I have found choosing books for my son to read (and by that I mean when we read and “study” a book) difficult because he actually worked through most of the books that his older sister did as part of her year 7, year 8 and even year 9 English literature. If I could I would start with Sky Hawk followed by The Last Wolf – but he already worked through both of those with his sister.
So new books it must be, and I will confess some books I know I want to do with him and others I am still considering (after all you don’t need to have every book planned out when you start in September and in all honesty I normally change my mind as we progress through the year anyway).
Okay the first two books which we are definitely going to be doing are Animal Farm and The London Eye Mystery.
I have been wanting to do Animal Farm for quite a while because it is a great satire of Stalin’s Russia. We started looking at the Communist system under Lenin and Stalin in June/July and my daughter has just started a module on the Cold War so I think it would be a good book to read and discuss as a family. (I love being able to link our literature to topics that we are learning about). And as luck would have it I recently spend quite a bit of time going through the GCSE English Literature resources on Twinkl’s website so I knew they had a whole section on Animal Farm. Now before anyone starts thinking “what, using GCSE resources in Year 7, is she crazy” I have actually used the GCSE English Literature resources with my daughter right through her KS3 years and they have always worked really well. When we use the GCSE Literature resources in KS3 we don’t do the entire unit of work, I dip in and find the activities that I think suit our level and sometimes I even take one of their ideas, bend it slightly and then use it for our purposes. But the point I am trying to make is PLEASE do not shy away from using a resource just because it states GCSE on it, often there is a lot of valuable information and activity ideas in it – so use it and just bend it a bit to suit your kids level.
With Animal Farm I have already printed out the plot cards, the cloze activities, the character link pages and the thematic overview pages and that is just my starting point. I know I will dip in and use a bunch more of their Animal Farm resources when we start the book.
The London Eye Mystery. Earlier this year both my daughter and I read this story and we both enjoyed it and at the time I actually asked my son to hold off reading it so we could do it together as an English book. I really liked the way the author built the story and created her flawed but real characters (I appreciated the fact that the main character is autistic and that the author deals with the autism in a real but still positive manner). And I also looked at the resources pack on the Oxford University Press site and was immediately struck by the fact that a number of the activities would really suit my son. I liked that it included an activity on story openings, figurative language, inference, idioms, an adverting campaign, writing a diary entry, building suspense in a story and a police report, all of which I know I wanted to work on. So apart from the story being a good read, the activities linked in ticked all the right boxes for us.
Then a war story which I have been wanting to do with my kids for years, but it just never seemed like the right fit for my daughter, yet I think my son will get into it (he is not as fussed with blood and guts type stories) is When the Guns Fall Silent. He learnt about the First World War last year but he still has quite a few questions about it so I think at some stage we will circle back to the First World War and when we do I think we will link this book in. It is an interesting read (I have read it) and is quite an honest, sometimes graphic depiction of trench life but it ends on a lovely high note when two old veterans get together (one British and one German), two veterans who meet each other during the Christmas Truce.
And there is a Free resources pack from the Oxford University press site for this book. In fact I have already downloaded and printed out the entire pack. And I really like the activities they have included in this pack – they have managed to link the history and English together in some great activities. So I think this one is also going to be a definite for us.
Two more that I want to read and discuss with my son but they are no linked English activities are Holes by Louis Sachar and Journey to Jo’burg by Beverly Naidoo. Holes was recommend to us by a fellow home educator after her sons really enjoyed the story (and in the past all her book recommendations for my son have been spot on) and Journey to Jo’burg is something that I want to read with the kids as it deals with some parts of Apartheid.
Okay so three books which we are going to do as English units and two that I know we are going to read together. Then I have three other books which I am thinking about, not sure if we will include them this year or leave them for Year 8. Boy Everywhere and Shadow are stories (both which I have already read) which deal with refugees. A sensitive topic but one that I would like to include in our reading at some stage and both of these books have dealt with it in a very real, honest manner but also one that is appropriate for kids.
The Jungle Book is a story he has already read when he was younger but I know he is keen to reread it and I also know there is a free English resources pack that we could link in. So not sure at this stage but a possibility.
Oh and in case anyone is wondering about Shakespeare – I am still thinking about that, in fairness he did sit through most of his sister’s work on Romeo and Juliet so he knows that one quite well already, and he also picked up most of Macbeth when she did it last year so I feel like he already has quite a good grasp of Shakespeare. But yes I am thinking about that and we may add in a play this year, just not sure which one.
So that is our starting point, as I mentioned I normally add and make changes as we progress through the year but I feel like I have some good books to get us going.
A Note about the Resource Packs for Oxford University Press Rolllercoaster books – when you select the book there is normally a block on the right hand side which takes you to the linked resource (they are always free to download). But you can also access all of the resources here – Rollercoaster Resource Packs.