Opening Doors to Famous Poetry and Prose

Ideas and resources for accessing literary heritage works

By: Bob Cox


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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 210 x 280mm
Pages : 232
ISBN : 9781845908966
Format: Paperback
Published: August 2014

Opening Doors to Famous Poetry and Prose provides 20 units of work covering poetry and prose from our literary heritage. Each unit comes with exciting stimulus material and creative suggestions for ways in which the material can be used for outstanding learning possibilities. Illustrations and innovative ideas to help pupils access the meaning and wonder of the text add to the book's appeal.

Pupils are encouraged, throughout the units of work, to engage with language, invent questions and write with flair and accuracy, bringing literature from the past to life and opening doors to further reading and exploration.

Also included is an introduction to the concepts used in the book and suggestions for a range of methods and pathways which can lead to language development and literary appreciation. Although the units are diverse and have a range of poetry and prose for teachers to use, the book presents cohesive methods for engaging children with a variety of different literary texts and improving standards of literacy.

Opening Doors both informs and excites. It contains everything you need for outstanding English lessons, including downloadable resources for primary English, including extracts from the literary works and activities to get started with. Let's begin.

For teachers of pupils aged 7 to 13.

Downloadable resources inside.

The best way to experience this book is to see it! So click here to see a sample of Unit 2, Sunset - 'Great City' by Harold Monro.

Contents include: (Click on the links below to view a collection of written work produced by school children aged 6–9 who are following the passages and exercises related to the texts included in this book)

Part 1: Opening doors to poetry
1. Voices on the Sharp Air - 'The Call' by Charlotte Mew
2. Sunset - 'Great City' by Harold Monro
3. The Abbot and the Rover - 'The Inchcape Rock' by Robert Southey
4. Sickness -' The Land of Counterpane' by Robert Louis Stevenson
5. Paths of Mystery - 'The Path' by Edward Thomas
6. Zero at the Bone - 'Snake' by Emily Dickinson

Part 2: Opening doors to prose
7. Moon Seeds - The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells
8. A Ghastly Waxwork - Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
9. Through Beauty's Eyes - Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
10. Code Breaking - A Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne
11. Playing Cards in Wonderland - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
12. Windswept Pavilion - 'The Pavilion on the Links' by Robert Louis Stevenson
13. The Face and Hands of a Vampire - Dracula by Bram Stoker
14. Fire at Thornfield - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
15. Whirlpool! - Descent into the Maelström' by Edgar Allan Poe

Part 3: The other side of the door: poetry for writing
16. The Crag and the Sea - 'The Eagle' by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
17. Images in a Candle Flame - 'Old Furniture' by Thomas Hardy
18. Horses Born with Eagles' Wings - The Pied Piper of Hamelin' by Robert Browning
19. I Shot an Arrow ... - 'The Arrow and the Song' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
20. Cat Moments - 'The Kitten and Falling Leaves' by William Wordsworth

Click here to view the related title that covers the 6–9 age range – Opening Doors to Quality Writing: Ideas for Writing Inspired By Great Writers for Ages 6 to 9, £12.99.

Click here to view the related title that covers the 10–13 age range – Opening Doors to Quality Writing: Ideas for Writing Inspired By Great Writers for Ages 10 to 13, £12.99.

Picture for author Bob Cox

Bob Cox

Having taught English for 23 years, Bob Cox is now an independent education consultant, writer and teacher coach who works nationally and internationally to support outstanding learning. Bob also delivers keynotes for national associations, multi-academy trusts and local authorities, as more schools integrate Opening Doors' strategies into their curriculum design.

Listen to Bob Cox talk about his Opening Doors series of books with Toria Bono from Tiny Voice Talks here.


  1. “Congratulations to Bob Cox, ERA award winner, for such a fine series of books on teaching writing. Essential resources for raising our game.” 18/3/17

    "All Bob's books should be in every school and used." 16/4/17
  2. In Opening Doors to Poetry and Prose, Bob Cox has provided everything you would need as a teacher to inspire, challenge and take further reading and writing skills for all learners. The units could be taken separately (along with the resource materials in a handy CD) and delivered immediately or the book could be used as a framework from start to finish to plan teaching in this area, along with extension exercises which could be done at home. Not only should this book be an essential purchase for any busy teacher but it should inspire a future generation of writers to come forward. I read the book from start to finish and was transported back to those poems and stories I thought I had forgotten along with many that I now feel the need to read. I wish I'd had this book to guide my teaching when I was a child. Well done, Bob!
  3. I would highly recommend this resource to anyone who wanted to explore our classic literature but wasn't quite sure where to start. I would also recommend it to teachers who have been exploring our classic literature and are looking for new ways to do it! I will certainly be using it.

    This book is well structured but written in such a way that you do not feel -˜bound' to an overly long and detailed lesson plan or unit. It provides short useful chapters on each text, using the same structure for each one: suggestions for -˜access strategies' or ways into the text; approaches for a full exploration of the text and finally ideas for writing. What I really like about the resource is the way Bob expands on some of the generic pedagogy - it's not just ideas - it supports a teacher's professional development. You are able to learn why you are using a particular strategy as well as how to do it!

    The suggestions for differentiation were excellent, especially the -˜higher challenges'.

    I particularly like the sections which give examples of -˜Excellent responses will-¦' following a discussion or an activity. Really helpful to newly qualified teachers, in particular.

    Bob's writing style is accessible, interesting, dialogic and personable. A busy classroom teacher would find this resource easy to access and invaluable for planning.

    The -˜Bob says-¦' sections were useful tips from an experienced practitioner. I also appreciated the -˜Beyond the limit' section and the CD-ROM text samples. What might have improved this even further was recordings of people reading them aloud.
  4. It shouldn't prove too difficult to ascertain the intention of this highly practical, richly-resourced book: how to enable our pupils to explore and learn from classic texts that provide a high level of challenge. In simpler terms, how we might design literature-based lessons with high challenge/low threat and a great deal of interest and intrigue. Featured poets include Charlotte Mew, Edward Thomas, and Emily Dickinson. Authors include Dickens, H.G.Wells, Bram Stoker and Charlotte Bronte. Bob Cox acknowledges in his introduction that primary schools “have never lacked enthusiasm for projects featuring Shakespeare or whole days with a Dicken's focus”[pg.1] but also takes on board that it can be challenging to move beyond the well-established favourites (I'm thinking here of Dickens, Shakespeare and The Highwayman in particular) in order to extend the range of prose and poetry that our pupils are exposed to and how to deepen their knowledge in the process. It is these challenges that inform the 20 units of learning contained within. Twenty carefully selected poems and prose extracts drive the units. Each unit follows the same essential structure that serves to engage and excite, provide opportunities for a deep exploration of the text that then lead into a range of writing opportunities. Extensions (genuine extensions) are also offered together with further suggested reading. This further reading in turn seeks to help pupils make links with other titles/writers, so that their knowledge base deepens, and their frames of reference widens. Only connect - to borrow from another figure of our literary heritage. What I really hope to get across more than anything else is just how safe a set of hands you are in when reading this book. From the book's dedication onwards, it is clear that Cox is a teacher's teacher. His guidance is clear, practical and, free from jargon. No use of “robust” and “rigorous” here - yet the book speaks more clearly of those over-used terms than any of the other resources I have seen prepared for this area of the new curriculum. Aiming high but with a flight path for all, his opening quote from Dickens' Hunted Down gets right to the heart of the approaches of this invaluable text: “A very little key will open a very heavy door.” Note: all texts and resources shared in the book are supplied on an accompanying CDRom.
  5. The appeal of this book, and the undoubted effectiveness of the pedagogies it promotes, rests on the author's passion for, and knowledge of, English literature as well as his pedagogic subject knowledge amassed in the classroom and through educational research. Drawing on these attributes Cox has articulated a clear, pedagogical approach which enables the non-specialist (teacher and pupil) to make personal connections with texts which do indeed have the potential to inspire a sense of awe and wonder.

    Read the full review here.
  6. In this lovingly-crafted and enjoyable-to-read book - designed for primary English teachers but with much to interest and inspire secondary teachers too - Bob Cox (who taught English for 23 years and is now a freelance adviser and consultant) discusses ways of introducing classes to some quite challenging texts from the literary heritage, focusing each chapter on one of 20 poems and prose extracts which he has used in the classroom. Opening Doors is a practical teaching resource with structured lesson ideas and a CD included - but it isn't just a run-through of some nice bits of literature with a few random teaching ideas appended. The book is characterised by a thoughtful and principled approach to teaching English which has at its heart an inspiring philosophy and an associated set of engaging classroom strategies which can be applied to learning about literature generally. Each chapter begins with a section in which Cox describes ways of introducing the text to the class in order to prepare them for learning about it. The point is to get them excited about the text, to intrigue them, to get them asking questions about it, by showing them just a small part of it. This simple strategy - a staple of good literature teaching for decades (at all key stages) but one which is often forgotten about in the rush to establish learning objectives and adhere to linear learning patterns - engages students' creativity, curiosity and critical thinking in ways which it is often much harder to do once the whole text has been revealed. Learning objectives, Cox argues, can and should come later. Crucially, Cox is not just concerned with plot and theme - predicting what will happen in the text and what it might be about (although this of course is an important reading strategy) - but also with helping students to engage with mood and atmosphere, and to explore form and style, getting them to think like writers as well as readers. The chapters go on to suggest activities that will push children's learning on, once the whole text has been revealed, giving detailed advice about how to use questioning and manage discussions in order to allow them to respond openly and imaginatively, working their way to understandings and interpretations of each text. And there is plenty of encouragement for classes to do wider reading and creative writing exercises based on or inspired by the texts, for instance in sections of each chapter called -˜Wings to Fly' and -˜Beyond the Limit'. Indeed, -˜wings to fly, not drills to kill' is one of the key ideas in this book, as, throughout, Cox models and discusses a range of strategies intended to -˜release creativity rather than [to become] a straitjacket'. Highly recommended reading for every teacher of English in both primary and secondary schools.
  7. Lead the way to literary appreciation and exploration with this book of innovative ideas and materials to help pupils access the meaning of different texts, engage with language and write with accuracy and flair.
  8. With the increasing emphasis on improving literacy skills within schools and colleges, this book certainly enables teachers to gain the skills, strategies and confidence to promote more effective learning and understanding. The author effectively promotes the use of well known poetry and prose to develop skills of posing questions, learner participation in discussion and promoting writing challenges at all levels. In an exciting use of “literature from the past” the author demonstrates clearly how to make really effective use of a range of texts in a stimulating way that is challenging and above all enjoyable for the learner. In addition the CD Rom adds to the range of resource material available. This book will be a valuable addition to the resource material and framework to improve teaching , learning and achievement for all English departments in schools and ciolleges.
  9. I loved Bob's book "Opening Doors" for a variety of reasons. In the first instance, I was very struck by his description of "non linear learning" which frees up teachers to structure the learning more creatively. In addition, the blend of high quality literature and engaging tasks is very compelling. This is a book which makes you want to dive into exploring the texts with your pupils as soon as possible! Busy teachers are supported here with quality access tasks and invaluable examples of what to expect in excellent pupil responses. A must for any English teacher.
  10. The most conspicuous strength of this book is that it has clearly been created by an experienced, widely read and enthusiastic teacher. It will be seized upon -” should be seized upon -” by those teaching in Key Stage 2 who have little confidence in their effectiveness as teachers of English, not least because they recognise the limits of their reading and of their skills as literary critics. Bob Cox displays a canny sense of audience!

    The range of poems and prose passages -” all but the H.G.Wells extracts being safely out of copyright -” provides a clearly-signposted guide to mainly nineteenth century writing. This will serve pupils well as they later embark upon the Key Stage 3 and GCSE curricula. In fact, the book may find a niche amongst Key Stage 3 resources in a good number of secondary schools. As well as very familiar pieces, such as the description of Miss Havisham from Great Expectations and lines from The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Bob Cox includes some interesting and less well-trawled poems and prose, such as The Call by Charlotte Mew, and The Pavilion on the Links by Robert Louis Stevenson.

    For anyone struggling to plan a sequence of lessons built around a topic such as Border ballads, the journey from a more accessible ballad, The Inchcape Rock, towards traditional ballads such as Sir Patrick Spens is most helpfully and clearly mapped out: first readings; suggestions for initial questions and lines of enquiry (described by Cox as -˜white space thinking'); exploration of form and language; and extension work for the most able. Bob Cox's suggested activities have the great merit of being very practical and specific, and manageable in any classroom situation.

    There are those -” and I am one -” who will be at best distracted and at worst irritated by the -˜Bob says' marginalia, put into a less formal font perhaps to suggest spontaneity. What was the rationale for this? Was it to make the commentary seem less academic and therefore more accessible? Some entries in the glossary raise similar questions -” those that read more like a further justification of an approach rather than an explanation of a term's meaning.

    All in all, this is a combination of well-chosen pieces and authoritative and persuasive commentary that can be either lifeboat or launch pad for new, nervous or time-pressed teachers.
  11. Although this beautifully compiled collection of learning units based around inspirational literary texts is explicitly targeted at primary school teachers, there is no reason at all why the activities, tips and advice wouldn't work just as effectively for KS3 1earners and beyond, In an ideal world all young people would start Y7 already possessing many of the skills needed to access and understand 'famous poetry and prose', having been introduced to great literature by passionate educators from an early age. But this isn't an ideal world, even after some Govian tinkering, and it does students a disservice simply to assume that if they are unable to respond appropriately and personally to the works presented to them as teenagers, it must be due to a lack of interest. Bob Cox's approach encourages genuine engagement and profound comprehension; this book could change the way your class thinks about literature, for the better - and permanently.
  12. -˜Opening Doors' is a very apt title and takes the teacher way beyond a normal approach to literacy. This is not literacy: it is English teaching at its finest.

    For some time, primary teachers have been impeded by the requirements of SPAG and the promotion of -˜Wow' words which, in themselves, are not bad things but they have stilted the learning of words for their own value. Children approach writing with a tick list of what needs to be included and they have a determination to win that tick whether the inclusion of that adjective or colon actually improves the writing.

    This book is arranged in standalone units and each starts with wonderful writing and poetry then leads into activities. Each unit is organized in the same way.

    I particularly like the opening Access Strategies. These are a variety of ways (quizzes, games, puzzles) to get the pupils into the literature without mentioning the words writing, reading, poetry or the title of the text.

    There are suggested questions to ask -” -˜always ask the most difficult first' says Bob as well as the good old lesson objectives but unlike other programmes, they do not lead the work. The areas for extension work, beautifully called -˜Beyond the Limit' and -˜Wings to Fly' are there to be used flexibly.

    Each unit ends with -˜Reflecting on impact'. These units are not simply about an English lesson but a deepening of a love of literature and writing in the pupils and often we forget to look at the bigger picture that a unit of work has produced. It obvious that Bob has such a love of English literature and is incredibly well-”read that he also includes a -˜did you know?' -” to give you those tit bits to complete the tapestry. You can imagine him in the classroom with your pupils enthusing them!

    This is not a book to pick up over coffee that will give you an idea to take back to class. It is for teachers who want to get back to teaching English as a language and a culture. It will hold your hand as you go through the steps (a CD is provided with lots of resources that are referred to throughout) and give you a wonderful sense of achievement both in your learning as well as that of your pupils.

    Take heed, though. Don't skip the introduction! It may start off in rather a dry read but it is key to understanding the philosophy behind the contents and will ensure that you have made the very best of an excellent resource.
  13. With a carefully selected and considered collection of inspirational poetry and prose texts, Bob Cox has provided this extraordinary book to give teachers the confidence to teach beyond the limits many assume. Appreciating the central importance of language, SPaG and inspiration, this book encourages imagination and deep levels of engagement and is inspired by some of the greatest writers the English language has produced, offering practical ideas and activities to support learning.

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