OHT 16: I want to change your mind… Lesson 11: Why does it work? 43
OHT 17: Why the novel works for me
Worksheet 12: Why the novel works for me Lesson 12: Assessment writing 46
Worksheet 13: Assessment sheet F
urther teaching suggestions 48
Alone on a Wide Wide Sea
agerly anticipated by his many fans, Alone on a Wide Wide Sea is multi-award winning author Michael Morpurgo’s latest novel for young readers. A lyrical and life-affirming story incorporating a number of challenging themes, it was described by Kate Kellaway in The Observer as ‘his best book in years’.
The novel first tells the story of Arthur Hobhouse, shipped to Australia after WWII. Having lost his sister, his country and everything he knows, Arthur endures mistreatment, neglect and forced labour in the Australian outback before finding a home. Throughout his life, he is saved again and again by his love of the sea, and when he meets and marries a nurse whose father owns a boat building business, all the pieces of his fractured life come together. The second half of the novel tells the story of Arthur’s daughter Allie, whose love of the sea is as strong and vital as her father’s. She embarks on an epic solo voyage across the world’s roughest seas, in search of her father’s long-lost sister. Both moving and original, the novel is interwoven with Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, and tackles a number of challenging and difficult themes with gentleness and humanity.
The teaching suggestions below are designed for Year 7 students – however, the novel may be suitable for older classes as well. Students do not need to have any specific background knowledge before reading Alone on a Wide Wide Sea, but will need to be made familiar with ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ during their study of the book, as well as the history of child migrants.
Michael Morpurgo has written over 90 books and has an unparalleled reputation in the world of children's fiction. His works have been adapted for the cinema, TV and theatre and he has won numerous awards including the Blue Peter Book Award, the Whitbread Children's Book Award and the Smarties Prize. In 2003, he was appointed the third Children's Laureate.
Michael Morpurgo is, in his own words, “oldish, married with three children, and a grandfather six times over.” After attending schools in London, Sussex and Canterbury, he went on to London University to study English and French, followed by a job in a primary school in Kent. It was there that he discovered what he wanted to do.
“We had to read the children a story every day and my lot were bored by the book I was reading. I decided I had to do something and told them the kind of story I used to tell my kids - it was like a soap opera, and they focussed on it. I could see there was magic in it for them, and realised there was magic in it for me.”
R6 Adopt active reading approaches to engage with and make sense of texts
R14 Recognise how writers’ language choices can enhance meaning
S&L13 Work together logically and methodically to solve problems
Enlarged versions of Map 1 and Map 2 (A3, ideally) will be needed, as well as marker pens and a stopwatch.
Allocate students to mixed ability groups of four or five members for a Collective Memory Game. Give each team an A3 copy of Map 1 and a marker pen. An A3 version of Map 2 should be stuck to a flipchart and hidden from the students’ sight. They should not have access to the novel.
Explain that they are going to work in teams to reproduce, as accurately as possible, the image you are going to show them. One person from each group comes to the front of the class in each round, where they are shown the image for 15 seconds (place the flipchart so no-one else can see it). They then go back to their group and add what they have seen and plan the next person’s turn (allow 30 seconds for this). Each group member is given two chances to see the image. The whole group has three minutes to plan their strategy. Remind students not to let other groups see or hear their work.
When the game is finished, compare results and display Map 2. Teams discuss what they did well and how they would change their strategy if they were to repeat the task. (This provides an excellent opportunity for discussions about team-work, as well as focused reading.)
Ask students to suggest what they think the novel will be about. Then display OHT 1 and lead the class in ‘unpicking’ the title of Chapter 1, to work out what it might mean. Include discussion of:
why a capital letter has been used for ‘Happening’
what other words could be used for ‘Happening’
why this might be considered a strange phrase (What would one normally expect of a ‘Happening’?)
what it might suggest about Arthur Hobhouse.
Students then formulate questions they would like to ask the author or narrator (re-cap the difference) of the story. Display OHT 2. Read this and give the class two minutes, working in pairs, to write a set of questions. Then take feedback and discuss the sort of things students would like to know, categorising questions into different groups. Why does the reader want to know these sort of things at the beginning of the novel?
Students work in pairs to read the rest of Chapter 1 and write questions for either the author or narrator.
Draw the class’s questions together, categorising them as appropriate. Ask students why they think the author has written an opening that raises so many questions. Why is it good writing to make an audience ask questions? (Aim at the idea of engagement and ‘captivating’ the reader).
Ask students to think of their first ‘real’ memory and write notes about it.