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The Surprising Summer Barbecue

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Planet 51 is a great, new animated feature film, coming to a cinema near you this autumn which takes children to a fantasy world that looks like ours but is inhabited by green-skinned beings! Complementing the poster is a range of downloadable resources to help you explore Planet 51 in your classroom including the movie trailer and an interactive ‘Through the keyhole’ resource.

The movie is a clever twist on an alien invasion film when the ‘alien invasion’ arrives in the form of astronaut Captain Chuck Baker who crashes down onto Planet 51 during a family barbecue. The activities will support learning outcomes in Literacy, PSHE and Citizenship.

surprisingsummerbarbecue.jpg

Shared teaching and learning

What is Planet 51 like?

  • Begin by telling the children that you are going to explore a place called Planet 51. Encourage them to draw on their knowledge of outer space settings to share their ideas about what Planet 51 might look like.
  • Introduce the children to the fantasy setting of Planet 51 using the poster images that show the setting only, and the interactive activity that shows a street from Planet 51 (this is best explored on your whiteboard). Encourage the children to move the keyhole around to reveal different sections of the street scene and identify similarities and differences between Planet 51 and Earth. Reflect on the fact that Planet 51 is very similar to Earth, and gather ideas about what the inhabitants of the planet might look like.
  • Watch the first sequence of the trailer (00.00 – 00.30) and challenge the children to identify the ways in which the citizens of Planet 51 are like humans. Now watch the trailer all the way through and check that the children have understood the narrative set-up. Why is the astronaut visiting Planet 51? What causes him to run away? Encourage the children to empathise with the inhabitants of Planet 51. How do they feel about a spaceship landing in their garden?

Stories about fantasy worlds (Y1, Unit 4)

  • Introduce the children to Eckle using his character description and his catchphrase: “Wow! The alien! Can I get your autograph?” (You can run your mouse over the Eckle character on the main image of the Planet 51 website at www.planet51.com to hear this). Talk about what Eckle thinks of the alien. Why isn’t he frightened of him?
  • Discuss the problem of the terrified astronaut and suggest how Eckle might solve the problem. Work together to develop a class story called ‘The Surprising Summer Barbecue’, based on your ideas.

About the author

These teachers’ notes were written by Karen Miller, a former primary school teacher who is now a full-time writer. She currently runs a website (filmparade.wordpress.com) aimed at encouraging young film-makers.

Stories with familiar settings (Y2, Unit 1)

In Planet 51, the alien character’s experience mirrors human experience. Planet 51 can therefore be used to reinforce the children’s knowledge of typical human dialogue and to help them understand how characters are portrayed through movement and facial expression.

  • Read the character description of Eckle and encourage the children to describe his personality from his posture and his facial expressions.
  • Now look at the poster image of Lem with Eckle and his parents. Use this as stimulus for a role-play activity where the children draw on their experience of family meal times to generate a conversation between Eckle and his parents which takes place before the arrival of the astronaut. What sorts of things do mums and dads say and do at meal times? How would you describe the characters’ expressions? What do you think has just happened?

Links to all our Planet 51 resources across the three issues of Literacy Time PLUS are here

Literacy Framework

See the Using this issue chart here to identify the Learning Objectives covered by these activities, to track progression from Reception through to Year 3, and to identify links with Year 1 and 2 Planning Units.

  • Now watch the trailer and talk about whether any of the characters say anything. Refer to the image showing Eckle’s family and their neighbour Lem looking in disbelief at the astronaut. How do we know what they are thinking and feeling?
  • Encourage the children to go back into role as either Eckle, his mum or his dad and challenge them to think of the sorts of things they might have said to the astronaut if he hadn’t run away. Record the best examples of typical family dialogue on the activity sheet below.

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