I have written a few individual posts about some of the English books that we have read as part of our KS3 English, books that we read together, discuss and then do linked English activities. My kids really enjoy that, they enjoy linking in their Grammar or Writing activities to a good story that we are reading and discussing. And it just so happens that most of those KS3 English books that we have used over the past few years have been part of a range of books called Rollercoasters. So I thought I would share a bit about these books and why they have worked so well for us (and and just to clarify this does not mean I am stopping using them I am already planning on using some of them with my son in his next academic year).
Firstly we have found that the stories are GOOD stories, they are engaging stories, stories that involve the kids and always have something of value in them (something that the kids learn without even really realising they are learning – like in Sky Hawk there was a lot about friendship, how you treat a person, how not to judge a person just because of finances, but it was all very subtle and part of a brilliant story).
The stories are also great examples of the type of writing that you want the kids to try and create themselves. Writing that involves using all senses to describe, using a mixture of sentence lengths, cliff hangers, effective figurative language, developing full characters, characters that have flaws but are still lovable – I could go on and on). And in all the stories we have read there is NO content which I think is inappropriate or not age-correct (something which I have found in other resources).
There is also a mix of the type of stories they include – there are some historical context stories (like Lightning Strike, Edgar and Adolf and Out of the Rubble), there are some that are more contemporary and that deal with relationships (Sky hawk and White Dolphin) and there are some that are just funny and will make even a reluctant reader want to continue turning the pages (Bug Muldoon), they also have classics (Treasure Island and The Jungle book spring to mind) and lots more. It really is worth just scrolling down the list of books that they have included in this series. That is honestly what I do on a regular basis – when I am trying to think of a new book I go to this list and scroll down and I always get inspiration (the only issue I have is I often end up wanting to use more that one and then have to chose – I would love to have a MASSIVE collection of books).
Okay and then there are the Lesson Plans and Activity worksheets. These packs are FREE to download and each one is slightly different but you tend to always get a summary of the story and a summary of how the lessons fit into the story. Then there are individual lesson plans and worksheets/ activities for each lesson plan. We don’t always use these linked activities but I do always read through it as it gives me an excellent starting point for all of the books. With some stories I just pick out a few individual activities and then with other stories we work though almost every lesson and every activity (Sky Hawk and Bug Muldoon we did most of the activities). For a home educator these free to download packs are gold, you can pick and choice what you want and it saves you a lot of time.
So that is generally why we rave about this series so much but for those who are wondering where to start I thought it might also be helpful to highlight our own Top 3 from this list.
Sky Hawk – Still one of our all time favourite reads EVER. The writing style just gripped us from the very beginning and we were riding the wave of friendships and people trying to save a precious creature. We were moved close to tears at time and then we rejoiced. It really is a beautiful story and although there are sad moments it was a uplifting story on how people can come together and help each other, how people may start out not being the kindest but can learn and change. This story lead us to discover a whole range of stunning books by the author Gill Lewis (we now love her books). And it is the first book that I always recommend to anyone looking for a story for Year 7’s or Year 8’s.
Bug Muldoon – what a character, really such a beautifully sculptured character we loved this adorable bug, who does also have some attitude because if you are a beetle battling bees and ants you will need some gumption. But again a brilliant writing style and so completely different to Sky Hawk. This is more upbeat, and we were often chuckling along at the phrases coming out of the lead character. I feel like this would be great for reluctant readers or kids needing some inspiration on how they could create their own unique piece of writing.
Lightning Strike. This is set in Victorian England and it does deal with how hard life was back then (if you were a factory worker) but the story is not just Victorian England was hard. It actually takes the kids back in time, you feel like you are living there in Victorian England, like you are part of this group of factory workers trying to create something, anything with your life. If you buy one book on Victorian England, for me this is the one to buy.
That is quite a long post, but I really wanted to try and explain a little bit of why we have become such big fans of these Rollercoasters books.