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Rationale - Re-telling - Translation - Activities - Reflection

Country: England
Language: English
Title: Starting School
Author:  Ahlberg J. & A.
Publisher: Picture Puffin (1990)
ISBN: 01 40507 37 x
Chosen by: Margaret Meek Spencer, The Institute of Education, London University.

Rationale for choosing the book:
This book has been chosen not only because it was conceived by Alan and Janet Ahlberg, possibly one of the most popular children's writer/illustrator team in the U.K., but also because it was conceived in school with the pupils help. It, therefore, reflects the world of school, in England, as seen through the eyes of children.

Starting School follows a multicultural group of children as they begin their education England. On the first day, they are seen as they arrive - some on bikes, others in cars, and many on foot. They meet a cheerful lollipop man who guides them across the road towards their new school. where their teacher introduces them to the daily routine. As time goes by, and the children become more secure in their surroundings, the story goes more deeply into the minor conflicts that can occur during the school day. It ends, however, on a high note with preparations for the end-of-term Christmas play.

Activities for use in school:
1. Get the children to look carefully at each page in the book to see which things are the same in your school and which things are different. They can then choose ONE thing, describe it, illustrate it and put it in a class booklet 'Our School', which could be kept in the reading corner.
2. You might like to write a letter on behalf of a child in another European country, asking to be told about schools in England. The children can then respond, rather like the replies to the ladybird letters in chapter one of Nigel Hall's book 'Writing with Reason'.
3. Get the children to make a brochure of their school that could be used by parents, or children who are about to begin at the school. It could also be sent to a partner school in another country.
4. Older children might like to reflect on what they can remember about starting school. Have things changed very much? Do they have a particular incident that sticks in their minds that they would like to re-tell. This could be recorded on to tape and made into a radio documentary. In addition, the children might like to interview parents/grandparents about their memories of starting school. You could read part of chapter three in Laurie Lee's 'Cider with Rosie' (Penguin, 1979) which recounts his first day at school, as a stimulus:
         I spent that first day picking holes in paper, then went home in a smouldering temper.
         'What's the matter, Loll? Didn't you like it at school, then?'
        'They never gave me the present!'
         'Present? What present?'
         'They said they'd give me a present.'
         'Well, now, I'm sure they didn't.'
        'They did! They said: "You're Laurie Lee, ain't you? Well, just you sit there for the present".
        'I sat there all, day but I never got it. I ain't going back there again!'

Reflection: Early school memories.

NB . Further literature and language-based activities can be found in
Picture Books sans Frontières
available from or

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ncrcl January 2005