Opening Doors to Quality Writing

Ideas for writing inspired by great writers for ages 10 to 13

By: Bob Cox


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Size: 180 x 148mm
Pages : 224
ISBN : 9781785830143
Format: Paperback
Published: August 2016

In Opening Doors to Famous Poetry and Prose, Bob Cox introduced teachers to engaging strategies which use literary heritage texts as the stimulus for excellent learning. This new companion book, Opening Doors to Quality Writing, for ages 10 to 13, puts the focus on pupils producing quality writing ' developing their literacy skills and a love of reading in the process.

In the course of his educational consultancy work, Bob has seen many teachers successfully use the scope and depth which literature can offer to inspire high standards, mastery learning and, above all, a love of language in its many forms. Schools using the opening doors' strategies told Bob they led to:

• More teacher empowerment and confidence.

• More knowledge building for pupils and teachers.

• A growing confidence with literature, including poetry.

• Planning from the top becoming a norm.

• Planning for mastery learning becoming a norm.

• Improved comprehension skills.

• Improved quality writing and associated excitement.

They also asked Bob for further examples of inspiring, quality texts, and more ways in which all abilities can access them. Bob was only too happy to oblige.

These 15 units of work cover poetry and prose: each unit provides exciting stimulus material, creative ideas for writing projects, and differentiation and support strategies, meaning all pupils can achieve the quality writing objectives. All the units should help teachers facilitate understanding of the challenging texts and maximise the huge potential for quality writing. Discover a multitude of ready-to-use ideas, inspired by classic literature and great writers' works, along with plenty of new strategies and advice.

All of the extracts and illustrations you will need to begin opening doors in your classroom are downloadable – a link to the download web page is provided in the book.

Units include: (Click on the links below to view a collection of written work produced by school children aged 10–13 who are following the passages and exercises related to the texts included in this book)

Part 1: Opening doors to prose

1. Night Encounter – The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

2. Spooky Scientists! – The Phantom Coach by Amelia B. Edwards

3. The Strongest Looking Brute in Alaska – That Spot by Jack London

4. Mr Knickerbocker's Notes – Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving

5. The Portrait of Doom – Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

6. The Hell Hound – The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

7. Sinister Spaces – Metamorphosis and The Castle by Franz Kafka

8. The Mirror and the Window – Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Part 2: Opening doors to poetry

9. All in This House is Mossing Over 'From Mementos' by Charlotte Brontë

10. Dancing the Skies 'High Flight' by John Gillespie Magee, Jr

11. The Mystery of the Lonely Merman 'The Forsaken Merman' by Matthew Arnold

12. Making Magic Talk 'The Magnifying Glass' by Walter de la Mare

13. The Spirit in the Garden 'A Garden at Night' by James Reeves

14. A Shropshire Lad 'Blue Remembered Hills' by A. E. Housman

15. The Silver Heel 'I Started Early 'Took My Dog' by Emily Dickinson

The Opening Doors to Quality Writing series won the 2017 Education Resources Awards in the Educational Book Award category.

Judges' Comments: 'Described as two gems which provide innovative approaches to exploring quality texts as stimuli for children's writing. Judges described The Opening Doors to Quality Writing series as an invaluable resource, particularly for non-specialist teachers. Excellent literary choices contained within very attractively produced books.'

Opening Doors To Quality Writing: Ideas For Writing Inspired By Great Writers For Ages 6 To 9
Opening Doors to Quality Writing: Ideas for writing inspired by great writers for ages 6 to 9

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. The full sub-title for both of these books is -˜Ideas for writing inspired by great writers' and both have an accompanying CD-ROM inside the back cover giving more illustrations and listening passages. Whilst modern writers are not the main focus or feature these two books of guidance and advice are far, very far, from being in any way old-fashioned. Each book has fifteen units under two section headings -˜Opening doors to poetry'. For each the aim of enhancing writing is integrated totally with increasing familiarity with the works of a range of authors. Each also has an original story by Bob Cox related to the themes. The teacher or librarian seeking practical and realistic suggestions for exploring approaches into texts with an objective of enhancing creativity in the writing of youngsters will find real riches here.

    Whilst a sequential and developmental programme is set out in each book the range of examples together with the variety of implications can certainly be, as the title says, inspiring. So for each section an initial passage of prose or poetry is expanded and expounded with related passages or verses from other writers. All through the presentation is suffused with approaches and techniques applied to teaching and developing writing. The structure can certainly be used as set out and this seems sure to lead to satisfying outcomes but I'm delighted to observe that to my way of thinking things are in no way prescriptive or restrictive. There are pieces and ideas a-plenty for the imaginative teacher to build upon in individual ways and implications in the classroom. I feel confidant also that a teacher trying these approaches and techniques has an opportunity to gain in professional development leading to increased self-assurance and reliance in ideas for new projects arising out of these experiences. As always with such books the proof of the pudding is in the eating: feasting, gluttony even, is wholly encouraged.
  2. “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
  3. Opening Doors, rather marvellously, succeeds in doing exactly what its title claims. The resource not only opens doors for the educationalist reading it for the first time, realising that teaching English can be so much broader and adventurous than one thought imaginable, but it opens the world of reading and the joy of beautifully crafted language and worlds that children might never otherwise encounter.

    The resource innovates upon traditional methods of teaching for expectation and differentiation. Rather than set challenge as an extension of normal learning, Bob rightly shows that challenge should be the expectation for all. By using questioning in an inverse of the norm, that is to ask the most challenging questions first, children are engaged and given scope for higher-level thinking. And this applies to a range of texts, including the classics advocated by this resource. By asking the question, -˜Why was the alchemist's family his most precious memory?' of a visual text in which the central character had spurned his family, my children engaged on an entirely different level.

    Impacts are seen very quickly with these Opening Doors techniques: children across the class, whatever their perceived -˜ability', made superb progress. By placing the emphasis on the children and giving them access to high quality texts, and through questioning, the children's reading and writing blossomed.

    All this is surprisingly easy to implement too; it requires some changes to thinking, but feels natural and in tune with the natural state of discovery, learning and exploration.

    With learning as the central goal of teachers and children, this resource provides a powerful way to unlock the power of reading in our children and, with that, their creativity, command of English and their ability to fashion meaning.

    In the case of my class, we used a high quality text to open the lesson. The children were filled with wonder at the language and the spectacle of it. Once this was established, I launched what Bob calls -˜javelin questions': the most challenging questions first. In so doing, the learning and excitement for learning was immediately apparent. Then, without any further tasks, the children were given the chance to complete a piece of creative writing, with the text as the basis.

    The power of language was unlocked for my children. One child opened a short narrative piece with, -˜Once there was an alchemist: he gave up his family for riches,' containing a sinister foreshadowing of a story in which a wife unwittingly follows in the footsteps of her husband, burning cherished memories for wealth and power. Concluding the passage with, -˜Once there was an alchemist; she gave up his family for riches,' uses a powerful repetition that added gravitas to a tale, something unlocked by looking at high quality texts. Uses of metaphor occurred naturally (a burning, black demon crawled along the floor) and the internal rhythm of the tale was enhanced through exploring the rhythm of texts.

    Using the term -˜Excellent responses will-¦' for the expectations ensured that all children were able to aim for a goal which was set at the highest level, ensuring progress for all.

    This powerful resource gives teachers a highly impactful set of strategies for making a tangible difference to the children in their care. A school that embraced these strategies, and spent the time working them into the fabric of the school, would find itself and its children opening doors for many years to come.
  4. As a primary teacher in Wales, and consultant with schools from across the UK, I am delighted to write in praise of Bob Cox and his Opening Doors series.

    Bob Cox's Opening Doors series is a great way into classical literature that many primary teachers would feel uncomfortable in engaging with. This series has come at a time when teachers are struggling to make sense of the new curriculum (which refers to the need to teach heritage texts) in England and are faced with greater demands to stretch and challenge in Wales. With his easy-to-follow strategies and simple way of turning a tricky text into an exciting learning journey, I have seen schools across England and Wales rethinking their literacy teaching: reigniting passion for literacy in teachers, and engaging and enthusing learners. 

    Without doubt, this series of books provides teachers with a 'one-stop shop' on how to teach classical prose and poetry - even for the non-literacy specialist. From working in classrooms and with groups of learners I can say that the reaction to the resources is always extremely positive. For the busy teacher these handy-sized books are simply laid out, with top tips along the way. A CD-ROM provides all of the extracts and original illustrations (so teachers save time with preparation).The series also gives really useful background information with contextualises authors in the bigger picture, and gives links to further reading, interesting clips and films to watch, as well as support in differentiation. If that weren't enough, there is now the development of an online resource where teachers and pupils can view other children's work from the units. This is fantastic in that it provides real examples to consider, unpick and celebrate - as well as offering children a purpose for writing. 

    Some schools have used the series as part of their -˜More Able and Talented' programme - using units to really stretch their more able pupils. I have had the opportunity of running such sessions for schools in Bristol where ten-year-olds have gone on to read Wuthering Heights and The Woman in White in full as a result of the work - not the usual reading material for this age group! 

    Whether with a mixed-ability class, or a discrete group of learners, the books lead to inspiring learning opportunities. 

    In combination, the Opening Doors series provide 30 units of work for 6'¬-13 year olds. As a consultant I am now seeing whole schools taking on this resource as the basis of their literacy lessons - and, as a result, finding that children are able to go deeper in comprehension and writing skills than previous attainment showed. With easy-to-follow advice and ideas, as well as fantastic links to learning and paths to follow, extend and embed intertextual understandings, whole cross-curricular projects can be created. By way of example, I recently assisted with the preparation for Estyn inspection in a school in Pembrokeshire where the Year Five class took the Dracula unit as their inspiration. They wrapped the extract from Bram Stoker's gothic novel into their art, numeracy, design technology and geography subjects. Teacher, children and inspectors were all delighted by the high challenge and enjoyable work that was going on as a result of using the Opening Doors resource.

    To be cost-effective today, schools need to see outcomes from every penny they spend and with each book priced at '£12.99 the series is not going to break the bank. However, that is not where the real gains from this series lie. As previously mentioned, it is packed full of ideas and resources that can be used immediately in the classroom. Perhaps most importantly it will, and is going to, sustain high quality literacy by providing teachers with ongoing CPD by stealth. You see, what Bob Cox does is provide an easily transferable model for teaching quality texts: a model which can be repeated in new texts that the individual teacher feels appropriate to their setting. So, once teachers have devoured the units that have been written, they are then encouraged to create their own. Brilliant! Ongoing, high quality literacy is then embedded with teachers more confident in their subject knowledge and pedagogy.
  5. The resource is innovative in that it sits happily between a scheme (which is something often requested but not always the best way of addressing school/teacher development needs) and a resource that is too general or academic. Opening Doors provides concrete steps towards delivering quality reading and writing teaching sequences. It uses common structures across its sections so that familiarity and confidence may develop. It guides teachers towards a deeper understanding of how to open up deeper understanding of texts and how to profitably explore them. 

    Teachers that have used the books report enhanced confidence, a broader range of teaching strategies and a greater sense of enjoyment and achievement (this last point extends to their pupils too). A number of teachers have come back to tell me that they trialled an initial unit following my recommendation and that they went on to deliver more in quick succession - largely due to the written outcomes they saw from their students and also the enthusiasm that their pupils have shown towards the texts used and the approaches deployed. In one school the pupils begged for more. Children begging for further exploration of classic texts is not to be sniffed at. 

    In terms of cost-effectiveness, it really seems self-evident: very reasonably priced books that are instantly accessible (so little in the way of teacher-time cost too) and which offer high quality learning outcomes with readily available and high quality resources. This reinforces the sense that we are dealing with an ethical tool that puts good learning and timeless teaching at the heart of its offer.
  6. I have been fortunate enough to be able to engage with Bob Cox and his Opening Doors philosophy both as a class teacher and as a senior leader of education for Poole. The impact of his training and the excellent books has been profound. 

    In our own school we have had a real shift in our pedagogy, which has not been restricted to English lessons. The Opening Doors principles of planning from the top, using high quality texts to get high quality outcomes, access strategies replacing traditional models of differentiation, and -˜javelin tasks' to get engaged pupils straight into their work are all becoming key strands of our teaching and learning here at Talbot Primary School. 

    Teachers have been enthused and emboldened to seek out more challenging texts, because they have seen the results of working in this way. The children have universally embraced it too, which creates a virtuous circle; the levels of engagement have been very high and, because there is a real sense of sharing something special, the teachers are feeling proud of what is happening in their classrooms. 

    The quality of the books themselves has supported this process; they are full of great texts and well thought out learning journeys which teachers have found easy to make use of. There is enough scope for flexibility within them, so that they are not seen as a scheme of work or as a plan to be followed slavishly. Staff here have been inspired by the work in Bob's books and then sought out high quality heritage texts to create their own bespoke units, which are underpinned by the principles of Opening Doors.

    I have been spreading these messages and promoting Bob's work to colleagues across the borough, in my role as an SLE and I know other Poole SLEs have done the same. Only last week I delivered a workshop to a group of NQT+1s in Poole on increasing challenge and engagement, which was essentially promoting the Opening Doors approach to ensure all children aim high and are engaged with great quality resources. 

    We have seen some amazing reading and writing outcomes from children across Poole. It has really given them an energy, breadth of language and understanding that they did not have previously. The children are much more resilient and keen to engage with -˜harder' texts. Three of our children had pieces of writing which were inspired by an Opening Doors unit of work on Poe's Descent into The Maelstrom, published as examples of pupils' excellent work on the publishers' website. This only added to the enthusiasm for reading and writing!

    We are hoping to become an -˜Opening Doors School' in the very near future and cannot speak highly enough of the work that Bob has done. I would recommend Opening Doors to anyone interested in improving literacy in schools; it has been the single most impactful CPD that I have engaged with in my career to date.
  7. An outstanding resource. Opening Doors to Quality Writing has proven to be an invaluable resource to our Junior School community. We order few texts of this nature but this innovative resource has proven itself to be worth every penny not only in terms of financial expenditure but by the impact that it has had in the classrooms throughout our large and diverse school community. The very nature of this resource has impacted on all subject areas enabling teachers and students to plan, communicate ideas, raise questions and converse on a range of subjects from Dickens to poetic imagery in Rossetti's poetry. This resource is wide ranging and so much more than simply a collection of materials. Rather it informs an approach to learning which extends far beyond the teaching of literacy. It has embedded a unique approach to learning, enabling teachers to plan and extend thinking in a way which suits both the needs of the individual and the group.

    The use of classic texts in literature has inspired children of all abilities to access high quality text which has stimulated ideas, encouraged and given them the confidence to read and explore literature they may not otherwise have chosen to read. Once hooked, the children have generated their enthusiasm into producing written work of a high quality: displaying breath, depth and creative response in their writing and verbal response. These inclusive resources have facilitated learning at all levels enabling endless opportunities for subject mastery in literacy with the added bonus of equipping children with strong transferable skills which we see in evidence in other subjects ranging from science to philosophy. There is no space for limiting children's learning. Each separate suggested resource and idea extends the understanding of all children, providing limitless opportunity and space to introduce additional ideas and skills to extend the individual learner's experience. 

    We have been able to introduce Opening Doors to colleagues in at least five other local schools.

    Colleagues have been delighted with the response from staff and students, and impressed by the versatility of the resource.

    The use of this quality text has been an inspiration to our staff and children directly or indirectly, leading us to create our own tube map of reading material: -˜The Churchfields Reading Express', which features numerous classic texts and materials inspired by Opening Doors. We are beginning to notice a significant increase in the number of children reading quality classic texts for pleasure and a noticeable improvement in reading proficiency and comprehension skills.

    These excellent learning tools have enabled our staff to engage not only with the children but with each other to produce phenomenal work as evidenced in the high standards reached in assessment at the end of Key Stage Two. They have indeed opened the doors wide! Bob himself has also made himself available online to engage in an ongoing dialogue with both our staff and the children. We have been immensely proud of one of our students who, using the resources, has produced writing which is modelled in the book. It has been fantastic for staff to be able to enter into this thought-provoking dialogue and to extend their own knowledge and improve their planning as a result of this online conversation. In this respect the resource has initiated high quality learning opportunities for the teacher, student and author. We are confident that this will in turn lead to future high quality resources being produced that will continue to extend and enrich our learning. 

    Bob Cox brings his years of teaching and advisory work to this fabulous resource which has enriched and, in many ways, revolutionised our learning as a community. This fresh and rigorous approach continues to question and improve the way in which we teach and enriches the experience of all who are a part of our learning community. Without question these inclusive resources have had and will continue to have a profound effect on teaching and learning in our school. We have no hesitation whatever in recommending them to colleagues and eagerly await publication of the next book!
  8. The resource has revolutionised our English teaching; we previously used challenging texts to support our teaching - but the ideas and support within these books means that all children, without exception, are supported to access all the same texts. Indeed, some of our most inspiring writing has come at times from children with quite significant learning difficulties.

    The texts chosen are engaging, challenging and provide a number of directions available to the user. The access to the different vocabulary and text structures has been invaluable. The discussion is always meaningful and extensive with spontaneous high level language and thinking as the children have been so inspired by the texts. From the rich and varied discussion comes writing from the heart: original, inspiring, high level language. Writing that excites the writer and the reader. Our staff are often to be heard around school reading excerpts to other members of staff. Certainly doors have been opened: the release from the constraints of forced differentiation - so that we are able to offer the highest expectations to absolutely all of our pupils. The biggest accolade is that no one is compartmentalised according to expectations with limits, and as a consequence they have flown. The writing of our boys and previously-labelled lower-ability children has made the most defined progress: everybody believes they are successful writers.

    We are convinced the approach means that the children are completely unfazed by the more challenging SATs paper and this is borne out of our results. Also, the books they now choose to read independently are more varied and challenging and include classic literature. This is now a distinctive part of our school.

    The cost-effectiveness is apparent in the reduced resource load we are expected to prepare: no differentiation (although supported access) and savings in teacher-time looking for suitable materials. We love that!

    And, of course, the achievements of our children. A little money for a huge impact.
  9. Bob has not only helped us open the door for children to discover, appreciate and explore poetry and prose, but he has opened the door for our teachers: showing us what is possible when we teach without limits.

    Overton CE Primary has had the pleasure of working with Bob over the last few years. As soon as the head and deputy heard Bob talk about the search for excellence and how we can and should allow more room at the top for more children, we were convinced the teachers at our school would be both inspired and challenged.  

    We invited Bob to run a two-day course for local teachers and our English team to explore the innovative principles and structure of the series which effortlessly combines learning theory and practical resources. Teachers at the session all agreed the units of learning in the book were ready to use directly with the children but they also provided invaluable support, commentary and top tips as the journey unfolded. An open-ended approach of the series impacted on teachers' creativity, stimulating the design of their own innovative learning journeys. The impact on the children's writing was clear to all when the teachers shared and reflected on day two.  

    The success of this course inspired us to host, through our Teaching School Alliance, a whole-day course. The day was attended by 42 delegates from 17 Hampshire schools. Bob's two latest titles were now published and he was able to draw on units from the whole series, introducing both new and returning delegates to engaging strategies as the stimulus for excellent learning.  

    The Opening Doors series was at the core of Overton's English whole school development this autumn term. A key approach to the continued professional development of our staff has been Lesson Study with teachers collaboratively planning, delivering, analysing and adapting a series of lessons in order to refine and develop their practice. Bob's approach and principles were further examined in a staff meeting following the INSET day. Each year group identified a high quality text and planned a lesson which incorporated the structure advocated in the series: access strategies, text revealed, opening questions, and providing contexts for writing. Whilst the one teacher taught the planned lesson, the other teacher observed and noted the impact on the learning. This then informed the planning of the second lesson which was designed to build on and refine the key outcomes of the first lesson.  

    A further staff meeting was arranged to allow all the teachers to reflect on the impact of the approach from the Opening Doors series.  

    All year groups noted the impact on children's learning AND their own teaching:

    -˜All the children were engaged and desperate to find out what the event from the clues was -¦ Deeper links and thinking were evident through the use of Bob's access strategies.' (Year Five team)

    -˜The javelin questions challenged the children's thinking and led to some of the excellent responses we had hoped for ... There was clear impact on the writing with children producing quality and thoughtful responses.' (Year Two team)

    'The “Explore and Explain” learning pathway was successful; children of all attainment levels matched the -˜excellent responses will' and even went further at times.  The Taster Draft was of a much higher quality than usual. There was a 100% engagement and they enjoyed the challenge of the Dickens quotes.' (Year Six team)

    We are still at the early stages of embedding the approach into the teaching and learning of English but we now have strategies and a growing toolkit to help our teachers improve on their previous best in order to continue opening doors for children.
  10. The Opening Doors series of books has proved invaluable in our Year Two-Six classes. We have come across no other resource which provides easy access strategies in tandem with foolproof suggestions for how to extend more able learners - all based around quality, heritage texts which are so often only considered for secondary age teaching. The links to other texts, including film, plus suggestions for further pursuing themes online make the resource particularly relevant and innovative.

    Through the use of the texts and activity suggestions made throughout the series, our pupils have gained access to a wide range of brilliant and challenging prose and poetry. The frequent tips throughout each unit have allowed our teachers to anticipate possible misconceptions while at the same time keeping an eye out for those pupils who are ready for a further challenge and to move on to greater independence and achievement. In particular, the resource has enriched our weekly -˜Cerdd yr Wythnos' (poem of the week) routine and provided pupils with confidence to write poetry in a way which has astounded us. Indeed, poems by two pupils from our school were placed second and third in this year's National Poetry Day competition, and I have never before been able to challenge pupils to write a sonnet and have them produce such fantastic work.

    As a bank of high quality resources and teaching suggestions, Opening Doors has fed into our day-to-day planning of English: saving us hours of preparation time and giving our pupils an insight into the amazing world of literature around them. Pupils have been inspired to hunt out copies of Black Beauty and the novels of Jack London in their local library, and one child even commented that their mum had been reading a book which had featured -˜that High Flight poem - the one we used to base our own poems on'. As such, the resource has inspired pupils to hunt out quality literature for themselves, and even to discuss it with their families. It is fantastic to see this feeding into our pupils as budding readers.

    The Opening Doors series has enabled us to achieve many of our goals for pupils in English. In writing, the resource not only inspires fantastic, creative writing of poetry and prose, but there are also frequent suggestions for how to tie in elements of grammar, punctuation and spelling patterns - all within a natural context. Furthermore, the suggested questions which are given regarding the different texts help to foster close reading and an openness to different interpretations of texts. This has undoubtedly helped our pupils to improve their higher order reading skills. Additionally, the series builds in frequent suggestions for paired and group discussions: again, helping us greatly in delivering the oral aspect of the English curriculum.

    To summarise, I would highly recommend the Opening Doors series of books to any primary and lower-secondary teacher/school. It is an excellent resource which saves hours of teacher preparation time and genuinely fosters a love of quality literature - in both pupils and teachers!
  11. The fact Opening Doors promotes exceptional writing makes it stand apart from other resource books which tend to focus on reading and comprehension. The innovative hints and tips for each of the units help teachers access the texts and promote the deeper learning required in the new curriculum.  

    The impact on learning for pupils is shown through the creative and imaginative responses to each unit. High quality texts promote high quality writing and the use of rich, precise vocabulary encourages inventive and original responses. As a teacher it is so reassuring to know that I can reach for an inspired resource book which has everything I need to lead rich learning sessions.  Opening Doors has brought literature to life: literature which might have been thought of as boring by pupils today, and motivated them to write with expertise and accuracy. The simple illustrations also help pupils to access wider meanings of the texts.

    Opening Doors is cost-effective in many ways. With the requirements within the new curriculum for going deeper, this book encourages just that and promotes higher understanding in reading, comprehension and writing. Results so far reflect the higher expectation associated with this book as Opening Doors provides glass-ceiling teaching and learning ideas.  

    Having Opening Doors to hand means I do not need to spend time searching endlessly for texts to teach the new curricular expectations or time spent out on courses which do not fulfil the need of providing diverse texts, learning pathways, activities and resources in a cohesive way to engage children and improve standards of literacy. Everything I need is there.

    Thank you, Bob, for providing such a fantastic educational resource which has stretched learning for teachers and children alike.
  12. As a local authority we have been extremely lucky to have had Bob as a keynote speaker at our popular annual English Good Practice conference where he also led workshops for KS1, KS2 and KS3 based around his first book Opening Doors to Famous Poetry and Prose. As his inputs were so well received he came back for a whole day's training around his second book Opening Doors to Quality Writing: Ideas for writing inspired by great writers for ages 6 to 9.

    At the first conference we had invited a school, Lytchett Matravers Primary, to lead a workshop on the work they had already begun to develop in school around Bob's ideas in his first book. It wasn't only the teachers who came to lead the workshop - they brought some children along to talk about their work. They were so inspired by the literary heritage texts that they had been exposed to and were overwhelmed to meet Bob himself - it was an absolute pleasure to see how their attendance at the event impacted on both the other teachers and Bob himself. The quality of the work the children had produced was great and the teachers voiced how the level of attainment of the children had rapidly improved after introducing many of Bob's suggested techniques from the book. 

    The books provide so many case studies/examples for teachers, who have reported back on how they have helped them to save them time, thus having a positive impact on their work/life balance. Children have risen to the challenges that the literary heritage texts have provided them and produced work of a higher calibre. 

    With the expectations of the national curriculum being raised, Bob's series of books have really changed the game with regards to the teaching of both reading and writing. The texts that Bob has suggested have very much opened doors for both the learning of children and their teachers alike.
  13. We all can understand the challenge involved in getting all our students to produce quality writing, but when they do, it truly lifts the soul and you remember the reasons why you went into teaching in the first place. Some writing tasks will really inspire pupils, whereas others just fail to connect, making the teaching process feel like an onerous process. This can be down to various factors: uninspiring engagement with texts; pupil confidence; or even the teaching process itself, so when a resource comes along that helps produce quality writing, then many teachers will pounce on the opportunity to try new things with their pupils.

    This is where these extraordinary books by Bob Cox come into their own. Inspired from an eccentric mix of easily available classic books all the units within the books promise to make links from understanding the challenging texts to maximising the huge potential for quality writing. The 6-9 book explores texts such as: The Hippocrump by James Reeves, A Child's Thought by Robert Louis Stevenson, and Five Children and It by E. Nesbit. Whereas the 10-13 book features classic texts including: Mementos by Charlotte Bronte, Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving and The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The accompanying commentary with each text provides cues, tips and questions to explore the texts in an engaging and deep level, all cumulating in providing pupils their “wings to fly”, by developing their work into memorable creative writing.

    Each book contains a CD, providing extracts and illustrations to help begin opening doors in your classroom. These books should be explored by any teacher who supports pupils aged from 6-13 wanting to widen the books they examine during a school year whilst, at the same time, opening up a rich world of classic texts which could be lost to another generation.
  14.  In the two books the author uses outstanding literary texts to encourage, support and challenge children of all ability levels to broaden and extend their experience of literature. Evidence shows that for many children exposure to quality literature after the age of six is frequently limited. The books are suitable for teachers and parents/guardians as the author offers support and guidance on strategies to involve, enthuse and inspire children to improve understanding of texts. His use of talking partners, evidence circles and other strategies all enable the listener/ learner to identify key elements of a poem or writing and develop skills and confidence to apply what they have learnt in extension activities.  

    Bob Cox's experience and skills as a teacher who inspires and engages learners by the use of quality written material are key features of these two books. The wide range of teaching, delivery and learning strategies to promote knowledge, understanding and challenge for independent thinking are outstanding.  
  15. The titles of Bob Cox's new books form open invitations to teachers and pupils, encouraging from the outset a celebration of the relationship between reading and writing. The premise is that reading poetry and prose of high quality will enthuse and support pupils in producing strong writing of their own. 

    The texts chosen as inspiration represent a fresh and sometimes surprising range of poetry and prose. The lively range of quality material will encourage teachers to work with texts which are not necessarily commonplace in classrooms, yet which are accessible and motivating for pupils.

    The long list of schools thanked in the acknowledgements shows that Bob Cox has developed these strategies in classrooms, working directly alongside pupils and teachers. This results in suggested approaches which are accessible for children and which support meaningful, creative teaching and learning strategies.

    Each chapter takes a key text as its inspiration and builds up pupils' writing skills through carefully scaffolded activities which are clearly described. There are helpful -˜Beyond the Limit' sections which offer extension activities and suggestions for other follow up texts. 

    These books will form welcome additions to the classroom. Bob Cox talks about giving pupils -˜wings to fly, not drills to kill' and it is this sense of the fantastic possibilities that inspiring reading and writing can offer up to children which permeates the books. 

    For teachers who already have a wide repertoire of texts they use to support writing, these new titles are still likely to offer some surprises. For teachers who would like some guidance in working with less commonplace high quality literary texts, there are many inviting routes to explore here. The ideas are easy to access and could be swiftly implemented in the classroom. 
  16. Bob has not only opened the door to the amazing world of literary heritage texts but has opened my eyes to the wealth of opportunities and experiences that these wondrous texts can give to the next generation. The book leads teachers and their pupils on a journey to mastery of English through the study of the well-chosen, language-rich collection of poetry and prose. The -˜Bob says' hints and tips throughout the book give further support and guidance on how best to nurture the writer within all children, and give teachers -˜wings to fly' with well-crafted and developed units of works. The Opening Doors series is an exceptional tool in supporting the teaching of the 2014 national curriculum and inspiring learners to be masters of the English language - in my opinion it's a must for all teachers. Thank you Bob!
  17. Oh what a joy to see creative English retrieved from the avaricious maws of -˜literacy'! Bob Cox's Opening Doors series will come as a profound relief to teachers and pupils who are desperate for some sanctuary from the life-sapping study of fronted adverbials, and who are instead up for the challenge of matching their skills against the great writers of the past - and in the process finding new ways to write with elegance, imagination, precision and power. I'm especially pleased to see the author making a compelling, supportive and instructive case for teachers to write themselves, since the best teachers are not just masters of didactics, they are also enthusiastic practitioners of their chosen field. Science teachers should practise science, music teachers should make music, and English teachers should read and write English. These books inspire us to do just that.
  18. Mr Cox has done it again! Following on from Opening Doors to Famous Poetry and Prose are these new resources for younger learners. From the beautiful illustrations to the extraordinary range of texts, there is much to admire. I think that what busy teachers will particularly appreciate, though, are the clear, practical but inspiring activities suggested for each text.
  19. If you are not familiar with Bob Cox's earlier book, Opening Doors to Famous Poetry and Prose, I'd urge you to rectify this as soon as possible. This first volume set out Cox's stall with an elegant efficiency. Here are some great texts from our literary heritage that, handled well, our children can learn from and be inspired by. Here are some strategies for opening up these texts for everyone in your class. Here is how you attract and secure their interest. Here is how you spring from this curiosity into writing that might just surprise you and the children themselves. It's a book that revels in the best of what English teaching can offer and it is shaped by the hands of someone who clearly understands the opportunities (and limitations) of the classroom setting.

    Bob Cox offers a personable voice and shares his wisdom and insight as an equal - as a fellow teacher. A teacher who is just as concerned to develop professional confidence in his readers as he is to develop the skills of his readers' students. From the first page onwards, it is clear that you'll be in safe hands indeed.

    Opening Doors to Quality Writing offers 15 units that explore a diverse set of texts from our literary heritage. It includes works from Wilkie Collins, Thomas Hardy, Emily Brontë and even Franz Kafka. Eight units tackle prose and a further seven are based around poetry. Each unit starts with a suitably challenging question-led focus. 

    Access strategies serve to open up the texts for all learners and to secure their engagement. Cox's -˜radial questioning' model is, to my mind, especially useful and something that can be implemented - and, more importantly, adapted - quite readily. Once engagement is secured, Cox steers us through a range of strategies to deepen understanding. The journeys towards writing set out here truly celebrate the quirky and the adventurous as part of the craft. A commitment to very high quality is evident throughout - this is writing underpinned by a robust appreciation of what some of the best of literature has to offer.

    The book offers a tantalising vision for the place of great books in the KS2/KS3 classroom. It also offers a generous range of approaches with which to enhance our students' skills across the English spectrum: in reading, in writing, in speaking and in listening. It does so with its head and heart firmly in the right place: tightly focused on expanding the horizons and the capacity for joy in the written word for our young learners, but equally taking care to protect and preserve the joy of teaching that often comes from a great book and the right kinds of dialogue. I cannot recommend it highly - or frequently - enough.

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