Monthly Archives: September 2012

Visual Literacy with under 7s

Or, to use normal-person-speak not education jargon – writing about films. My children love watching films and so does their father and it gives me a couple of hours off-duty whenever he takes them to the cinema. As we are both from largish families, when we had our own children we wanted to give each child quality time by themselves so Christian usually takes them separately on Daddy-daughter, or Daddy-son, dates. Obviously they absolutely love it and Jude in particular, being a very visual child, will role-play film characters for weeks afterwards. We watched Puss-in-Boots as a Family Film Night and both the children have quoted so much of the dialogue in their play that Mae has started to copy them. The other day she woke up in our bed and we knew she was awake because we heard her say a line from the film in a little sleepy voice – “Si, I can commit.”

Jude was Puss in Boots all this Summer and even ran his races on our Homeschoolers Sports Day wearing his hat. Fortunately for everyone else attending that event, we had already won the argument about wearing clothes (Jude insisted Puss in Boots didn’t, we insisted that he must if anyone else was in the house, or, if we were going out!).

Puss in Boots

Well, a couple of weeks ago Jude went on a Daddy-son date to see the new Disney film, Brave.

I was painting the shed when they got back and I could tell he was excited because he jumped out of the car and shouted, “Mummy, I need a blue dress!” Then he dashed inside and came back out with a bow and arrow and repeated his demand. So he’s been Merida for the last couple of weeks, only Cana likes being Merida too so they take it in turns with the dress.

Merida from ‘Brave’

I decided it would a great thing if I could capture some of this enthusiasm and use it in our ‘work’ sessions, which are reading and writing focussed and last an hour every week-day morning. So I asked the children if they would like to draw some pictures and tell me about the film, as I haven’t seen it yet. They were delighted, Jude immediately sat down and got out the felt-tips and Cana exlaimed spontaneously, “Oh thank you Mummy for choosing that!” They decided they wanted to make a book about the film and spent a few days excitedly drawing and writing. And this is what they did…

Brave has a bow and arrow, on her birthday she has a new bow and arrow.(Jude)

(From the bottom up) Brave’s little brothers run to their daddy. (Jude)

Cana’s picture of the brothers running away.

Cana’s writing. (They decided together what they wanted to write about)

When the witch gives Brave the cake, Brave’s mummy ate the cake then Brave’s mummy turned into a bear. (Jude) – I decided lines might help Jude to orientate his writing correctly.

Cana’s picture.

A slightly more detailed retelling by Cana.

When the witch gives Brave the cake, the witch gets in a pot. (Jude)

The witch’s face in the fire, by Cana.

A paragraph by Cana, without any capital letters.

Brave ripped her mummy’s picture, then Brave’s mummy put Brave’s bow and arrow in the fire. (Jude)

I still don’t really know what ‘Brave’ is about but I’m very impressed with their independent writing and the children enjoyed this project so much we will definitely be doing more Visual Literacy.


Starting to write

It is now September and Jude is four and three quarters so all his friends from nursery are starting school. He attended nursery for three mornings a week for eighteen months but now we are starting home-school proper for him. Although he is generally not as forward as his sister was at this age, he does really enjoy drawing and is starting to incorporate a lot of writing into his artwork. I taught Jude the alphabet using home-made Thomas the Tank Engine flash cards because he is a HUGE Thomas fan and then we worked our way through and learnt how to form the letters. Like many four year olds he still reverses some letters and gets particularly confused with ‘b’s, ‘d’s and ‘p’s. As he has not been doing sentence writing as such, just learning the letters, he includes some capital letters in his words as well. I know Rudolph Steiner adherents teach only the capital letters to children, then lower case later, but I have mainly only taught lower case and Jude has just picked up some capitals from his reading.

The other day, Jude decided to make a book about Thomas Land. He worked through a pile of paper quickly sketching each character and then wrote the name of the character on the page. He took a long time over this task and was very focussed. Afterwards I helped him to staple the pages together and then he said it needed a front page. He told me what the title of the book was and sounded out each word. I helped him by reminding him what he was writing because he kept forgetting. I also tried to encourage finger spaces as he is not really using them yet. Apart from that he worked independently.

Jeremy Jet

Harold (Helicopter)




Cranky (the crane)


Terence (the tractor)

Bulstrode (the barge)

Thin Controller

Fat Controller

Caroline (car)

Narrow Gauge Engines (without a n as Jude calls them “Arrow Gauge”) going round and round.

Troublesome Trucks

Bertie (bus)

Title page: You can see how many things there is in Thomas Land

As well as being inspired by Thomas land (our last visit was back in June but it’s Jude’s most favourite place in all the world), Jude is also inspired by his favourite films. At the moment it’s Puss in Boots. Jude loves drawing Puss and also his accomplice, Kitty Soft Paws. Here is his picture of Kitty on the blackboard.

Kitty Soft Paws

I love the fact that Jude is so enthusiastic about writing but I was feeling slightly unsure of how to help him improve. He is always reluctant if he thinks you are asking him to do work and I don’t want to destroy his confidence. As he is such a visual learner I decided we could try using some of the Letterland stories to revise his letter formation. Letterland has a little story with each letter which I thought would appeal to Jude’s artistic streak, for example: “When drawing Bouncing Ben, go straight down his ears and then round his face.” “When drawing Dippy Duck, stroke along her back first, go up her neck and back down again.” There is also a separate little story for each capital. I’ve always thought it was overly elaborate before but Jude is loving it. We are working through the alphabet and using Paint on the computer to draw the picture, then clone it and practise writing the letter over the top.

bouncy Ben

Eddie Elephant’s on-end trick

We haven’t bought anything as there is loads of Letterland stuff online. We just find the picture of the character and read the little story that tells you how to draw it. I still think it would be unnecessary to start off with Letterland as it is very involved, I used to think it distracted children having to learn all about Annie Apple when actually they would probably be alright just learning ‘a’- but it is helping Jude to consolidate forming his letter shapes without realising that’s what he’s doing. He already thinks writing is fun, we just need to keep it that way.

Making Mosaics with Four year olds.

I had got all my mosaic stuff out to make a wedding gift for a friend and naturally, Jude wanted to have a go too. To keep him quiet I gave him a small tile and some tesserae (little coloured tiles) to play with. He was watching me snip tiles into shape with my tile nippers and every now and then he would pass me a little tile and say, “Can you cut this down there?” or, “Can you make a circle?” After a while I looked up from my work and glanced over at Jude. I was quite impressed with what I saw – he had made a recognisably humanoid figure with a hat which he informed me was his hero, Puss in Boots. I had been planning to ‘recycle’ his design when he’d had enough but it was so good I showed him instead how to fill in the background around his figure using only one colour tile. He wanted to use different colours but he could soon see that Puss in Boots looked better if he was the only one in red.

Jude laying out his mosaic on the back of a plain bathroom tile.

When he had filled in his whole tile with pieces (I helped him by snipping down any pieces that he needed) I gave him a disposable plastic knife and a tub of tile adhesive. Jude knows how to spread butter on bread so I explained that he just needed to spread a little blob on the back of each piece of tile and press it down. He soon got the hang of it and I left him to it, carefully lifting each piece and ‘buttering’ it.

Spreading tile adhesive.

After that we left Puss in Boots to dry and then we just had to grout him by spreading lots of tile adhesive all over him and squashing it into the cracks. Jude did the spreading and I did the smoothing off and the final clean up. I think Puss looks brilliant!

Puss in Boots.

Of course, when Cana saw Puss in Boots she wanted to make another mosaic (she made one last year too). This time she wanted to make a unicorn. I thought it was a little ambitious but when she started to lay it out I realised she just wanted the head of the unicorn and it’s shining horn. It needed a bit of snipping to sort out where to put the eye. And then she decided to make some flowers underneath which she did, using fragments left over from my mosaic. A week later we visited Canon Hill Park and Cana showed me the mosaic unicorn that had inspired her design. I had never even noticed it before.

Cana’s unicorn

I am rather impressed with our mosaics all in all. I was thinking we could run a mosaic workshop on our next homeschooling group meet. Now I know even four year old boys enjoy it!