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Favourite books: Mine’s Bigger Than Yours!

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By Celia Powellguest editor and Year 1 teacher

Does size matter? No, says Celia Powell. This book is wonderful for showing children that small people can be brave and achieve great things

Mine’s Bigger Than Yours! by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Adrian Reynolds (Andersen Press, ISBN 9781842707289), is a new favourite of mine, and is chosen for its intriguing title – guaranteed to appeal to boys of all ages! It’s brief and colourful, with big bold illustrations and plenty of punctuation – perfect for my ‘grammar dance’ lessons. There are also bullying issues to discuss, mathematical comparisons to make, and all sorts of science questions to ponder.

Mine's Bigger Than Yours cover

Synopsis

The story tells of Little Hairy Monster, an engaging green creature with a worried expression. The latter is probably due to the large Scary Monster that is following her around, trying to steal her lollipop. Scary Monster threatens kicking, tripping, scratching, shaking and biting (just a normal day in the playground, wouldn’t you say?). But Little Hairy Monster tells him to pick on someone his own size and has an ace up her sleeve – a large and protective mummy.

Talking points:

  • The scary aspect: look at the expressions on the monsters’ faces – can you tell how they are feeling?
  • The threats: how many are made? Which threat is the most worrying?
  • How does Little Hairy Monster deal with the problem of Scary Monster? Is this what you would do? Why/why not?
  • Why does Scary Monster think it’s acceptable to behave like this?

Grammar dance

Go through the story again, asking the children to spot as many punctuation marks as they can. It helps to have a large poster/display of all the different ones; we use the ‘punctuation pyramid’ from Ros Wilson’s Big Writing scheme. This has the full stop at the top and all the more sophisticated marks further down. I combine this with the ‘grammar dance’, where every punctuation mark has an accompanying action/sound effect. Invite the children to stand in a space to do the following actions and noises with you as you read the story:

  • Full stop: punch straight ahead; make a ‘choo’ sound.
  • Comma: use your whole hand to show the comma shape, moving from face down to on its side; make a ‘foo’ sound.
  • Exclamation mark: throw hands in the air and gasp loudly.
  • Question mark: shrug shoulders and put hands out flat with palms uppermost, making a ‘haven’t got a clue’ sort of look!
  • Ellipse: make three punches and full stop noises in a horizontal row.
  • Speech marks: wiggle two fingers on each hand at shoulder height.

Bully for you

In circle time, talk about how it feels when someone picks on you. Spend some time initially discussing the distinction between bullying and teasing. We often have a problem in school with the term ‘bullying’ being used too readily, especially by parents. Encourage your class to express their feelings about serious issues of bullying as opposed to smaller cases of teasing and ‘falling out’.

Hotseat a confident child in the role of Scary Monster. The rest of the class must ask questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no, for example What were you thinking when you started to chase the little monster? Alternate with the role of Little Hairy Monster, and try to help the questions along until both monsters have said something about their feelings. Repeat as time permits, then draw the session to a close with an open discussion about any bullying issues that have arisen.

Explaining measurement

Look at all the references to ‘bigger than’ in the story. Ask the children to discuss, in pairs, how we can prove that something is bigger than something else. See how many sentences (including capital letters and full stops) the children can make in ten minutes, involving the words ‘bigger than’. Try to vary the openers, for example My cake is bigger than your cake. The elephant is bigger than the cat.

Move on to investigate measuring equipment and toys. In pairs or small groups, let the children measure two or more of the same type of thing, such as cars, teddies’ legs or bean bags. Ask them to record their findings on their whiteboards, with the largest number/measurement first.

On the carpet, examine the children’s findings – how did they decide which measurement was largest? Discuss place value to ensure that all the children can list numbers of one and two digits in the correct order. Compare the effectiveness of the measuring tools used – rulers as opposed to tape measures, and so on. Finish the session by recording findings in complete sentences, using ‘bigger than’ again.

How do we hear?

To develop speaking and listening skills, begin with a ‘What do we know about hearing?’ discussion. Encourage the children’s own ideas but throw in a few key questions, such as:

  • What do we use to hear with and how?
  • Why did Little Hairy Monster cover his ears?
  • What does Scary Monster mean by ‘deafen’?
  • Do you think it makes any difference that Scary Monster has bigger ears?
  • What does it feel like if a sound is very loud?
  • What could you do if you don’t want to hear a loud noise?

Finish by asking, Can we tell where a sound is coming from? Is it as easy if one ear is covered up? Then, in pairs or small groups, provide the children with a selection of earmuffs, scarves and soft materials. Invite the groups to make up their own experiments, before giving guidance where it’s needed. Afterwards, lead another discussion to see who has made any relevant discoveries. Let the children write up the results of their investigations, and display their findings on the wall.

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