Our whole school curriculum approach at Alver Valley Schools is to hook pupils into new topics and really engage and immerse the children in those topics, with the aim to motivate them to investigate, to ask questions, and to drive their own learning in and out of school.

In Year R our curriculum is built around key quality texts to really inspire and engage our pupils – broadening their experience of a range of stories, developing vocabulary and understanding, and giving them a stimulus to explore as they wish. At the start of each new key text we aim to have a magical moment which we describe as “hooks into books”.

Prior to starting their new story of the Gingerbread Man the Year R team posted a request on social media asking people from outside the Hampshire area to send us a postcard from the Gingerbread Man from wherever they were. The story captured people’s interest from far and wide and, thanks to incredible engagement with the post with people sharing and responding, support came from across the county and beyond. We were absolutely overwhelmed with the response: to date we received over 100 postcards from all over the UK – from Scotland to Cornwall, Wales to Suffolk and Norfolk – and as far afield as Cyprus, France, Germany, Cadiz, Spain, Slovenia, Barbados, New Zealand, Australia, Romania, Africa and the United States of America.

We started our learning about the Gingerbread Man with teachers telling and acting out the story. The children were amazed when the “Gingerbread Man” (also known as Mr Cook) popped out of an oven fashioned from cardboard! The Gingerbread Man was a little worried that the teachers were going to eat him so he shouted “Run, run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!” and promptly ran off around the school. Of course all sixty of us gave chase, and when we caught up to the Gingerbread Man and brought him back to finish the story we sent him to have a chat with Mrs Roseblade, our Executive Head Teacher, because, as everyone knows, you should not run through a school!

After he left we decided we should make our very own gingerbread men, so we wrote a shopping list of the ingredients we needed and some of us went shopping. On our shopping trip we even learnt about people who help us as we happened to meet a police officer and postal worker who were happy to stop for a little chat.

That was just the start. The next day the postcards started to arrive in the classrooms from far and wide. We read out the postcards, eager to see where Mr Gingerbread Man had visited, and we plotted the places on a map to see how far he had travelled. We also loved looking at the pictures and reading the postcards to find out more about the places he had visited. Of course, making gingerbread men was a huge hit with the children and they were so tasty that some of our parents requested the recipe to make more at home! The whole story kept us busy with drawing story maps, making our own play dough, writing speech bubbles, retelling and acting out the story, and learning more about our local area and the wider world as we read the postcards.

Michael Rosen, in a recent tweet, wrote;

“There are many picture books which young children appear to ‘inhabit’. They ‘become’ the book. This is so crucial in the process of how children learn what it means to ‘read’ – in the fullest sense of the word”

We wholeheartedly agree and this is certainly now the experience of Alver Valley School Year R pupils. The team will strive to plan those magical moments that allow our children to ‘become the book’ and ‘inhabit the book’, giving them the opportunity and inspiration to become readers in the very fullest sense of the word.

If you have sent a postcard to Alver Valley reception children (on behalf of the Gingerbread Man) we want to say a huge thank you. Every single card and letter has been read, pictures interrogated, places spotted on maps and enjoyed, giving much opportunity for talk.

Ali Lockwood

Head of Schools Alver Valley Schools

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If you are interested in finding out more about Alver Valley Schools go to www.alvervalleyschools.co.uk

To read more about the Early Years approach at Alver Valley Schools check out our articles on the school website in Spotlight on Alver Valley titled “Messy Art day” and “Hooks into Books”.