Escape!

Purpose

Playing a game is a great way to energise a class and support concentration and focus. The aim of this game is to escape from a guard and it is one way to introduce the key word ‘escape’ to the group before reading.  

Teacher’s note: Some sensitivity to children’s background is needed. Change words from Prisoner and Guard to fantasy words like Dragon and Hobbits if needed.

Preparation

  • A large space, such as the hall.
  • Chairs for half the class (minus one) arranged in a circle.
  • An odd number of children (or the teacher can join the game).

Process

  • Players work in pairs, one sitting on a chair the other standing behind it. Players sitting down are the Prisoners, players standing behind them are Guards. 
  • One Guard stands behind an empty chair (prison). 
  • This Guard calls out the name of a prisoner who tries to escape to reach the empty chair.
  • Guards try to stop their Prisoners from escaping by tapping them on the back. 
  • If Guards succeed in tapping the Prisoner before they’ve escaped, the Prisoner remains in their prison. 
  • The Guard with the empty prison then calls out the name of another Prisoner.
  • Guards keep calling out names until they get a new Prisoner. 
  • The game should move quickly. 
  • Guards must stand at arm’s length behind their Prisoners, with their hands behind their backs. Prisoners must sit properly on the chairs. 
  • Swap the Prisoners and Guards after a few minutes

Final reflection

  • How did you feel when you escaped?

Escape from….?

Purpose

Active reading involves making predictions. To make a prediction, a reader has to be engaged in what they are reading to think ahead, to verify their predictions and then refine or revise them. Prediction is a type of inference which requires the reader to make connections between their prior knowledge and the text.

This lesson is about making predictions based on the use of the word escape. Readers bring prior knowledge to their reading and may have encountered stories where characters need to escape from situations. Escape is a word we may assume children understand, but their knowledge of the word may be incomplete, and this lesson gives a shared understanding. 

Preparation

  • Write the words ‘Escape From …’ on the board. 
  • Paper or whiteboards for the children to write initial ideas.

Process

Reveal the word ‘Escape’ on the board. Ask pairs:

  • What does this word mean?

Share responses then use dictionaries to find definitions. 

Next share the following titles with the class: 

  • Escape From the Toilet
  • Escape From the Alien Invasion
  • Escape From the Sweet Shop
  • Escape From the Forest

Ask:

  • Which of these would you prefer, and why? 
  • What type of story would have this title? 
  • Can you talk with your partner and make a list of other ideas? 

Show the front cover with the word Pompeii covered. Ask:

  • Does this give you other ideas? 
  • Work with your partner to write a list of possible titles.

Final reflection

Reveal the word ‘Pompeii’. The class may not have encountered this place name before unless you have been studying the Romans or volcanoes. Ask:

  • Have you ever seen this word before?
  • What could this word mean? 
  • Are there any clues on the front cover to help you work it out? 

Front Cover Reveal

Purpose

The front cover illustration gives the reader obvious clues as to the content of the story.  Slowing down the revelation of the full cover will encourage the children to notice the expressions on the faces of the characters before they see the volcano. This will support prediction making as well as introducing key vocabulary which the children may be encountering for the first time.

Preparation

  • Front Cover Reveal slide (the tiles are numbered from 1-9).

Process

Rather than sharing the full front cover of the book, you are going to reveal it one slide at a time. 

Show the Front Cover Reveal slide. Take away the bottom right tile first (tile number 1). Invite pairs to talk about what they see. Invite a description and note any key vocabulary. 

For example:

Slide  What can you see?  Questions Prediction Vocabulary
1 I can see a girl who looks worried. She is wearing a white top – it could be a toga. I don’t think she is alone. It looks as if another person’s arm is around her, perhaps comforting her.  What is the girl looking at? Where is she?   I think there is something frightening that the girl is looking at.  toga, afraid, frightened, patterned

As you reveal each subsequent slide, refer back to the questions: 

  • Can we answer any of the questions as more of the cover is revealed? 

Final reflection

  • How was the way we looked at the front cover today different to the way you usually look at a cover? 
  • Was there anything you noticed that you think you might have missed if you were not looking in this way? 
  • How did this way of looking help you to make predictions? 

Make explicit the point that noticing details can help us make sense of our reading. You can return to the cover later to see if it is true in this instance.

Introducing the Story

Purpose

Escape From Pompeii is written in an accessible style but the historical setting may be unfamiliar. Spending time exploring the illustrations and picking out key details will  support the children in building up a picture of Pompeii and make reading the text less challenging.  

Preparation

  • Copies of Escape From Pompeii, one per pair (use paper clips to hold the pages from page ten together).

Process

Begin by exploring the illustration on page one and two. Invite the children to describe to their partner what they can see. Ask:

  • What is happening in this scene?
  • Is there anything that puzzles you?

Repeat with each spread until you reach page ten. Now read aloud to the class encouraging the children to follow the text as you read. When you reach page ten, stop. 

Choral Reading


Next, invite the children to join in as you read. Choral reading is a supportive strategy which enables children to internalize the fluent reading of the text they hear being read to them. 

Repeated Reading


Finally, organize the children into pairs. These can be self-selected or chosen based on the children’s reading experience. Each child should read a paragraph while the other child listens and supports. When they read page ten, re-read but changing the person who begins to read.

Finally, ask:

  • Did listening to and reading the story solve any of the puzzles from the illustrations? 

Final reflection

  • How do you think the different ways we read the beginning helped you to read on your own? 
  • Did you prefer to listen to me read the story or to read it aloud yourself?

A Day in the Life

Purpose

The author takes the children into an unfamiliar setting: Rome in AD 79. Tranio’s life is different in many ways to children today. A Day in the Life is a way of building a bridge between the boy’s life in the past and the children’s present day experience.

Preparation

  • Copies of Escape From Pompeii, at least one per pair
  • Supporting books and resources about life in ancient Rome. See Just Imagine supplementary pack.

Process

Ask:

  • What do we know about Tranio’s routine? 

Distribute copies of Escape from Pompeii  and ask pairs to re-read from page one to ten using sticky notes to summarize all his activities. The list may look something like this: 

  • Looks out of his window at Vesuvius
  • Sneaks to the harbour to watch the traders
  • Goes to the forum to watch the politicians, poets and stallholders
  • Plays jacks with Livia
  • Chases dogs with Livia
  • Watches rehearsals

Once this has been established, draw attention to the sentence on page three:

He’d often sneak to the harbour at the mouth of the River Sarnus and hide behind sacks of grain. 

Invite the children to move in the way they think Tranio would travel to the harbour. Then ask pairs:

  • What can you infer about Tranio from the use of the word sneaks?

Organise the children into groups of three or four. They will create a sequence of scenes which show the things Tranio does on a typical day up to page ten in the story. One child should remain in role as Tranio throughout the sequence of scenes. 

Once the groups have worked on their scenes, invite them to share one scene. Those watching should try and work out what is happening.

Final reflection

Distribute Characteristic Cards to pairs. Ask:

  • What kind of character is Tranio? 
  • Can you choose the three cards which best describe him?
  • Does Tranio behave in this way all the time?  
  • Are there any words you would add?

Welcome to Pompeii

Purpose

Describing the setting supports children to remember details from the story. In order to describe the setting readers must combine their knowledge of the text as well as the illustrations and use vocabulary from the story. 

Preparation

  • A large space such as a hall would be best for this lesson. 

Process

Set up the Guided Tour by explaining that the class are going to act as guides to a group of visitors to Pompeii. Organise the class into groups of three. First, they should list the places that they will take the visitors.  

 

Sounds Smells Sights
Bars, taverns and shops Tradespeople haggling
Naples Bay
Harbour
Mount Vesuvius
Forum
Theatre

Add sights, sounds and smells to the table. One of the children will be blindfolded as the other two act as tour guides. They will guide the blindfolded child carefully through the streets of Pompeii.

Teachers note: Remind the children to take care as they lead the child around.

The rest of the class will watch as the tour takes place. Invite another group to take a guided tour. 

Distribute large sheets of paper to the groups of three. They will work together to draw an annotated map of Tranio’s Pompeii.  

Final reflection

  • How did it feel to be blindfolded? 
  • Did it help you feel as if you were really there in Pompeii?

‘Then something happened… ‘

Purpose

Making decisions about emphasis, pace and volume supports the development of prosody which is vital for reading fluency, which in turn impacts on reading comprehension.

Preparation

  • Annotate a copy of pages 11-14 in advance of reading aloud.
  • Copies of page 11-14 for the children to annotate (at least one per pair).
  • The Ear for Reading website has a set of short videos about aspects of reading fluency.

Process

Read aloud from page 11-14 expressively to the class using pace, pause and volume to demonstrate how tension and excitement are built in this part of the story. Through your reading you can demonstrate the contrast between the rising tension and the anti-climax.

After reading, share initial responses of what’s happening in the story.

  • What do you think will happen next?
  • What did you notice about the way I read the story? 

Make the point that when we read aloud we can:

Vary volume from quiet to loud

Practise counting from 1 – 10 starting with a bare whisper and 10 being the loudest volume Now try it in reverse: loud to quiet.


Play with emphasis

Try reading these lines putting the emphasis on different words:

Everyone fell silent. 

Everyone fell silent.

Everyone fell silent.

  • Which sounds better?  

Different emphases create different meanings. Some will sound effective others will not.


Experiment with pace

Try reading this section getting faster and faster.

  • Does it sound better if you keep increasing the pace or if you slow down for the final two sentences? 
  • Which has most impact?

He ran as fast as he could to Livia’s house. Everyone was shouting, arguing, carrying belongings outside to safety. 

‘Livia!’ he called. ‘Liv, where are you? The bakery kitchen was empty. Loaves lay scattered on the floor, the oven blazed and the small donkey turning the corn mill brayed and jumped nervously against its chain.

Distribute copies of pages 11-14. Read aloud together and draw attention to the commas that demarcate phrases and guide expression.

Working pairs, ask the children to practise reading these pages. Encourage them to annotate the page to help them decide how to read.

Explain that the purpose is to experiment in order to discover which ways of reading best communicate the meaning.

Final reflection

  • What did you find out from experimenting and practising reading?
  • Did you discover anything from trying things out?
  • Did it help you understand what you read?

 

 

Vesuvius Erupts!

Purpose

Good readers monitor their understanding while reading. Modelling thinking aloud while reading to the children shows how comprehension builds cumulatively through the text, how readers make inferences and the importance of vocabulary to developing understanding.

Preparation

  • Prepare for the Think Aloud by identifying a few places where the children might experience challenges to their comprehension. Mark the pages in the book. Write a short script to ensure explanations are concise and explicitly make the link to reading strategies which aid comprehension.
  • An exemplar script is provided but adapt to suit the needs of the readers in your class or group.

Process

Begin the session by reading aloud from page 16 to page 22. Say, ‘hmm, I’m not quite sure what happened to Tranio and Livia in the end. I’m going to re-read the ending to clarify this.’

Re read the page aloud, pausing to Think Aloud. 

Make explicit the strategy that you are using and explain to the children how they can use it independently to help them overcome challenges in their reading.

What the text says… What I say … The comprehension strategy I model…
Many years passed… This must be a different point in time to the rest of the story. I wonder how long has passed.  Monitoring and clarifying
Most people had forgotten the buried city.  I think it must have been a long time ago now if people have forgotten. Maybe 50 or 60 years.  I have used the clues in the text to make an Inference that time has passed.
An old man and woman stood in the shade of an orange tree… I wonder who the old man and women are?  Readers often ask themselves questions when they are reading. It can be useful to pause and question when there is something that you don’t understand.
Long ago, they had been rescued … This sentence clarifies who the old man and women are. The word ‘they’ is referring to Tranio and Livia.  I clarified my thinking here by connecting different parts of the text.
They were Tranio and Livia, saying farewell .. I understand now. Tranio and Livia have come back to live in Pompeii now that it is safe and are remembering their friends and family who died in the eruption.  By connecting parts of the text and using my inference skills, I have been able to work out who Tranio and Livia are. It is important to monitor your own comprehension, if there is something that you find puzzling or don’t understand.

When you have finished ask:

  • Did hearing me think aloud help you to understand this part of the story better? In what way? 

Organise the children into pairs and ask them to re read page 17 and think aloud to clarify what is happening to Tranio and Livia. They should read a paragraph and stop to think aloud about what is happening. 

Final reflection

  • How did thinking aloud help you understand the story better?

Make the point that Think Aloud is useful for unravelling bits of text that are more difficult to understand. You wouldn’t need to use this strategy for texts that you can easily understand.

Vocabulary Journal

Purpose

This story is rich in the breadth of vocabulary used relating to the period and geographical features of volcanoes which makes it likely that young readers will encounter new words in the course of reading this book. Two sources are commonly used to establish word meanings: context and definition. Both are important in building vocabulary. A good vocabulary journal is essential for supporting vocabulary development.

Tier 3 vocabulary are words that are used less frequently and have limited meanings. In this lesson, the word ‘haggle’ is taught, which has a reasonable frequency but limited meanings. A combination of dictionary work and context is used to determine the meaning.

Preparation

  • Download and print copies of the Vocabulary Journal, at least one per child.
  • A range of dictionaries.
  • Download and print copies of the Vocabulary Cards, one per child as well as one enlarged set for the teacher. You may want to edit these depending on the focus of your teaching. 

Process

Unlike personal dictionaries which usually have two columns, one for new words and one for definitions, a vocabulary journal is process led. Children are introduced to new words, which are discussed and recorded in the journal before looking up definitions in the dictionary and analysing them.  

Model filling in the journal using the following process:

Begin by showing the card with the word haggling. 

  • Can you find this word on page two of the book? (Searching for the word supports skimming and scanning skills.) 

Model writing the word in the first column of the vocabulary journal. Write the sentence containing the word in the second column. Model using the context to work out the word meaning. For example:

It says in the text that Tranio listened to the noise so I think haggling must be a sound the tradesmen make. I think tradesmen buy and sell things so haggling must be something to do with that. I wonder if it’s like a market where people try and get a good price for something. I’ve seen people offer less money for something at a car boot sale before. Perhaps haggling is to do with finding a good price for something. 

Record the instances where you have seen the word before (if there are any) in the third column. 

Use at least two dictionaries to locate definitions. They will often vary from dictionary to dictionary, providing an opportunity to discuss nuances of meaning,

  • To argue about a price or agreement. (Oxford Primary Dictionary)
  • An act of negotiating or arguing over the terms of a purchase, agreement, or contract : an instance of  haggling or bargaining. (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
  • To attempt to decide on a price or conditions that are acceptable to the person selling the goods and the person buying them, usually by arguing. (Cambridge Dictionary)

Ask pairs:

  • How do these definitions help you understand what is happening in the story? 

Add the dictionary definitions to the journal and explain that the final column is for new examples of the word being used. This final column can be filled in either with a new sentence which demonstrates the children have understood the word or with examples they come across in their reading in the future.  

Once the process has been modelled fully, the children can work in pairs to add more words from the story to their journal. 

Final reflection

  • Were you surprised by the meaning of any of the words? 
  • Which new word do you think you are most likely to use again?

Thought Tracking

Purpose

The illustrations in Escape From Pompeii provide clues to Tranio’s feelings which are not explicitly stated in the written text. Thought Tracking is a technique that can be used to explore character thoughts and feelings, using clues in the text to make inferences.

Preparation

  • Copies of Escape From Pompeii, at least one between two
  • Download and print copies of Emotion Cards, one between two.
  • Download and print copies of the Thought Cloud, or have children produce their own.

Process

Begin by inviting the children to look carefully at the image of Tranio on the first page. Distribute copies of the Emotions Cards and ask pairs: 

  • How do you think Tranio feels at this moment? 
  • Is there a card in front of you that describes his feelings? 
  • Can you create a statue of him at this moment? 
  • What body language can you use to show how he feels? 

Re-read the story, stopping at critical moments. Each time you stop invite one of the children to create a statue of Tranio at that moment. The class makes a circle around the character and shares thoughts that are in their head at that moment. Record on sticky notes and take a photograph of the statues. 

Explain how we can look for clues within the pictures and text, and give guidance, joining in with your suggestions, if necessary. Encourage the children who are making the statues to explain which clues they used to help them create the statue.

Key moments to stop at:

  • Tranio looks out of his window (p1).
  • Tranio watches at the forum (p6).
  • Tranio plays jacks with Livia (p7).
  • Tranio watches the rehearsal (p9).
  • Tranio enters the bakery (p14)
  • Tranio and Livia run into the street (p16)
  • Tranio and Livia realise they are moving away from Pompeii (p18)
  • Vesuvius erupts (p20)
  • Tranio and Livia lay a flower (p21).

Involve the class by asking:

  • What can you see? (This is a more productive question for probing understand rather than asking, ‘what do you like’).
  • I wonder what Tranio is thinking…
  • Which bits of the text can you see in this statue?

Final reflection

  • Which images show the most significant contrast in emotion? 
  • Can you work with a partner and show us the two extremes? 

Make explicit the point that the statues have shown that we can infer a character’s thoughts from clues in illustrations as well as text.

The children could be given time to record one of Tranio’s thoughts in a thought cloud, for display on the working wall, or their books.

Teacher’s note: This lesson leads well into the Dear Diary writing opportunity.

What should the actors do?

Purpose

Forum theatre allows an incident or event to be seen from different points of view. The opportunity to investigate different perspectives makes this a beneficial strategy for examining alternative ideas.

Preparation

  • Copies of Escape from Pompeii (You will be using pages 11-12).

Process

Re-read, page 11. Ask:

  • Why do the actors listen to Tranio’s father and go back to their rehearsal?
  • What would you have done? 
  • What else could have happened? 

Ask pairs to discuss alternatives. Prompt with further questions:

  • What if Tranio hadn’t left? What would he have said to his father?
  • What might the actors have said? 
  • Would there have been an argument about whether to stay or go? 

Invite a small group of volunteers (up to six children) to act out the scene with an alternative ending while the rest of the class watch them. The class work as directors of the group in role, for example, asking them to act or speak in a different way, suggesting that a character might behave differently, questioning the characters in role, or suggesting an alternative interpretation of what is happening. 

Class members in the audience can change places with actors to demonstrate a different way of playing the role.

This can lead to small group improvisation. Each group can return to the stage to share their improvisation with the audience acting as director again.

Final reflection

Reflect on the experience of using Forum Theatre by asking:

  • How did it feel to have the audience directing the action? 
  • Can you think of a time where someone’s comments helped to improve the action? 

Consider

  • What does it mean to consider something from an alternative viewpoint?

The Eruption

Purpose

Mood is a literary element that the writer uses to evoke certain feelings in readers through words and descriptions. It is sometimes called the atmosphere.Text marking can support the comprehension of texts in different ways. In this lesson, it is used to identify areas where the author has created mood effectively. This extends into choral reading accompanied by sound effects created using vocal effects and body parts. 

Preparation

  • Copies of Escape from Pompeii, at least one between two.
  • Prepared enlarged (A3) photocopy of page 20 for annotating, or the use of sticky notes.
  • Text marking is preferred for this process.

Process


Text Marking

Start by asking the children to re-read page 20. 

Ask them to mark the text

  • by circling anything that they don’t understand
  • highlighting and annotating fragments of language (words, phrases and sentences) that they find particularly effective. The annotation should explain why they think their examples are effective.

Gather the class.

First of all consider any areas of puzzlement and clarify meaning.

Then share examples of effective language, evaluating  and in particular explaining its effect in use with close reference to the text. During the discussion, make a list of examples of descriptive language. Add any that are not picked up by the children. They can include:

  • And then, in one terrible endless moment, they heard mighty Vesuvius roar
  • Pompeii disappeared beneath a blanket of ash and stones. 
  • twisting and bubbling…
  • exploded in a scream…

Choral reading

Using the same copies of page 20 (or fresh copies if preferred). Ask:

  • Do you think each paragraph on this page should be read at the same pace and with the same expression? 

Read the page aloud, inviting the children to notice where you read with greater volume, pace and expression. On the second reading the class should join in. Once the children are familiar with reading the page aloud, organise them into groups of four. 


Adding sound effects

Explain that you will not be using instruments for this part but can use voices and bodies to create sounds to accompany a reading. Give time for experimentation before sharing ideas and agreeing on sound effects. One half of the class will read the page aloud while the other half accompany with the sound effects. 

Final reflection

  • Did adding sound help you understand this part of the story better?
  • How did you convey the mood through sound?
  • Are there any other parts of the story you think could work with sound effects? 

Subordinate Clauses

Purpose

Subordinate clauses can be effective for adding layers of detail and stressing the relationship between ideas. Research (Myhill et al 2012) demonstrates that grammatical terminology is best explained through real examples in text. Looking at the way Christina Balit constructs sentences with subordinate clauses opens up discussion about authorial intent and gives a model for children to use in their writing.

Preparation

  • Write out the two clauses on two separate pieces of paper or card. For example.
Tranio and Livia held each other desperately as the steaming lava reached the sea itself.

 

  • Copy of the Subordinate Clauses sheet, one between two.
  • Copies of Escape From Pompeii, at least one between two.

Process

The first part of the lesson focuses on the sentence from page 20:

Share the following sentence: 

Tranio and Livia held each other desperately. 

Ask:

  • What do you picture when you read this? 

Now share the full sentence: 

Tranio and Livia held each other desperately as the steaming lava reached the sea itself. 

Ask:

  • What do you picture now? 
  • Which builds a more vivid picture and why?
  • Which provides more detail? 

Select two volunteers to hold the cards with the separate clauses. Ask them to stand so that the sentence is visible to the class. They should each read their clause aloud. Ask:

  • Could this sentence have been written in a different order?

The volunteers swap places and read the sentence the reorganised sentence:

As the steaming lava reached the sea itself, Tranio and Livia held each other desperately.  

Ask:

  • How does this alter the effect created? 
  • Which version do you prefer and why?

Explain that the author has used a subordinate clause to add detail to the sentence. The main clause makes sense on its own. Ask:

  • Which is the main clause? Explain if the children are unclear.

Distribute copies of the sentences for pairs to read. Ask them to highlight the main clause using one colour and the subordinate clause using another before reading the sentence aloud. An additional challenge would be for pairs to find their examples of sentences which add detail using subordinate clauses in the story.

Gather the class and share these two sentences:

  • And then they heard mighty Vesuvius roar. 
  • And then, in one terrible endless moment, they heard mighty Vesuvius roar.

Ask:

  • Which sentence do you prefer?
  • Which is more powerful, and why? 

Explain that the second sentence contains an embedded clause which is another type of subordinate clause.  Can they work out what that might mean? (The word ’embedded’ is a clue.)

Tell the children that you are going to use this structure to write your sentence, which will describe the contrast between Vesuvius at the beginning and Vesuvius erupting. Write the following on the board: 

Vesuvius had declared war on the people of Pompeii. 

Say:

  • I am going to add an embedded clause to add a detail about Vesuvius.

Vesuvius, once their great friend, had declared war on the people of Pompeii. 

Ask pairs to compose their clauses to add to the sentence.

Final reflection

Compose another sentence using one of the illustrations from the book to support ideas. Share the illustration on page 18 and ask for suggestions for a sentence to describe Tranio, e.g: Tranio stared at the volcano.

Ask pairs:

  • Could you add an embedded clause to add detail about how he feels?

Share suggestions and record ideas. 

How Do We Know? (Pliny’s account)

Purpose

Historical fiction can arouse an interest and curiosity in historical events and make the events of the past more accessible. It is important to understand that this is a fictionalised account of the eruption but that it is based on fact. Examining an eyewitness account of the tragedy and finding the places where the details have been used in the story is an important lesson in using sources. 

Teacher’s note: The use of original source material makes this a challenging lesson. In most instances, we suggest working with a small group of children.

Preparation

  • Copies of Escape From Pompeii, at least one between two.
  • Download and print copies of Pliny’s letters, one between two.
  • Download and print copies of T Diagram, one per pair.

Process

Begin by sharing the following details about Pliny the Younger:

  • He was a Roman official and writer.
  • He is famous for the letters he wrote which are an important source for Roman history.
  • After his father’s death, Pliny was brought up by his uncle, Pliny the Elder.
  • In 79 AD, he witnessed the eruption of Vesuvius, which killed his uncle. 
  • He later described this in a letter to his friend the historian Tacitus.

Ask:

  • Why do you think Pliny’s letters are important? 
  • How else would we know about what happened? 

Distribute copies of Pliny’s Letters to pairs. 

Read Extract One from Pliny’s first letter aloud asking the children to follow as you read.

He was at Misenum in his capacity as commander of the fleet on the 24th of August [sc. in 79 AD], when between 2 and 3 in the afternoon my mother drew his attention to a cloud of unusual size and appearance. He had had a sunbath, then a cold bath, and was reclining after dinner with his books. He called for his shoes and climbed up to where he could get the best view of the phenomenon. The cloud was rising from a mountain — at such a distance we couldn’t tell which, but afterwards learned that it was Vesuvius. I can best describe its shape by likening it to a pine tree. It rose into the sky on a very long “trunk” from which spread some “branches.” I imagine it had been raised by a sudden blast, which then weakened, leaving the cloud unsupported so that its own weight caused it to spread sideways. Some of the cloud was white, in other parts there were dark patches of dirt and ash. The sight of it made the scientist in my uncle determined to see it from closer at hand. He ordered a boat made ready. 

Check a literal understanding by asking an open question:

  • What is happening?

Explain that the letter is a source because it tells us what was happening. We can read it to find out about history from someone who was there.

Read aloud a second time and ask the children to read along with you.

Pairs of children will begin by marking the text with any information they find about the eruption. Distribute the T Diagram and model filling it in. One example has been completed. The children should continue to fill in the T Diagram. 

Final reflection

  • Do you think a story set in the past must include true facts?
  • Does everything in the story have to be true?

The Story of Pompeii

Purpose

Christina Balit has included a double page spread at the end which contains information about Pompeii’s eruption and the aftermath. The inclusion of this section gives the opportunity to explore the different ways in which a topic is tackled in fiction and non-fiction. Summarising encourages readers to focus on the main content of the text and in turn supports comprehension monitoring. 

Preparation

  • Copies of Escape From Pompeii, one per pair. 
  • Copies of page 23 for the children to text mark.
  • Enlarged copy of page 23 or a copy on the Interactive Whiteboard that can be highlighted. 

Process

Read aloud page 23 while the children follow the text. Discuss first responses:

  • Did you learn anything new?
  • Is this part of the story?
  • What kind of text is this? 

Explain that you are going to focus on summarising the information contained in the text by identifying the main ideas. Model highlighting main ideas in the first paragraph, inviting suggestions from the children. The children should now read the text again in pairs and independently highlight the main ideas. Once finished, give time for pairs to compare their highlighted sheets. 

Return to the first paragraph and ask:

  • What would make a suitable heading for this paragraph? 

Take suggestions before asking the pairs of children to think of headings for the remaining paragraphs. 

Final reflection

Prompt discussion about the purpose of this spread and where it is placed by asking:

  • Why do you think the author chose to include this information in her story? 
  • Why do you think this section was placed at the end of the book and not at the beginning?

Instant Verb Poem

Purpose

Thoughtful verb choice is one of the descriptive tools at the disposal of a writer.

In Escape from Pompeii, verbs are used to powerful effect to describe the eruption. This provides a meaningful context to explore verbs as well as the intensity of the language used.

Preparation

  • Photocopies of pages 17 and 20, one per pair.
  • Highlighter pens.
  • Sticky notes.

Process

Re-read aloud the part of the story where the volcano erupts p17-20 For this activity read it without the children having the text in front of them, so the images in their mind are conjured from their mind’s eye.

Briefly talk with the children about the pictures created by the text.

  • Did any words or phrases stick in your mind?

Distribute copies of the text Vesuvius Erupts and ask the children to highlight the verbs in the passage. Check their understanding of the terminology and revise if necessary. Once the verbs have been highlighted, pairs write them on sticky notes. Alternatively, distribute the Verb Cards for the children to work with. 

  • Sort the verbs into groups, e.g. those that relate to the people and those that describe the eruption. 
  • Experiment with putting them into different orders. Which order is most effective in building a picture of the eruption?
  • Are there any verbs you would like to add? 
  • Compare your choices with other pairs. Model using language such as, ‘It’s interesting you put …. before …’  and ‘I liked the way you put these words together…’ 
  • Which tense works best? Can you mix the tenses? 
  • Use these to create an instant verb poem which reflects the mood of this section. 

Teacher’s note: The poems can be created individually, in pairs or small groups.

Final reflection

Give time for the poems to be performed. Reflect by asking:

  • Is there anything you would change about your poem after hearing other poems?
  • Did you add any verbs to your poem? Why?

Newspaper Report: Scandalous!

Purpose

The story Escape From Pompeii is told from the viewpoint of someone who experiences the disaster. Writing a news report allows writing about the disaster from a different point of view and focus on the facts. 

Preparation

  • A newspaper article to show the layout (First News, The Week Junior are good sources or a book from the Usborne series such as The Roman Record by Paul Dowswell)
  • Before this lesson provide plenty of opportunities for children to read and talk about the news. This can be sharing newspapers and magazines as suggested above, from safe websites or children’s news programming such as Newsround. Immersion in the genre before writing is essential, so plan ahead.
  • Copies of Escape to Pompeii, at least one between two.

Process

Begin by sharing a news story. Ask:

  • What kinds of stories are featured in a newspaper? 
  • What is the name of the title? (headline)

Ask pairs to generate a list of potential headlines for a news story about Vesuvius erupting. How many different headlines can they create which:

  • Use two words only?
  • Use the names Vesuvius or Pompeii? 

Expand to three-word headlines and four before asking each pair to share their favourite. 

Next, consider the opening sentence of the report. Distribute copies of the Word Cards to pairs and ask them to use the words to create a sentence. 

erupted  Vesuvius  Pompeii thousands
killed destroyed when

Read page 23 to the class. This contains information about the eruption. Organise the class into small groups of three-four. 

Can you use the information to answer the following questions?

  • What happened?
  • When did it happen? 
  • Why did the volcano erupt? 
  • Who was affected?

Share answers as a class and decide if any gaps need to be filled. Once the information has been gathered, send the class to write their news reports. 

Some sentence starters to support are:

  • The first warning signs…
  • Soon after…
  • Next…
  • Finally…
  • This morning…

Final reflection

  • How is a news report different from the story?

Dear Diary

Purpose

Writing a diary entry gives children the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the key events of the story as well as their ability to empathise with characters and see things through their eyes.

Teacher’s note: The Thought Tracking lesson is excellent preparation for diary writing.

Preparation

  • A diary to show the class (this does not need to be a personal diary). A ‘Diaries’ supplementary pack is available from bestbooksforschools.com
  • Copies of the Diary Plan one per child and one enlarged to at least A3
  • Copies of Escape to Pompeii at least one per pair
  • Video showing 48 hours to the obliteration of Pompeii or the Sensory Writing slides.
  • Download and print copies of the Sensory writing organiser.

Process

Distribute copies of the sensory writing graphic organiser. (Alternatively, use a Bubble Map, with five central Bubbles for each of the senses.)

Show either the short film showing the 48 hours to the obliteration of Pompeii or use the slides and sounds to stimulate ideas.

Encourage the children to note ideas and offer prompt questions as needed. Sound and sight will be relatively easy. You may need to provide further prompts for smell (sulphur – is like rotten eggs, hot ash and dust. Touch, feeling your way in the dark as the ash settles over the town, heat. Taste – ashy air.What does it taste like in your mouth?)

If you have a diary, show it to the children. Ask:

  • Do any of you have a diary?
  • What do you use it for?

Explain that diaries are used to keep a record of events, either to plan for the future or to record the past. Diaries can be an excellent way of capturing your thoughts and feelings. The children will write a diary entry for Tranio the day after the eruption. Ask:

  • What kinds of things would Tranio write about?

Use an enlarged version of the Diary Plan to model recording the events of the day, referring back to the thought-tracking lesson. Distribute copies of the plan for children to fill in independently. Make explicit that they do not need to include everything from the story, particularly before the eruption. 

There are choices to be made when writing the diary entry, such as:

  • Should you start with the eruption or at the beginning of the day?
  • Which events should you leave in, and which should be left out? 

Model writing the opening paragraph of the diary, drawing attention to the choices you make, such as where to begin the entry. This example can be used and adapted to suit the needs of your class: 

Yesterday started in the same way as every other day. I woke to the sounds of the tradesmen haggling in the street below and gazed out of my window at the beautiful sight of the Gentle Mountain. After breakfast, my father took me to watch the pantomime rehearsal. He said it would be time for me to join in soon. How I wish that could still happen. We didn’t know then that the theatre would never see another performance. 

Give time for the diary entries to be completed using your usual process for writing and editing. 

Final reflection

  • How easy was it to imagine yourself as one of the characters when you were writing? 
  • Did it make it easier or more difficult to write?