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Faith in the Flame

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By Antony LishakLiteracy Time PLUS Writer-in-residence

This thought-provoking story, set in Jerusalem in 165BCE, is linked to the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. To support the story there is a activity sheet information text about the festival.

These teachers’ notes refer to the PRINT ONLY guided reading leaflet in Literacy Time PLUS for Ages 7 to 9, November 2009.

It would be helpful if children had previous experience of reading historical adventure stories and an understanding of how a writer uses figurative and expressive language to create images and atmosphere.


Before reading

Establish what the children already know about the festival of Hanukkah and the Jewish faith. Invite any Jewish children in the class to act as experts – if they feel comfortable doing so. Briefly explain that Hanukkah is a Jewish Festival of Light which takes place over eight days in November/December each year to remember the miracle that resulted in a day’s worth of oil lasting for eight in the Temple in Jerusalem. You could refer to the information about the festival in On-screen resource 1.

During reading

  • Allow the group to organise how they wish to read the extract – either by taking turns or by allocating roles as narrators and characters.
  • Remind the group how important punctuation is as a guide to expression and effect. Review how dialogue punctuation acts as an indicator to who is speaking.
  • Invite the listeners to think about how atmosphere is being built up throughout the extract.
  • Pause to check any unknown facts and vocabulary – eg, Zeus (a Greek god), a battering ram (weapon), hullabaloo (uproar).


  • Discuss the dilemma faced by the people in the temple.
  • Talk about the significance of eight days. How is it still remembered?
  • What is the underlying message of the story? How does it explore the concept of faith?
  • Ask the children to place themselves in the position of the two main characters. How did Shimon, the older guard, feel? What do we learn about him? How different was Avraham’s viewpoint? How has Shimon’s viewpoint changed by the end of the story? How does their relationship change?

Further reading

My Jewish Year Cath Senker (Wayland, A Year of Religious Festivals series, 978 07502 40611). The Jewish Faith Ruth Nason (Evans Brothers, Start-up Religion series, 978 02375 27662). Festival of Lights: A Little Box of Hanukkah (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 978 07407 53268)

  • Scan the text for clues about the setting. How does the author build up a picture in the reader’s mind? How do we know it is a historical setting?
  • Which words and phrases create the atmosphere? Look at how the author uses verbs and adjectives that relate to light in his descriptions. How does this add to the image created in the reader’s mind?
  • Point out the use of many different punctuation techniques to indicate how the piece should be read, including ellipses, dashes, exclamation marks and dialogue conventions.

Using the information sheet

  • Read the information sheet about Hanukkah and lead a discussion about some of the facts. What are the implications of the dreidel game? When have Jews been forbidden to study their religion openly? How would the class feel if their beliefs were banned?
  • From the viewpoint of a modern Jewish child, use the information sheet to write a description of the festival of Hanukkah in a Jewish home today.

Ideas for writing

  • Use a thesaurus to find synonyms for light. Use these as the basis to write poetry about Hanukkah.
  • Write a radio script based on the story. Discuss first how to describe the visual images from the story. What sort of music or sound effects might be added?
  • Rewrite the story as an incident report from one of the main characters to his commanding officer, outlining what had taken place during that eventful night.
  • Produce an information poster to explain the origins and traditions of this Festival of Light.

Literacy Framework

See the Using this issue chart here to identify the Learning Objectives covered by these activities, to track progression from Year 2 through to Year 5, and to identify links with Year 3 and 4 Literacy Planning Units.

Links to ICT

  • Research Hanukkah and other Festivals of Light using On-screen resource 1, the internet and library resources.
  • Set different groups an internet research challenge – eg, to find recipes for latkes; rules for the dreidel game; or pictures of hanukkiahs, which can be labelled or redrawn and labelled to show the eight arms and ‘service’ light of the candelabra.
  • Use ICT skills to present your finished radio scripts for performance. Record the finished radio play to listen to and revise.