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Survival in the cold

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By David Clayton

This poster explains how our bodies react to extreme cold conditions and gives instructions for how to survive in the cold. The text would tie-in with a science topic on keeping warm and insulation.

It also makes a perfect partner to Brett Dillingham’s traditional Alaskan tale, told in Leaflet 1, and complements the snowy shape poem on Poster 2

Survival in the cold image

Shared teaching and learning

Before reading

  • What do the children know about keeping warm in cold conditions? Do they know why we shiver and which part of our body loses the most heat? Discuss what an insulator is.
  • Watch extracts from television programmes that tell how individuals have survived in extreme weather conditions and offer advice to the viewer – eg, by Ray Mears or Bear Grylls.

Previous learning

Children should have experience of explaining processes; tackling unfamiliar words; drawing together information from across a whole text; explaining organisational features; writing non-narrative, selecting appropriate presentational features; using commas to separate items in a list.

Key learning outcomes:

  • To explain a process or present information, clearly sequencing items;
  • To develop subject-specific vocabulary;
  • To develop strategies to learn/spell unfamiliar words;
  • To write non-narratives combining words and images;
  • To use commas to mark clauses.

Shared reading

  • Introduce the poster and ask the children to share their immediate reaction with a partner. Does the layout attract them? Which section do they think they should read first?
  • Ask individuals to choose sections to read aloud. Ask others to summarize what has been read and discuss interesting facts as they arise.
  • Note how the illustrations help to clarify the explanation.
  • Discuss how the red circle ‘Remember’ statement acts as a powerful summary of the poster.

Responding to the text

  • Highlight the differences between the opening explanation and the instructional sections – eg, the use of 1st person plural or 2nd person; complex, extended sentences or short simple imperative statements; the use of numbering to sequence the instructions. Point out that a direct question draws the reader into the instruction text.
  • Briefly list the key points. Which information is vital and which can be left out?
  • Scan the text for commas, identifying those used in a list and those used to mark clauses. Rewrite sentences to avoid the use of commas. Are the rewritten sentences as effective or as easy to read?

Further reading

The January 2008 issue of Literacy Time PLUS Ages 7 to 9 (Issue 57) contained a group reading leaflet featuring an extract from the autobiographical novel Touching the Void by Joe Simpson, which told of the mountaineer’s extraordinary true story of survival during a climbing expedition in the Andes. Copies are available from our subscriptions department on 0845 6039091.

Group and independent activities

  • Draw a labelled diagram of a person dressed for extreme weather (hot or cold) and include explanations of why each item of clothing or equipment is essential.
  • Pairs could choose words from the poster and challenge each other to spell them. Encourage them to develop strategies to learn irregular words.

Links with writing

  • Design a similar poster on ‘Survival in the heat’ to stress the importance of covering up, wearing a sunhat and sunglasses, using sunscreen, drinking water, etc.
  • Write a glossary of technical terms – eg, temperature, insulator, generate, waterproof.
  • Use the poster as a stimulus for writing an adventure story about how a character survived exposure to cold.
  • Invite a group to create a script and perform a public information advertisement instructing the public on how to survive in the cold.
  • Use the activity sheet activity sheet as a planning tool to create a poster about surviving in the heat. Use the internet to research how to stay safe in the sun.


  • Create a display of the posters and diagrams illustrating how to survive in extreme weather conditions.
  • Arrange for the drama group to perform their advert in assembly.
  • Have a class spelling challenge to reinforce the correct spelling of vocabulary from the text.



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