A review of Fred, by Mick and Chloe Inkpen (Hodder) – by Penny Slater

(cover art used by kind permission)

As a teacher, I appreciate children’s books on many levels. Sometimes I appreciate a book simply because it has a good tale to tell and I can imagine recommending it to children, or their parents, as a good book to share at bedtime, or as an engaging independent read; sometimes I appreciate a book because I can imagine recommending it to a teacher as a great class read-aloud. Sometimes I appreciate a book because it offers me a way of tackling a tricky teaching point. And then sometimes a book comes along that offers all of these enticing opportunities all rolled into one! Thank you therefore Mick and Chloe Inkpen for creating ‘Fred’.

Fred is a playful pooch who despite knowing one or two things about adventures and getting into trouble, has not yet mastered the ability to tell the difference between a noun and a verb…and here-in lies the teaching opportunity.

Fred begins by telling us that he is becoming adept at many dog-related tasks: he can ‘sit’, ‘fetch’ and ‘stay’. But, as yet he has not learnt how ‘to Fred!’.

 

If only I could Fred.

But Fred? It makes no sense.

They laugh and shake their heads.

They say I’m dense.

 

But I will Fred one day.

I know I will.

If I can Fetch and Sit and Stay,

I’ll Fred. I know I will.

And they will clap and say,

‘Good Boy!’

 

Poor Fred! He clearly needs some help in distinguishing between his verbs and nouns…and this is where the children can step in. In my year 2 class, I would have the children take on the role of Fred’s Fairy Dogmother (every dog has one you know!) and write a letter to Fred in role explaining the mis-understanding behind his confusion. Before doing so, we would have a class discussion about the predicament that Fred finds himself in. Can the children explain his quandary in their own words? Then, can they use some words from the Year 2 ‘Terminology for pupils’ list to help them with their explanation (namely, command, noun, verb)?

Now for some fun…I would invite the children to attach their letters to cardboard cut-outs of bones and ‘bury’ them in the Year 1 play area for the younger children to find. Imagine if the year 1’s had also just finished reading this lovely text and then stepped outside to find letters from Fred’s very own Fairy Dogmother – surely that is guaranteed to give a real purpose for reading. Towards the end of the summer term, it would also of course gently introduce them to some of the grammatical terminology that they will be expected to master in year 2. For year 2 children (and their teachers), it will provide an excellent opportunity for them to express their knowledge and understanding of these key word classes in an engaging and meaningful way.

So, a little dog called Fred has provided us with a wonderful opportunity for some contextualised grammar teaching, and a real reason for writing. Thank you Fred (and Mick and Chloe of course!).