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How the book was produced

Our 'Tales from Camelot' book was created over several weeks using both Literacy time and additional English lessons.

We chose to study the Arthurian Legends to cover the relevant text level work in the Literacy strategy. Many of these text level teaching objectives were ongoing throughout the whole unit.

We started, in a normal English lesson, by looking at the story of how Arthur came to power. The class listened to and discussed the story of Arthur, Merlin and the sword in the stone. We explored what we already knew about the Arthurian Legends. Many of the children knew snippets about Excalibur, the Lady of the Lake etc.

The follow-up activity was based on my cartoon version of King Arthur.. Presented with just the cartoon pictures the children wrote their own story captions to go underneath. The less-able children sequenced my original captions and pictures.

In Literacy we focused on the plots of Arthurian legends. The class was presented with outlines of various tales and we worked together to identify the common elements and themes.

We then worked as a whole class to come up with four plots of our own. We came up with a name for our knights, decided what they where going on a quest for and came up with three main events in the story. (Problem/solution).

In a Literacy Hour on adjectives the children were presented with pictures of the various 'knights'. The pictures were taken from the excellent 'A Tolkien Bestiary' by David Day. The children built up banks of adjectives to describe the knights they were presented with and then went on to write a paragraph about the character. Each group had a different knight to write about and in my more-able group they had a different knight for each group. The descriptions were created over two Literacy sessions and before each section of individual work we worked together to produce adjectives for a class character (on the first day) and extend them into a full description (on day two). I combined each child's description of the knight into a single group description. These descriptions then formed the 'Brave Knights of Camelot' introductory section of the class book.

Continuing the work on adjectives we used another of the pictures from David Day's book over two days in the whole class period of the Hour. The children were told that the picture was of Camelot. We used it as stimulus again to produce adjectives that described Camelot and we put these adjectives into sentences. During the next day we put the sentences in an order we liked (this was a very worthwhile aspect of the whole process and led to lots of interesting discussions), added any extra sections that were needed and then we extended the opening description to take the reader up towards and into Camelot and start the story.

We did further work in our English lessons looking at some other Arthurian tales. Work on King Arthur, Sir Pellinore and Excalibur was followed-up by getting the children to retell the events that they had listened to from the point of view of Arthur. Individual accounts were combined to produce the first 'tale' in our class book.

The main stories in the book were written mainly during Literacy Hour over several weeks as detailed below. Each Literacy group were given one of the plots that we had come up with to turn into a story (additional plots came from our parallel class).

In their guided group sessions the children worked with me to create their story chapter. We used one of our Becta portables to write the story together. All the children sat round the laptop, told me what to type and offered suggestions of how things could be changed. Using the computer like this was a huge bonus as we could go back and alter things that didn't sound write, go back and change plot elements etc. I was able to work a lot of word and sentence work into these sessions.

The day after their guided group session the children were given a printout of the previous days work which they had to redraft and extend ready for the next session guided group session where we compared what mistakes we'd found and debated any changes to be made in the text.

In addition to the activities listed above we had other lessons focusing on Arthurian legends.

The children rewrote the 'Sword in the stone' story from the point of view of Morgan le Fey. This didn't make it into the final book. Our printed version of the class book also features the children's letters from King Arthur to their particular knight about their quest with Arthur making comments about things that happened in their quest, rewarding/punishing them, thanking them etc. [The letters may well be added to the on-line version of the book at a later date]

One of the other fun activities we did was 'The Camelot Games'. The children went away into groups and wrote their own radio commentary on an Olympic-style Camelot games. They came up with some great events such as jousting, sword fighting, wrestling, racing etc. Each little 'report' featured commentary and interviews with the knights afterwards. They really enjoyed both the writing side and the performance. We recorded the performances and I was really impressed by the way certain children, who I didn't think would dare to perform in front of the rest of the class, really got into their roles.

- Gareth Pitchford