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The Crow's Tale by Naomi Howarth

Traditional tale retold - beautifully.

Words and pictures.

I read a review of this newly published book which drew me to the book but it was the gorgeous illustration on the front cover that sealed the deal. The Crow's Tale is written and illustrated by the very talented Naomi Howarth. It is published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books, ISBN 978-1-84780-615-4. The story is based on The Rainbow Crow which is a traditional Pennsylvania Lenni Lenape Indian legend about transformation. As the author says, this is a story about bravery, perseverance, truth and friendship and a respect for the natural world around us all. Take a look at some of my free lesson plan resources for ideas to use in primary school.

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Art ideas.

I couldn't resist starting with some art, craft and design ideas because the book is so richly illustrated.

1. Collect lots of different textures, colours and finishes of papers and hone some cutting skills using scissors to cut out simple feather shapes. Introduce the concept of making a cardboard template to draw around to get the shape shape each time - and prevent those skinny shapes! Show the children how to fold paper several times, draw around the template once and then cut through to make several identical cut-outs at once.

2. Cut out the central body shape of the crow. You can do this by placing the illustration on a visualiser, tack some card to the whiteboard and draw around the image. Attach two large pieces of card to each side for the basic wing and then glue the multi-coloured feathers on. Check the illustration to see how the feathers are layered - start at the bottom edge of the wing and work up towards the body. The bird is ready to use for a display or as part of a drama production.

3. For everyone to have a bird each, try using a cardboard tube (kitchen roll size) and cut two slits about 10cms long down each side. Flatten the tube and cut to the shape of a beak. Staple the sides together. Attach two pieces of curled brown paper at the base to make the legs. Make one piece of card into the two wings so that you can staple it down the centre of the tube or use two pieces if you are confident they will stick to the tube. Then paint the body white and the beak orange. Cover the wings both sides with paper feathers. Use the template and folding to make lots of feathers the same size. Suspend from the ceiling if your school alarms let you!

4. Use potatoes cut into slim feather shapes and print the feathers onto the outline of the crow - trace the shape from the illustration and transfer to white paper. Use metallic and matt poster paint and print away, but remind the children of the direction of the feathers.

Create a textile version for role-play but cutting the two wings from one piece of material. Cut an extra set of wings to sew underneath to create two 'pockets. Slide two wood poles (garden or doweling) inside the pocket for the children to hold to make the wings flap. Now attache lots of different feather shape fabrics to the wings - use the template and folding method for speed. The fabric could be glued in place or sewn - depending on how dexterous your children are.

Literacy ideas.

This story lends itself to being re-enacted for an assembly or as a short play. Use some of the art ideas to create props and costumes.

1. Discuss with the children what the story means. Can they say what the story is saying to us? Hopefully they will see the themes of perseverance, bravery, truth and friendship.

2. Challenge the children to write a short play using the story as a reference. Who are the characters, where is it set and what props would they need? Would the play need a narrator to help keep the story going? What actions could the 'actors' use to show the flying?

3. The beginning of the story is a beautiful story starter. Invite the children to use a similar structure but change the season, time of day and the weather to create a very atmospheric starter. They could then take the story and develop it further into a complete story with different animal characters and location.

4. The story is written with rich descriptive language so challenge the children to an adjective and expanded noun hunt. What are the 'wow' words and why do they work so well? Select some of the nouns in the book, for example, crow, feathers, kaleidoscope, sun or snow and see what adjectives can be used to provide interest for the reader.

5. Linked to the Geography ideas below, the children could try telling the story by drawing pictures with speech bubbles and labels comic book style. The number of squares to draw in is up to you.

PHSEE ideas.

1. What motivates people to be courageous? Look at what motivated Rainbow Crow to be so brave. What does 'being brave' really mean? Can the children think of other examples of bravery that they know about?

2. Rainbow Crow ended up making a sacrifice in achieving his goal on behalf of his friends. Did he expect that to happen or was he surprised?

3. How did Crow's friends help him in the end in dealing with what happened to him. Invite the children to come up with some strategies that they could use when they want to help someone who is unhappy or upset. Print out the best three or four ideas and have them on display in the classroom.

Geography ideas.

1. The illustrations start with an aerial view from Rainbow Crow flying over the snow-covered ground. Discuss what aerial means and who else might get that view of the earth. Look at aerial views of earth using Google Earth, particularly where the school grounds are.

2. Link the aerial view to map making. Using the story challenge the children to make a map of the events that take place rather than writing it in words. You might want to use larger sheets of paper or long sheets taped together.