Created: 28th November, 2019

As an NQT, my goal was to be part of outstanding, high-quality CPD opportunities to begin my career with the very best foundations. The senior leaders at my school told me about the Power of Pictures training and, to say the very least – I am delighted to say I jumped at the chance to get involved!

I was part of the Newcastle cohort of teachers – and grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Working alongside the immensely talented Tim Hopgood, I began my journey by gaining a thorough insight into the world of picture books – and how they can be used effectively in the curriculum. At the time, the SLT in my school were all devoted to the Power of Reading – but this new approach was fresh to everyone. Unfortunately, not everyone had quite such an open mind – when I talked to children in my class, they all seemed fixed on the idea that “picture books are for babies or children that can’t read.”

The project provided a range of excellent teaching ideas and suggestions – each supported by detailed planning that I could deliver in school. The first sequence was based around Tim’s book Here Comes Frankie and analysed features of this text. We started by exploring the vocabulary involved in the creation of picture books – and being able to discuss their structure. Ultimately, this sequence wasn’t just a revelation for me – but also for my children. The opportunity to explore this high-quality text in such detail led to focussed discussions and incredible writing outcomes. Using pictures to fuel our English processing helped all children engage with the learning – and the idea that “anyone can read a picture” removed barriers like reading and spelling ability – a concept supported by Ed Vere in his award-winning book Banana.

As well as working with this incredible, engaging planning, my class were given a chance to travel to Seven Stories in Newcastle to take part in an unforgettable author session with Tim – which will remain as one of my favourite days teaching for a very long time. The children were awe-struck that a real, famous author wasn’t just taking the time to work with them – but was also deeply interested in everything they were doing. Tim and the class shared their expertise – and the day gave a unique chance to truly live and breathe this incredible learning.

With the excitement of their author day fresh in their minds – the second stage of the project saw the children following a second teaching plan – with a chance to create their very own picture book. Of course, this meant using their new learning and understanding to put together personalised, individual stories – and their creativity really came to life when they were given the freedom to do something completely unique. The sequence allowed children of all abilities to thrive. More able writers could really flourish, and disengaged children were able to turn a new leaf, breaking through unspoken barriers that had previously confined their learning. 

The CLPE project leaders, Charlotte Hacking and Jonathan Rodgers, with the support of Tim Hopgood, provided sustained encouragement for the duration of the project – both in person and on social media. The opportunity for instant feedback and constructive comments provided motivation for both the children and myself. Every like, comment, and retweet was a splash of fuel on their fire and pushed them to try harder every day. A true love of English was seen to grow in every child in my classroom.




Vinny Dawson is a Year 5 teacher at Harrow Gate Primary Academy in Stockton on Tees. Vinny took part in the Power of Pictures research programme in 2018-19. He talks about his experience on the programme, and how this impacted children across his school. 

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