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The Lonely Island

a hypertext story written by Hellen Leonard's Year 5/6 Class, Porchester Junior School, Nottingham, June and July 2003.

Based on Michael Morpurgo's book "Kensuke's Kingdom".

Classroom case study

Helen Whitehead's comments (Writer/Editor/Facilitator)

The class were studying Michael Morpurgo's book as part of their transition from Primary to Secondary School following the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire LEAs' guidelines.

There are several ways to use this book in class. The pupils had already looked at description, and were preparing a drama based on the book.

In this workshop the children wrote their own version of a shipwreck island story with a beginning from each of them leading into a central narrative common to all, followed by writing their endings each from their own point of view. The hypertext is shaped like an hourglass with 19 beginnings, 3 middle sections, and 16 endings. You can read every section of the story at once or take a random beginning and ending which will give a different story each time.

Ms Leonard worked with the children so that each of them could produce a beginning describing in their own words how they reached the island. They were encouraged to think of as many alternative methods as possible for reaching an island and each one is different!

Helen Whitehead came into the class for a morning, with the following aims:

To decide collaboratively on a title for the work.

  • To have the children create images for their pages - looking at what types of images were suitable for the web (bright and discreet figures rather than landscapes with lots of sea and sky, and avoiding too much white space within the picture). They also chose the colours for their pages based on their images.
  • To role-play the middle of the story that all 19 beginnings would lead into a central event. We did this using a flip chart.
  • To write co-ordinated endings. The children split into groups and each decided on a way to get off the island.
  • The children's characters worked together to get off the island, and after the workshop they wrote the ends of their stories individually under their teacher's guidance.


  1. The flip chart method worked well - but this was a small class of only 17 children on the day. We ensured every child took part, whatever their level of ability. Helen Whitehead and Hellen Leonard made suggestions regarding choice of words to make the story better, e.g., to "show not tell": not just "Heather fell into a big hole" but using more descriptive words to describe what happened and how she felt.
  2. The idea of creating a hypertext story was easily understood by the children and they were inspired by the visual elements and random links.
  3. The method of having the teacher prepare for the workshop in advance and have writing to work with meant that no time was wasted. The children submitted their own work via the Internet.

*Potential improvements*

  1. This was a small well-behaved class. It would be easy in a bigger group for the flipchart role- play to be too chaotic. In that case it might be best to break into two groups and create two central role plays, or to have the children work in groups of five or six each creating a mini adventure on the island.
  2. Because it was the end of term not all the children were available for the whole project (hence 19 beginnings, 17 working on the middle, and 16 endings). We don't feel this spoils the reader's enjoyment of the result, however.
  3. Because the beginning was written mostly in first person, and the middle was in third person via the role play, some of the endings were in first and some in third person, which leads to a mixture of styles. It might be best to tell the children from the start to write in third person.
  4. This project required a good deal of work on the part of a web builder. Kids on the Net is developing templates to make such work possible without needing to know HTML. See, e.g. Adventure Island, a tool to create an island that the visitor can explore, and Planet of Dreams, a template for a branching story.

Comments from Hellen Leonard, class teacher

My class of Year 5/6 children studied the book Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo as part of our transition work. With no exception all children thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and had to be repeatedly told to close the book and put it down at the end of lessons! As my Performance Management task was ICT based and my headteacher had worked with Helen Whitehead before, he suggested working with her would be a great opportunity for the children to publish their work on the internet. As I strive to ensure the curriculum is interesting and appealing to all children, I jumped at this opportunity.

After having chatted to Helen about the main ideas in the book, both of us becoming excited with this project, we roughed out a plan. My children would write the beginnings of how they ended up on this island, Helen would work with us to write the middle of when they all met up and we would work on our endings of how we got off the island back in the classroom. So I studied the book up to chapter six, following the transition work, so that my children would understand how Michael became stranded on the island and his initial relationship with Kensuke through brief their meetings. My children then wrote their beginnings, ways they might arrive at an island. We used our imagination to pool ideas and then used the best suggestions, each child choosing an idea for themselves and we sent these to Helen through the kotn web site.

Helen then came into school for a morning. The first session we spent finding our way around the kotn web site and drawing pictures to illustrate the children's writing. The second session we worked as a class sharing dramatic ideas as to what may happen once the children meet up. Getting into small groups the children decided how they would leave the island and try to refer back to their beginning to keep their story connected. This worked well as Helen made notes throughout whilst the children came up with the ideas. By the end of the morning we had the middle written in note form that Helen would go away and write up and the endings in rough. Next day my children wrote their endings individually bearing in mind their beginnings and we sent these to Helen via the kotn create site.

The children got a lot out of this project because they could see a definite result, we had someone extremely knowledgeable to work with and they are now published authors! Personally, it brought the story (Kensuke's Kingdom)to life more because the children were involved in purposeful non-linear writing and I think their experiences are much richer for it. This work is possible without Helen coming into school as teachers could manage the work in the classroom through drama but, not possible without her expertise on the web site. I thoroughly enjoyed working with her and my children too!

The Lonely Island

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