Cinderella Theme

A theme based on Cinderella? Surely that will switch boys off? Read on and find out…

When forming this theme I started by looking at the Year 1 Literacy Units ‘Traditional and Fairy Tales’ and ‘Recounts, Dictionaries’. Other themes had already been decided on and particularly the fairy tales unit didn’t seem to fit well with anything else. In addition, as our school visits a pantomime and has a Christmas production in the run up to the holidays, it seemed like a good opportunity to tie all these elements together. By coincidence I had purchased the fantastic ’50 Ways to Retell a Story: Cinderella‘ by @alanpeat a few weeks earlier. Whilst many of the ideas are primarily aimed at a slightly older audience than KS1, several are certainly adaptable enough to be used with Year 1. More than this though, it got me thinking about how to extend learning opportunities beyond simply writing their own version of a fairy tale and how to motivate the boys in a genre traditionally more inspiring for girls.

Our school has begun to use one of 3 approaches to pick from when planning a theme: inquiry led, dramatic and mantle of the expert. This theme seemed to fit well with a dramatic approach and so I started to put together a mindmap which included various drama strategies used to motivate and deepen the experience.

I knew motivating the boys would be vital in helping them achieve their potential during this theme and so was looking forward to introducing some resources shortly after it’s initial introduction to get them interested. (I know I am generalising by saying ‘motivating the boys’, I have several girls that would also fit this stereotype and a few boys who would not. However, in my experience what motivates ‘boys’ also motivates ‘girls’.)

When we started the theme with me in role as Prince Charming, sure enough a few boys rolled eyes or groaned when they realised this meant we would be looking at fairy tales. I didn’t have a problem with this though as my thinking was if they thought they wouldn’t enjoy something but soon found out they did, then I could use that in other situations and it would help them learn to give something or someone a chance. Indeed learning to go with it, putting more in and getting far more out of the situation than they otherwise could have.

Soon after we started the theme the class realised they had to construct a ball room for the Prince where Cinderella’s ball would take place. Instantly the mood changed to excitement that only construction and in National Curriculum terms, DT, can bring to certain 5 year olds! I followed this up by reading Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes as our class book. I saved Cinderella for a little while so that the children could engage in discussions about what they thought could have changed in the Roald Dahl version. Whilst this was going on the children began retelling the story of Cinderella and acting it out in the Role Play area.

At this time our class IPod Touch 4th Generation arrived just in time for us to use Epic Citadel, suggested to me by the legendary @dawnhallybone. We started off by children using it whole class, viewing on the interactive whiteboard, building a collective setting. This gave the building of Cinderella’s Ballroom a run for it’s money in the engagement stakes and it was great to see the whole class involved in quality literacy based discussion. It also really helped them separate out adjectives from their associated noun, leading to some fantastic descriptive sentences constructed independently. The game was then used by the children during continuous provision sessions and was picked up approximately 75% of the time by boys with it hardly ever not being used. I insisted that whenever it was used, a follow up descriptive piece of writing was created which was adhered to without issue by almost everyone who used it. It’s worth mentioning I had already done a little work on descriptive language before this theme with them, getting them stuck in to all the different senses, writing down words that described their experiences on post its etc.

Before we began to construct our own versions of Cinderella, I moved to reading Cinderboy which worked really well in showing the children what was possible in terms of creating their own versions whilst still maintaining the same story structure. It does however have to be mentioned that Cinderella is not the most straightforward story to chop up into a ‘beginning, middle and end’. With the aid of hindsight, the children understood that there was more than one event in the each of the beginning, middle and end but when coming to write their versions, it made it very difficult for them to see clear sections to the story despite wring the beginning, middle and end on separate days. If I was doing this again I would use coloured card with each event in the story on one piece of card. I.E. blue = beginning, red = middle, yellow = end. The children could then make the link between the concrete and the more abstract of several events being one story element.

Whilst all the Literacy was continuing we had been developing our own modern, creative ‘ball dance’ to the remix version of ‘Umbrella‘ by Rihanna and Chris Brown which I would have loved to have been able to share!

Our ballrooms, constructed out of cardboard were finally built with some great team skills being demonstrated by the children but I wanted to extend the making process further. It just so happened that at the same time I watched Kevin McCloud construct a frame out of sweets and sticks using a triangular formation. Bingo. Two days later the class created some amazing structures using wine gums and cocktail sticks and whilst these versions looked more like The Lowry in Manchester than there final ballroom designs, as their previous cardboard versions had represented their ideas well, I didn’t have a problem with the focus being on the actual constructing itself. Particularly as above all else during the theme, this seemed to capture the interest of the whole class.

A special mention needs to go out to Simon Haughton who spent several hours during the planning phase of this theme finding great resources for us.

In the end we ran out of time to do quite a few of the things I was looking forward to, particularly many of the ideas suggested in ’50 Ways to Retell a Story: Cinderella’ and much of the Recount unit. Yes, part of this was because of the Christmas plays etc but part was also because of the depth we went into during the story creation process, through reading as a writer, writer talk and the use of Epic Citadel. In our end of term assessments, many of the children have made very good progress in their writing, the Cinderella theme in general definitely having a positive effect. And what of the ‘boys’? Well, I’ll let them tell you for themselves over at our class blog and you can be the judge:

Originally published at on December 29, 2010.