The Ups and Downs of Mary Anning’s life

This lesson focuses on helping pupils to move beyond simple story telling and sequencing to thinking about the effect that each event in her life had on Mary. By encouraging pupils to think in terms of happy and sad events, you will help them build a deeper understanding of her life and achievements. To make the changes in her fortunes more vivid, pupils represent events in physical forms.

Side illustration from Stone Girl, Bone Girl by Laurence Anholt illustrated by Sheila Moxley is reproduced with kind permission of Frances Lincoln publishers)

Learning objectives

Pupils sequence between 5 and 9 events in her life
They match captions to images
They create a human living graph to show how events impacted on Mary; did they make her happy or sad?
They can annotate a simple graph relating changes in the graph’s shape to turning points in Mary’s life

Step 1

The lesson works like this. Having been told the story (numerous versions offered below in reading list), pupils are asked to recall any event from her life. To help make this vivid, the PowerPoint has 9 key images in chronological order. You might want to add to these, change or subtract.

Step 2

To check that the pupils have grasped the chronological order correctly, issue them with a set of the 9 pictures (3 per A4 page should be big enough). Some pupils will be better served if they start with a smaller number, adding more as their confidence grows. If non-readers are paired with confident readers, they can also match the captions (on the downloadable event cards) to the pictures as a way of helping consolidate the narrative sequence. PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THIS IS A SIMPLIFIED VERSION AND THAT LITTLE ATTENTION IS PAID TO THE PASSAGE OF TIME AS THE FOCUS IS ON THE NARRATIVE.

Step 3

Now ask individual pupils to name an important event –one of the nine. You give each child one of the event cards/images in turn and ask them to come to the front of the class, standing in random order. This is an imaginary line at the front of the class along which the story will be reconstructed. Now ask the children to stand in chronological order. Give the 9 who are standing in line the opportunity to work the order out for themselves before asking the rest of the class to check and make any necessary adjustments.

Optional for younger pupils or those who lack confidence: The pupil taking the first card stands somewhere along the story line which is marked with START of the story at one end and END at the other. They hold their card for all to see. As the next pupil takes, or asks for, a card they have to decide where to stand in relation to the first pupil. This will simply be ‘before’ or ‘after’ at this stage. If any pupils are uncertain they can be helped by others waiting for their turn. With two pupils now in place holding their cards, you work through the rest of the events. Pupils’ knowledge of the correct sequence is challenged by each successive addition. The emphasis is on the class working together to get it right rather than expecting one pupil to know. For your benefit the correct sequence is this:

Slide F, G, B, A, D, G, H I, E

If you are matching caption to images then the answers are:

F=2 G=3 B=7 A= 8 D= 4 C=6 H=1 I=5 E=9

Step 4

With between 6 and 19 pupils at the front, in the right story sequence, (you choose how many is realistic for your class) it is now time for the pupils to interpret each of the events. Starting with the pupil with the first card in the story, they have to decide if it was a good time for Mary or a bad time. If it was BAD they step back one space behind the story line. If it is GOOD they step one pace forward. You might want to model this first so they are sure of what you asking for. You might use the example of Mary’s father dying as being a BAD time. Clearly you will be alert to any sensitivities that might make this inappropriate. As you work along the line with pupils stepping forward and backwards, gaps appear which help pupils to see the changes in fortune more clearly. .

Step 5

To really make the point, you could ask pupils to step a further step backwards or forwards if it was a really good or bad time for Mary.

Step 6

The shape the pupils make, physically, by standing in this way can now be turned into an image, rather like a line graph. We call this a human living graph. You might like to draw this on the Interactive White Board to show what you mean. PowerPoint Slide 11 gives you a model which you might want to adjust for your pupils. It is quite valid to come up with an alternative shape depending on how precise the time periods are. Explain that happy and sad are on the left hand axis, with the events in her life along the horizontal axis. Start half-way up the left hand axis. Several points are of interest; some are also sensitive and will need careful treatment. The issue of a death of a parent and bullying

Step 7/Plenary

Now use this graph as a plenary. Point to parts of the story and ask pupils to explain why it was a happy/sad time. This will be taxing for some. Pupils might like to come to the front in pairs and point to a time when Mary was happy/sad. (Pupils usually refer to bullying, the death of her father and, of course, her dog). The rest of the class could suggest why at that time, she was sad/happy.

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