The Boy At The Back Of The Class by Onjali Rauf was the perfect choice for our Year 4/5 unit of work. We loaned a class set from the library service so that each child was able to have their own copy of the text at home during home learning. It was fantastic for those children who do not own their own books at home to treasure a text; they were able to read along to the live sessions and complete the chapter studies that were set for them.
The text was brilliant as an introduction to the plight of refugees. One of our tasks was to act out being in the life boat and to consider what treasured items we would bring. Many chose teddies and items such as photographs that would provide them with comfort. We also used the book as a springboard to look at and compare with other texts about refugees: “A Story Like the Wind” by Gill Lewis and “My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Atkinson.
A few weeks into the text, the children were invited to call into school on their daily walk – they had a present from Ahmet; it was a packet of Sherbet lemons and the children had to describe how the sweet looked and tasted to them. Ruby wrote that Sherbet Lemons are now one of her favourite sweets as she had never had them before! Having new students arrive part way through the academic year is not unusual at The Rissington School and having four new starters in our class during lockdown, enabled even our most reluctant readers, what it would feel like to be that child who is new to the school.
For our writing project, we decided that rather than write “a lot” we would write “less better”. A task of creating a picture book about refugees was set and the remit was to help children in Key Stage 1 understand what it was like to leave their home as a refugee. The results were brilliant. All of the children loved creating their own mini books and the standard was much higher than we could ever have imagined. Some children uploaded themselves reading their stories for the children to listen to – just like the teachers did for them during lockdown. Megan’s story was extremely powerful and thought provoking; she had taken inspiration from all our suggested texts, but had also independently wanted to write in the style of her favourite picture book author – Julia Donaldson. So, Megan wrote a rhyming picture book called “We Travel The Seas As Refugees”. It was brilliant. We thought it was so good we have published the book ourselves, we gave Megan her own published book and a copy is also now in our school library for anyone to borrow.
Now we have returned to the classroom we have discussed the text we have studied remotely – Ahmet and his story has brought us all together; we have a shared experience and the story of refugees is something we have all enjoyed thinking, talking and learning about. Thank you RT=RP for bringing this book to our attention. It has been an incredible resource and a journey non of us will ever forget.