Y7 Reading challenges to inspire our new students this term.


If you remember, after Easter we set our Y7 students a couple of Reading Challenges to encourage them to read a little more and to get to the end of their books. In class we wrote detailed reading reviews and for homework each student completed one of the challenges on our list:

Activities for blog

The best were rewarded with a valuable scratch n sniff bookmark of their choice and many have been used for our display to inspire our incoming group in September and to show off our work during Open Evening.

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Overall, the challenge did increase reading, and certainly encouraged many students to plough through to the end; something many find difficult. It also demanded a response to what they had read, again difficult for some who are actually just going through the motions and not really absorbing what they are reading.

We are now looking to incorporate challenge from the very beginning of Y7 Reading Lessons so we can emphasise that reading is a continual part of homework and to encourage a response to what has been read. Reading Passports are becoming Reading Journals with space to record thoughts throughout the year.

Watch this space:






Looking for a good read this summer?

Year 7s are receiving their last Reading Lesson this fortnight and hopefully many of them are using their Library allocation to ensure they have plenty of reading material for the Summer Holiday.

To help choose, they have received a list of suggested titles which have proved popular with other students in their year group over the past 10 months. Click on the link below for a digital version:

summer reading cover 2017Summer reading 2017

Zoella’s books are still really popular in the school library and if you haven’t already found her Book Club, check out the Youtube video below to see her recommending books by other authors that she has enjoyed. If you don’t get round to tracking them down over the summer they will be waiting here for you in September.

Backwell School Book Day

Logo BSBSWe do a lot in school for World Book Day in March but this year two of our lovely English Teachers, Ms Gocoul and Ms Rose were inspired to create our very own Book Day later in the year; Backwell Book Day

By Term 6 Y11 and Y13 are off timetable and the atmosphere in school is a little more relaxed, so some booky activities were suggested for Tutor Time, teachers were asked to give their lessons a literary bent and an author and poet were invited into to school. By the time the day arrived we also had a Hunger Games Quiz devised by Y10 students for the library and a Book Swap arranged in one of the House Common Rooms. All ideas and the timetable were displayed on Frog, our learning platform to offer teachers inspiration.

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The day will not easily be forgotten as it turned out to be the hottest one of the year and The Library Ladiez were kept busy ushering Sarah Mussi, author of the Snowdonia Chronicles and Antosh Wojcik, performance poet on and off stage in the school theatre! Every Year Group saw a performance and several students joined our visitors for a picnic lunch. Sarah signed books for around 50 students after talking about her inspiration to write and Antosh took everyone’s breath away (“Wow, I wasn’t expecting that” said Science teacher, Mr Lewis) with his funny and surreal poems based on his life, family and quirky view of the world. It was lovely to see some students who struggle socially coming up to speak to him privately afterwards.

The Quiz was enthusiastically run and attended and the Book Swap was over almost before it began!

The entire English Department dressed beautifully for the day (but had shed a few layers by lunchtime!) and many teachers gave their lessons a literary theme: an excerpt from Frankenstein lead to discussion about the implications of scientific discoveries and History lessons looked at the use of Power, inspired by dystopian fiction.

The planning team were thrilled with what they achieved in a very short time this year. Watch out for the date of Backwell Book Day next year!


Carnegie and cake: an away-day for our Reading Group.

To celebrate 80 years of the Carnegie Medal for the best written book in the English language, as judged by a panel of 13 children’s librarians, Backwell’s Shadowing Group travelled to Churchill Academy for lunch. Over 40 students joined their Librarians to participate in Carnegie themed activities and competitions while they got to know each other better.

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Mixed teams entered the Big Carnegie Quiz which tested the detail of their reading, and also a Roll-a-story competition. English teacher, Mrs Strachan is seen here reading the winners after she had marked them all; click on the links below to read the winner and runner up.


Rollastory winnerRollastory Runner Up

Churchill provided us with lunch and as is out tradition now, the visitors brought cake to help deal with the anticipation before the winner was announced. (The bin for the CAPITAL LETTERS is my cheeky favourite – inspired by stars of oktober bend!) Headmaster, Mr Hildrew opened the envelope and we were thrilled that the adult judges had chose the same title, Salt to the Sea as we had done (see previous blog post about our Skype interview with the author Ruta Sepetys)

Go to our homepage on the Carnegie Shadowing site to read the many reviews students uploaded before the day,and the main Carnegie Greenaway Award site for more information about the Carnegie Award and the Shadowing Scheme.

Salt to the sea

All in all, a wonderful day with a great outcome. Many, many thanks to Churchill Librarians, Mrs Dibble and Mrs McGilloway for their tremendous preparation, Mrs Strachan for her expert marking and the Academy students for being so welcoming! We are now looking forward to next year and maybe a slightly different format for our day of Celebration.




Skyping Ruta Sepetys in America

Salt to the sea

When Carnegie Shadowing Groups were offered a Skype event with the author of Salt to the Sea, we jumped at the chance. Luckily we managed to secure a date – 1.15pm here, 7.15am in the US!

By the time the day arrived over half the group had read the book and many are urging it to win, as seen on our Barometer reading taken yesterday:

Barometer reading May

As well as reading the book, we also watched the video on the Shadowing website, where Ruta talks about her work and gives the little-known background to her heart breaking story of passengers on the torpedoed Wilhelm Gustlov ship in 1945:

ruta's vid clip
Click here to watch the video: http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/watch.php?id=16


Unfortunately the network was unable to allow us to have a video conversation, so we got messaging instead. This might well have worked better as with a room of 35 excited students it could have got rather noisy. So, we set Mrs Gibson up with the laptop and students clamoured behind her in the queue to ask questions! We publish the transcript here, but please excuse the dodging spelling and punctuation (Mrs Gibson was struggling to keep up!) and a few time delays:

Skpye transcript

Click here for the Skype transcript with Ruta Sepetys

We hope this inspires you to pick up the book too. Hidden stories need to be heard and you may never feel the same again.





The power of stories, with Non Pratt

Things are quieter again in Library Land after a hectic and inspiring day with Non Pratt yesterday. She came in to school to work with Year 9; running two writing workshops and giving a presentation on the Power of Stories to 150 students in the afternoon.

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Writing workshops focused on building a step-by-step realistic character background for old favourites like Dora, The Explorer, Scar and Darth Vader. We finished by flipping well know characteristics to see how that would alter the story, so Darth Vader became good, Scar transformed into an elephant and Dora developed a visual impairment!

Creating interesting dialogue can be really tricky but with Non steering students through a scene of Hansel and Gretel we were so proud of the final achievements.

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Non’s presentation on The Power of Stories urged students to engage with and question the stories they encounter in books, film, TV and the news. She encouraged them to use the Bechdel Test when watching a film and challenge dated stereotypes still promoted by the  media. We loved the Ask-me-anything session in the middle of her presentation!

Thank you so much Non for spending time with us and firing us up with your enthusiasm and humour. Your lunchtime companions were thrilled to meet you and are fighting over our lovely signed copy of your new book!!!



The power of stories: Non Pratt working with Year 9.

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Hurrah, we invited Non Pratt back into school, after a great day with her last year – and she accepted!

She will be giving a presentation to half the year group in the afternoon about her work as a writer and the Power of stories – as usual bringing in ideas from films, TV and the news, not just books.

In the morning two lucky groups of students, chosen by their English Teachers, will be working more closely with her on Character creation and Doing the Dialogue.

Students Y8-10 who are not doing English P5 on Wednesday 10th May can come to the library and ask for a ticket for the Presentation, The power of stories.