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The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright

Being big and brave doesn't mean you have to have a big roar!

In the post today...

I love receiving books in the post almost, but not quite, like discovering a new book in a bookshop. Today's post brought me The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright, and illustrated by Jim Field. Published by Orchard Books, ISBN-9-781-40833-1-606. 

It is a traditional story of how small and quiet is often more effective than being big and noisy, but told in verse with some gorgeous illustrations to support the words. It is certainly a story for those quiet children in class, who are the observers, not the talkers. I was very affected by hearing Susan Cain's Ted Talk on the power of the introvert, particularly how she describes and empowers people who are quiet. As a child I liked my own company, getting lost in the imaginative words of a storybook world, painting and drawing endlessly. In fact I still do - sort of what I'm doing here writing resources for teachers to use to support the use of storybooks in class. I have the tiniest office/cupboard to work in but it is fantastic surrounded by my artwork, sewing, writing and general 'stuff' that I like to do. I hope that some of the ideas to follow will encourage you to use this lovely thoughtful book in school.

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PSHEE ideas

1. After reading the complete story invite the children to share their ideas about the two main characters. Divide a page/board/screen into two with the headings Lion and Mouse and list the different attributes of each one. What do they look like? How do they behave? What are they good at? What do they find challenging?

2. Put the Lion and the Mouse in the hot seat. Get the children to work in pairs to come up with some questions to ask. Ask who would like to pretend to be either character - you might want to give the characters a lion or mouse mask to wear (children are sometimes a bit braver in character). Encourage the children to ask their questions in turn and listen carefully to the answers given. Highlight questions that enquire about feelings rather than events.

3. Refer back to some of the answers given by the Lion and the Mouse. Why did the Mouse feel much braver once it had met the Lion? Can the children think of times when they had been worried or concerned about something but then felt brave enough to have a go or take a chance? It could be the first time they performed on stage, did a dance, put their hand up to share their ideas in class or rode their bike without stabilisers for the first time.

4. The poem's theme would make a great assembly with a powerful message for other children that even the smallest creature can have the heart of a lion!

Literacy ideas

All of the PSHEE ideas are literacy based as they are about speaking and listening, describing and discussing.

1. The language in the poem is full of fantastic wow words. Excellent adjectives that help to make expanded noun phrases, In a dry dusty place where the sand sparkled gold, sets the scene beautifully.

2. The children could go on a synonym hunt throughout the poem and select parts where they can change the original words with their own words that have similar meanings.

3. The poem is a rhyming poem so check through to find what words rhyme. Are all they rhyming words spelt the same or sound the same but with different spellings. This links well with teaching Phase 5 of Phonics looking at same sound but alternative spellings.

4. The animals in the poem are good examples of opposites in both size and loudness. Invite the children to choose two other pairs of animals and to write a poem on a similar theme for example a rhinoceros and a butterfly.

Art ideas

1. Make face masks from paper plates and decorated with all the different animal faces in the poem. You could use these for a performance of the poem as part of an arts event or assembly.

2. Make larger card masks using collage materials to form a jungle display and layer with the children's alternative creature poems. Use wool, string, fun fur off-cuts and crepe paper to create texture and colour. The masks could be flat or have sections added to make them more three dimensional - old vacuum hosepipe for an elephant trunk, sections of cardboard boxes to make noses.

3. Make a small card book from A5 size cardboard box card, so that it is quite sturdy. Punch two holes to one side and create jungle scenes using newspaper, magazines, printouts of animals, the children's own illustrations on paper and cut out, cellophane, felt tip pens, paint, and anything else that you have in your art cupboard. When all the sides are completed, thread some ribbon or string through the punched holes. Print off some key words in comic book style fonts that the children can add to their books. The children can then work on their telling their story as they turn the pages without having to write their ideas down - it is all in picture form. You could record their stories to listen to in the book corner of the class or as part of a display.