as pre-learning - suggesting definitions, matching definitions etc… as the teacher reads the text, pupils should recognise some of the listed vocabulary. Teachers could pose deliberate questions around this new language.

Y2 and Y3 – Writing questions and plausible corresponding answers

  • Many Year 2 pupils were confused by the inclusion of a written interview in the 2016 KS1 Reading paper 2. This is the perfect book to create an interview for a character. Who should we interview? What questions could we ask? How do different questions glean information from the person being interviewed? Model how to write questions – exploring using question tags (Didn’t you? Haven’t you?) and a range of question starters (could, can, will, should, do). Pupils may offer to be hot-seated or teachers could choose an adult to model this. This should be a very practical and spontaneous session where some questions are generated off the back of others. Teachers may also model the questions and answers on the board to demonstrate how questions and answers are set out. Pupils can record an ‘Interview with any character from their book.’

Writing opportunities

  •  Many readers will recognise this book as part of the Claude series – can pupils plan a short story that would match the collection? Pupils will need to consider Alex T Smith’s style. How can we incorporate his style into our own writing? All pupils in KS2 are expected to write a short story. Since the characters are so strong in this series, it makes sense for pupils to use them in their own stories. Could your Claude story have a twist? Can you ask some ‘what ifs’?


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