Grandma Bird / Before Reading / /

Living on an Island

What might it be like to live on an island?

Lesson length: 30 minutes / 1 session

Lesson from Grandma Bird series


  • English
  • Reading

Strategies used

  • Background Knowledge


Background knowledge is essential for reading comprehension. Readers attach new ideas to what they already know and understand.

Grandma Bird is set on an island. When Noi visits her, he is cut off from home and left alone on the island with his Grandma. Most children will be familiar with the idea of a treasure island from stories that they have read, they may themselves live on an island, or perhaps they have visited an island on holiday. This introductory activity briefly explores the features of islands and introduces associated vocabulary. It may be a good opening choice for your class, particularly if you are planning a more comprehensive study on island life as part of your book-based learning.


  • Download the ‘Living on an Island’ slideshow.


Share the slide show, ‘Living on an Island’.

Please note – do not share the final slide if you are planning to follow this lesson with ‘What’s In a Name?’ or ‘Exploring the Front Cover’ lessons because it includes the front cover image.

Ask the key question and allow time for the children to share their responses.

What would it be like to live on an island? Further prompts might include:

  • Encourage the children to think about where they would find food,
    water, shelter.
  • What would travel be like?
  • Would they prefer to live alone on the island or with one other person?
  • What would it be like if that other person did not stop talking? What if that other person never spoke to you? Would you feel less or more lonely than if you were the only person on the island? (This can be picked up again later when thinking about Noi’s relationship with his grandma).

If you lived on a small island, would there always be new things to explore? (This will relate to Noi’s exploration of rock pools later in the story).

Show the outline map of the UK. Do the children recognise it? Discuss, picking up the following points:

  • Can you find the UK on a globe or atlas?
  • Can you find any other islands on the map?
  • Australia is a large island that can be easily located. Can you find other large islands?  Look out for smaller islands too.

A group of lots of small islands is called an archipelago. You can introduce the term if you think it is appropriate for your group.

Engage in imaginative and speculative discussion:

  • How would you travel to an island?
  • Would it be possible to walk to an island?
  • Encourage the children to share their ideas.

You can walk or drive to some islands during low tide using a causeway that becomes submerged at high tide. Islands like Canvey Island in Essex have long road bridges that allow people to drive and walk onto the island. However, you need a boat to travel to most islands.

Final reflection

You may want to give the children the opportunity to think of further questions that they have about islands, particularly if you are using Grandma Bird as part of wider learning about island life.

Key vocabulary

island, causeway,  high tide, low tide

Additional vocabulary

ferry, archipelago,


Living on an Island Slideshow

This slideshow invites the children to consider what it would be like to live on an island and presents some basic key information about the features and formation of islands.



Nikki Gamble

Nikki Gamble
Director, Just Imagine
Nikki has worked extensively in schools across the UK and internationally. She is the author of Exploring Children’s Literature (4th edit) (2019) and co-author of Guiding Readers (2016) which was awarded the UKLA Academic Book of the Year Award 2017. Nikki is KS2 reading advisor and series consultant for Oxford University Press and content creator for the Oxford School Improvement and Oxford Owl websites. Nikki is Associate Consultant at the University of London, Institute of Education and Honorary Fellow at the University of Winchester

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Sam Keeley

Formerly a teacher and local authority advisory teacher, Sam now works with Just Imagine as an English consultant and manager of the year 6 Reading Gladiators programme.

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