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HELBLING READERS BLOG

HELBLING READERS BLOG

Four new titles in The Thinking Train series

September 14, 2020 by Nora Nagy

We have added a brand new level F to our award-winning picture book series for young learners. Level F caters for young learners who have a good knowledge of English but are still at picture book stage, it includes training for Cambridge A2 Flyers / Trinity Grades 3 - 4. The Thinking Train series focuses on both language and thinking development through fully illustrated narratives. The four new titles cover four exciting topics: survival in the jungle, life in a futuristic school, deadly  races on an ice planet, and a treasure hunt in space.

Tips on using the readers in class

The level F stories combine full-page illustrations with longer narratives which allow greater vocabulary and grammar development. They also aim to bridge the gap between picture books and illustrated readers for the students. Here are some tips on how you can make the most of them in class.

  • Give time to the pictures: not only will they give you information on the plot, they will also help you reconstruct the plot, identify the characters and practice vocabulary.
  • Take time to allow the students to read each page individually.
  • Use the big book for shared reading sessions, reading the text aloud as the students follow. This will support their individual reading sessions and help weaker readers gain confidence.
  • The Think boxes on each double-page help students focus on the details of the story and make connections with their own experience.
  • The Before Reading exercises help you prepare your students with core vocabulary to understand the story.
  • The After Reading exercises revise and consolidate new language and structures and also develop thinking skills in a playful way.
  • The Make and Do pages at the end of each reader build creative projects inspired by the themes of the story. The projects create  memorable experiences related to the story and show the readers how reading extends into other activities.

 

The four new stories

Let’s look at the four stories and the learning opportunities they offer.

Survival

  • Written by Herbert Puchta and Gavin Biggs
  • Illustrated by Lorenzo Sabbatini


This is a story of bravery and it shows the readers the importance of keeping calm in difficult situations. It also activates real-life problem-solving skills and takes us to a magical place where dreams can guide life. 

In this story, a young girl, Ellie and her parents go on holiday to the jungle, where everything is different but also dangerous. When Ellie’s parents and their guide fall out of the raft and into the river, Ellie is left on her own and has to remember the rules of the jungle to survive.

Useful vocabulary: First-aid and survival, phrasal verbs (e.g. set off)

Reading tip: Stop to name the animals that appear in the pages

Illustration tip: The illustrations depict a part of the text on each page. Ask the students to  identify the relevant passage in the text.

Activity tip: What items do you need to survive in the desert or in the mountains? OR What other use could the objects in a typical classroom have?

 

Unreal school

  • Written by Herbert Puchta and Gavin Biggs
  • Illustrated by Marzia Sanfilippo


This story takes us to a virtual world where the four main characters learn about the dangers of technology. In the story the  students have to pay careful attention to distinguish reality from virtual reality.

Three friends, Mark, Tikto and Dani get a surprise message from their friend Amy to join her at Unreal School. When they go there, they learn that things at the school are not what they seem and their friend is in danger. They need to learn to tell the difference between reality and virtual reality to save Amy before it’s too late.

Useful vocabulary: Information technology, innovation

Reading tip: This story moves from the real world to a virtual one so pause when you turn the page to check that the students know where they are (there is always a tech describer in the virtual world).

Illustration tip: Find clues in the images which tell you if you are in reality or virtual reality.

Activity tip: Carry out a technology survey in class. OR Write secret messages in binary code.

 

The ice-racers of Triton

  • Written by Hebert Puchta and Gavin Biggs
  • Illustrated by Lorenzo Sabbatini


We leave our solar system and land on an imaginary ice-planet, Triton. The students learn about life in a different and dangerous world and about the importance of resilience and staying human in difficult situations.

The only thing to do on the ice planet of Triton is to ice-race. Azkoth, Tox and Parnak are the winners of every ice-race. The main character, Vinnie fixes their ice-jets after every race. She is good at fixing things but she would live to leave Triton forever. She is kept as a prisoner by the three ice-racers. Vinnie dreams of her father, who used to be a racer, too. Then, one day, a mysterious white ice-racer arrives and perhaps Vinnie can finally leave Triton.

Useful vocabulary: Language of descriptions: adjectives, comparative and superlative

Reading tip: Make predictions. What will happen next? Who is the mysterious ice-racer?

Illustrations: Use the images to identify and describe the characters.

Activity tip: Think of other planets. What distinguishing features does each one have (hot, gaseous, etc.)?

 

Miners of the fifth Moon

  • Written by Herbert Puchta and Gavin Biggs
  • Illustrated by Fabio Sardo


In this story humans are already living in outer space. Students learn space vocabulary (moons, asteroids, rocks), different types of ships and different jobs related to space travel.

Cosmo is a sixteen-year-old boy but he is already one of the best scout ship pilots in the galaxy. Cosmo dreams of doing something more interesting than looking for asteroids. One day a strange man sells Cosmo a glowing orb and his life changes. It might help him find the fifth moon and discover what treasure it hides.

Useful vocabulary: Space vocabulary

Reading tip: After a first reading, focus on the dialogues as role-play activities. It will help students think about the specific personalities of the characters and practise reading aloud in a meaningful way.

Illustration tip: Describe each character and point out who is speaking as you are reading.

Activity tip: Find out about how far human beings have explored the universe OR Find out what humans mine for on earth. What consequences does their mining have?

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