Spoken language, vocabulary and the living work of art that is Earth

Published by The Literacy Company on

How are coral reefs and trees connected?

Sadly, the changes to our climate and increased global warming is affecting our oceans. As oceans become warmer, they become more acidic. This is spoiling the fragile relationship between coral polyps and the algae they use to survive. Algae, which gives coral its colour as well as the nutrients and oxygen to survive, is rejected when acidity increases; corals become bleached and will gradually die. How can trees help? Trees help to reverse global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide; therefore, limiting the damage to the corals in our ocean.

How did we learn this?

Books. Two wonderful children’s picture books: The Coral Kingdom by Laura Knowles and Jennie Webber, and The Wonder of Trees by Nicola Davies and Lorna Scobie. Both of these books are suitable for key stages one and two as they can be used with pupils in different ways.

How can we use these books in the classroom?

Not enough time is spent playing with words, enjoying how they sound when you put them together, squeezing them like playdough and stretching them like elastic bands. In this blog, activities for playing with the rich vocabulary in these two books will be suggested, and also how to turn word play into simple yet effective poetry.

The Coral Kingdom is written as a poem. It introduces coral reefs to pupils in KS1 upwards beautifully and scientifically. Read the book with your pupils: enjoy the pictures and the words. The lines do rhyme – notice the rhymes but don’t make finding them a main focus. Instead, enjoy the way the words in each line are put together and roll them around in your mouths: ‘Coral crimson, red and rose’, ‘a salty sunset flecked with gold’. Say in loud and quiet voices, repeat over and over, create actions to match the words. When you have finished reading the book with the children, collect all the words and phrases that you have enjoyed. You may wish to do this before reading and type up onto word cards.

After reading the book, clear the tables away, roll out lining paper or large sheets of sugar paper and use markers to play with writing the words. Children should record any words and phrases they like on the paper after the activities. These are some of the activities you might like to do with your pupils:

  • Using two sets of colour coded cards, give pupils either a noun or an adjective – pupils wander around, sticky high 5 then see if their pair of cards match up. How does it sound? What does the phrase mean? Do the words match? Have you made a noun phrase with alliteration? camouflaged creatures, thriving seahorses, living jewels, sunken ship, colossal reef
  • Investigate the animals in the pictures. Which verb is used to describe their movement? E.g. Turtles cruise in the water. How would they cruise? Think of a suitable adverb e.g. slowly. Create pairs of verbs and adverbs cruising slowly, patrolling cautiously, clinging tightly
  • Collect phrases from the book ‘sea stars clinging and mantas roam’. Change the order and word class of the words e.g. roaming mantas (‘roam’ is changed from verb to adjective) cruising turtles, gliding whales, emerging royal blue corals
  • Find adjectives which describe the nouns e.g. crimson coral. Use these to make apt similes coral as crimson as the night sky, coral as jade as a turtle’s shell, reefs as colossal as a skyscraper
  • Create noun phrases with alliteration using the rich vocabulary purple polyps, camouflaging creatures in crevices, jade jewels

Above all, encourage your pupils to enjoy the words, to say them out loud, to scribble them out until they find the right choice, to stretch and squash their noun phrases: to play. Spend time reading each other’s words and phrases and read aloud effective choices.

All of these words and phrases can be put together to create a simple free verse poem. You may wish for the children to write on photocopies of the book’s pages or water-coloured backgrounds.

The Wonder of Trees can be used in a very similar way. Suited more to a key stage 2 audience, it has detailed sections about trees in a range of environments with engaging pictures. Similar word play can be enjoyed through this book: ‘fire-surviving acacias’, ‘needle like leaves resisting the cold’, ‘big-bellied Probiscus monkeys on the Bornean mangroves’.


If you have enjoyed this blog and the environmental theme, look out for our new Pathways to Write units of working coming out in 2019-2020. These units will have a non-fiction and poetry outcome and will be linked through a conservation and environmental theme. All of our Pathways to Write units of work ensure clear progression and development in spoken language and vocabulary skills.


A final thought in the words of Sylvia A. Earle, oceanographer:

‘Not everyone can do everything, but everyone can do something to make a difference’.

This is the message we’re hoping to share with as many children as we can through a range of engaging pictures books.

By Allison Riley


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