The Bed and Breakfast Star
29 February 2008Add to My Folder
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Elsa’s family have hit hard times, lost their house and have had to move into an overcrowded bed and breakfast hotel. She is teased about this at school. Elsa’s way of coping is to tell jokes and make everyone laugh. She dreams that one day she might become a big star and entertain even more people.
This extract comes from about halfway through The Bed and Breakfast Star by Jacqueline Wilson, from a chapter called ‘Pizza and Porky-Pies’. Elsa’s teacher (who has previously been overheard referring to Elsa as ‘just one of those bed-and-breakfast children’) has asked Elsa to write a story about herself. The picture Elsa paints is of a life rather more blessed than her own, in which all of her family have ‘showbiz’ connections.
- Explain the context of the extract.
- Check children’s understanding of ‘bed and breakfast’ and its implications to family life.
- Invite group members to take turns to read the text aloud, a paragraph each.
- Help children to break down longer words into syllables, reminding them that ia is not a digraph, but two separate sounds in humiliating.
- Encourage children to make inferences about the narrator from her description of events. Eg, what does ‘march …back to the Infants’ tell us about the narrator’s age; some children ‘ran for cover’ when she sang – why?
- Underline emotive verbs (eg, march, shoved). What does the use of such words imply about Elsa’s state of mind (reinforcing the ‘edgy’ feeling of the first sentence and of her feeling out of place)?
- Compare the use of ‘little’ (story) by the teacher and then by Elsa. What effect does this adjective have in each case? (Sounds patronising; shows Elsa’s sensitivity to the teacher’s condescension.)
- Look for Elsa’s use of ‘dead’ as an emphatic adjective: dead convincing; dead impressed.
- Challenge individuals to define elaborate (the verb), deterred and expressions like, ‘into the bargain’ and ‘tempting fate’.
Children will need knowledge of paragraphs and the implication of 1st person narration.
Key learning outcomes:
- To infer characters’ feelings and deduce reasons for their behaviour from their actions;
- To identify/summarise evidence from a text;
- To explore how writers use sentence structures, figurative and descriptive language;
- To interrogate texts to deepen/clarify understanding and response;
- To empathise with characters and debate moral dilemmas portrayed.
Responding to the text
- List informal words and slang terms used, such as: ‘thick’, ‘got stuck in’, ‘telly’. Offer formal alternatives to create a glossary. Discuss what effect their use has. (Helps identify with the narrator; reinforces narrator’s viewpoint.)
- Draw attention to the spelling of comedienne. How and why does it differ from comedian? Invite examples of other masculine and feminine pairs of words (prince/princess; actor/actress; hero/heroine) noting the various endings and which is commonest (-ess).
- Discuss how Elsa justifies her lies (by basing them on broad truths such that, had certain factors been different, they might have been true).
Ideas for writing
- Ask the children to imagine they have relocated and want to impress their new classmates and teacher. They must write a description of themselves and their family, embellishing truthful elements. Eg, a child whose dad is a builder might say he built an extension to Buckingham Palace.
- Create individual glossaries of abbreviations, providing full words for panto, advert, etc.
- If you were Elsa’s teacher, writing a report on her first day at the school, what would you write and why? Write a frank version for the Headteacher and a sugary version for Elsa’s mother.
Using the activity sheet
Below is a activity sheet providing SAT style questions. For question 3 there is a choice of answers: ‘stretched her thin lips’/‘smug old smiles’.)