The eviction writ was considered legally binding if villagers had been touched by the document.
In Fir for Luck, the villagers go to great lengths not to touch it – and manage to force the sheriff officer to burn the writ instead. ‘Mind, that writ was never served’ snaps one of the villagers as the servant of the law is sent on his way.
Split the class into two teams. It’s best played in a sports hall or outside, but a cleared area in the classroom may well be fine. Pupils should sit on chairs or benches opposite each other in two lines.
Place a bucket with a rolled up piece of paper in the middle of the two rows, with at least a couple of metres in between.
Number each team, but start the count at opposite sides so that, say, the number 10s on both sides are diagonally across from each other, with the bucket (containing the writ) between them.
Now call out a number. The two pupils with that number will run to the middle, grab the writ and attempt to touch their opponent with it before he/she reaches their seat again. Discourage violence!!!
If successful, they gain a point for their team. If their opponent gets to the writ first and manages to touch them with it, the other team gets a point. Deduct points for not getting up at all.
Mix numbers up, and try to catch pupils out – that way it’s the most fun. Keep it fast-moving, taking care to always place the ‘writ’ back in the middle. I tend to play until the first team reaches 20 points or similar. Kids seem to really like this game.
It also works sitting on the floor, but ensure proper boundaries – in my experience there is a fair bit of bum-shuffling towards the writ! Not something the 18th century villagers would have done, I’m sure!
Another freebie – this time a wee Drama activity: Freeze-frame Comics!
I often use this activity on school visits. The examples here are based on my book Fir for Luck, although you can apply the same principles to any story or class novel.
First establish what a freeze frame is. It is a picture of a dramatic moment in the story, held without movement.
1. Pick two volunteers for the demonstration. One should take the part of a master, and one the part of a servant.
Discuss as a class what dynamic pose (they should both be in the middle of doing something, not just standing there) the characters would strike. The master might stand upright, hands on hips, or wagging a finger at the servant. Facial expression might be stern or even angry. Head will be held high, looking down on the servant (explain use of levels).
The servant, on the other hand, might have his head bowed or look up anxiously at the master. He/she might be in the middle of a task, like scrubbing the floor, or might be begging the angry master for mercy. Kneeling might work.
Once the poses are decided, pupils should hold them for ten seconds without moving. There should be tension in their bodies, as if they were really in the middle of moving – that will make the poses look much more realistic.
2. The Freeze Frame Comic:
For the next part you can either pick volunteers from the class or allow pupils to do this in groups (if you have space enough or are working outside). A few well-chosen costumes and props make all the difference here: for Fir for Luck, you may need a top hat/jacket for the sheriff officer, a shawl for Janet, a wig or waistcoat for the villagers. You will also need a rolled up paper for a writ.
You could tackle the whole book, or just a key scene. A key scene in Fir for Luck is when the main character, Janet, spots a sheriff officer in the distance. Let’s create a comic for this scene!
- First picture: The man is coming to deliver a writ of eviction to Janet’s village.
- Second picture: She runs to warn the villagers.
- Third picture: Together, the women and children overwhelm the sheriff officer, taking care not to touch the writ (touching it would make it legally binding). It is quite a struggle.
Pupils should create a freeze frame for each of these to tell the story. They should maintain their pose and facial expression for ten seconds, allowing the teacher or a fellow pupil to take a photo.
Once the pictures are printed, speech bubbles and sound effects can then be added to create a comic, of the scene or of the book as a whole. They make fab classroom wall displays!
* I’d like to point out that all schools have given me permission to use these photographs. Many thanks!
If any of you are doing a Highland Clearances project, you may be studying my own book Fir for Luck, or maybe The Desperate Journey. The 19th century diet in Sutherland consisted of food that could be grown in the region. The staple grain was bere, and beremeal bannocks or scones would be eaten daily in these communities.
Per table, you’ll need 8oz beremeal, 1-2 level tsp of baking powder, 1 level tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar and 6 fl oz buttermilk.
(Chances are, the originals may not have contained much sugar, but hey – kids like this recipe!)
- Buy beremeal from a good local health food shop or order it from http://www.golspiemill.co.uk/products/products-list.html, plus a good supply of buttermilk. You will also need baking powder, salt and sugar.
- In preparation, weigh out 8oz of beremeal for each table of 4-6 pupils. I find it easiest to have this sealed in freezer bags to prevent floury mess (enough of that to come!)
- On the day, give each table a bowl, wooden spoon or similar and a bag of beremeal.
- Number the pupils, co-operative learning style. That way you can distribute tasks fairly. Instructions follow:
- Number 1s, empty the bags into the bowls.
- Number 2s, add a level teaspoon of baking powder and carefully stir it in.
- Number 3s, add another level teaspoon of baking powder and stir it in.
- Number 4s, add a level teaspoon of salt. Stir it in. (You get the idea! Only instructions now)
- Add 2 heaped teaspoons of sugar. Stir.
- Add the buttermilk, a spoon at a time, and stir it in until there is enough moisture to form an elastic dough.(This gets a bit messy)
- Get in with your hands and knead until combined. (This gets fairly messy!! Add more flour to stop sticky dough!)
- Divide dough evenly among everyone at the table.
- Each pupil should form a round disk around 1/2 an inch thick.
- Place on baking paper on tray, writing your name beside in pencil (this works brilliantly and still shows up after baking).
- Bake tray off at 180C/Gas 6, turning the bannocks over once. You’d be there forever if you wanted to cook them all authentically, on a girdle!
- Serve with a dollop of butter. I’ve been surprised how much kids have liked these!
Enjoy! Tweet me your results @scattyscribbler – I’d love to see them.
P.S. Other (possibly less old-fashioned) recipes for beremeal can be found at http://www.birsay.org.uk/baronymill.htm .
I discovered something new this month. Teachers are really, really interested in children’s books – and the writers behind them. Teachers appreciate free resources (as long as they are good) and will use them.
After February’s ‘A Writing Quote a Day’ extravaganza, aimed at writers and aspiring writerly types, I had a few school visits lined up, so I thought I’d tweet and FB a link to a wee World Book Day activity: a ‘Book Blind Date’.
Well! It’s worth saying that hits on the blog quadrupled the previous highest number of visitors to the site, and then some.
People engaged, shared, commented and appreciated, so as a teacher and a writer, I decided that, among the usual opportunities for writers, plus interesting, kidlit-related stuff, there was room for something aimed at teachers and librarians.
I won’t go down the Reflective Reading route as my publishers are currently working on a Fir for Luck RR-guide for schools, but there are plenty of extras I CAN share: Games/Interactive ideas/Drama etc.
Coming very soon, the first instalment: Highland Clearances Cooking for the Classroom.
Well! Have I got an idea for you!
Author Teri Terry (I know – really, that’s her name!) has launched a competition, open to anyone at all, to make a trailer for her new novel for teenagers Mind Games. The Prize? She will come in person to visit the school/library you nominate, do a reading and Q&A event and book signing.
It’s pretty straightforward:
Step 1: Read Mind Games. Obviously. I actually really enjoyed the Slated trilogy, so I look forward to reading this one.
Step 2: Be creative! Make/animate/film a trailer for the book. There are zillions of book trailers on YouTube. Have a look at the one for Slated:
Step 3: Upload to YouTube and post a link to it in a comment on Teri’s blog. All the details are right here:
Go on! Be a trail(er)blazer!
I’ve spent enough years teaching kids English to know that, as soon as you mention the word ‘poetry’, faces wrinkle. Mouths distort, as if under onslaught by a particularly bitter taste; eyes avert, chairs shift. Teenage discomfort, locked up in one tiny word.
Maybe that’s the reason why poetry for young people doesn’t tend to sell (broadly speaking) and therefore rarely gets published. So much better then, that there is a whole new opportunity out there: the www.literacytrust.org.uk/poetryprize
In partnership with Bloomsbury Publishing, they want poems on the subject of reading and literature, a maximum of 16 lines long and in any format, but – crucially – aimed at children and young people. The winning entry will be printed on posters and distributed to schools nationwide to foster a love of reading.
The winner will be selected from the short-list by a judging panel of:
- Tony Bradman, award-winning writer and co-author of the Space School series for A&C Black
- Sarah Crossan, children’s poet and author of The Weight of Water
- Hannah Rolls, Bloomsbury Commissioning Editor
- Jonathan Douglas, National Literacy Trust Director
All entries must be in by 31st August.
I’m certainly planning to have a go.