Case Study, Primary

Case study 2

“Bottle Village” , by Chris Lawrence,

for primary and low attainment secondary pupils

“Bottle Village” was the first thematic approach learning project I used in Dominica.


How I decided on “Bottle Village”

The problems. I thought of picking one specific area of study from the National Curriculum for a theme, but knew I would be focusing on those teachers who had that prescribed theme for their particular pupil age range, and it would not be so appropriate for those teachers who taught other ages and who would have different prescribed themes.

Similarly I did not have a set of the same story books to give each of my teachers a copy.  The solution was to write my own simple story to use as an example for creating a thematic approach, but then I had to decide what my story would be about.

The stimulus for me. Dominica is an amazingly beautiful island, but don’t tell too many people! However, despite promotions and hard work from government officials and from individuals, there is still a litter problem and it is frequently made up of plastic and glass bottles!

Whilst collecting anything I could use for making teaching resources, I found I had accumulated a lot of empty, white, plastic, milk bottles. I invented a place called Bottle Village and wrote a simple story, set somewhere like Dominica, but where no one ever throws a bottle away, but recycles it….and the rest followed!


Using Bottle Village

At primary level, this project could be the basis for developing an integrated curriculum for children from 5 to 11 years adapted, of course according to age and ability. It would also be appropriate for some low ability students of older ages.


Click here for Bottle Village, The Story

The classroom needs

Wall space for Bottle Village Word Wall and space to display children’s work and to hang work cards in polythene pockets (see through plastic bags).

Space for table or box to display the model of Bottle Village as it grows and also to display puppets of the different characters in the story.

Recycled backing paper for displays, (in Dominica I used blue plastic banana bags) fabric scraps, cardboard cartons and card, magazine cut outs for work cards, plastic milk bottles.

Coloured pencils or crayons, scissors etc.

Cross Curricular Activity Ideas when using Bottle Village as a thematic source   

Language Arts

Speaking and Listening

Listening to the story. Drama acting out the story. Monologues from various characters in the story. Making the sounds that might back a radio play of the Bottle Village Story eg. cricket ball on bat, scrunching plastic bags for sea sounds, huffing and puffing to get the bottle up from the shore to the Village Square. Dialogues between two village characters.


The story…it should be easily accessible in the classroom maybe in the book corner for children to read alone or to each other. Bottle Village harts and labels round the room…children could work in twos moving round the room, one pointing to the words and the other reading. Reading the written work of other children and tidily writing a positive comment on it. Practicing the Bottle Village phonic story, the sound of the florist scolding the baby for putting a flower in her mouth (“a” sound), the florist pouring a drink for the baby from a bottle making the bottle sound (“b”) sound, the baby coughing (“c” sound) etc. See below for fuller version.


Cloze procedure work-cards (missing words in sentences cards). Here the children copy sentences about the Bottle Village story from cards where one word in each sentence is missing. Stage 1 the word would be missing from the end of each sentence, stage 2 the word would be missing from the middle of the sentence, stage 3 the word would be missing from the beginning of the sentence. Oh and those missing words should be easily accessible in a list at the top of the card. This encourages anticipating words when reading and encourages faster reading, comprehension and fluency..and it’s fun!

Question Cards with pictures relating to a Bottle Village theme and the set of cards including a wide range of readability to cater for all children in the group.

Imaginative writing. The story of the journey of the bottle.

Reported writing. A newspaper report of finding the bottle or of the Bottle Village ceremony at the Village Square.

Descriptive writing. How we found our bottle.

Letter writing. Thanks to the builder for his work in setting up the village sign.

How to writing. How to play beach cricket. How to make a bottle in a garden.

Poster design (calligraphy).  Announcing the new sign and bottle ceremony.

Character study. Fleur the florist. The electrician. The fisherman.

Cross Curricular Activities

Mathematics. Estimating and measuring the volume of different sized bottles.

Science. Growing a plant in a bottle or container.

Food Science. Recipe for a Bottle Village fish dish.

Geography. Map of Bottle Village. Map of the island

Social Studies. The part the different villagers played to help each other.

Art and Craft. Making the Bottle Village model. Puppet making. Painting pebbles.

Music and sounds. Sea songs. Making sounds for a radio play of the story.


Bottle Village’s Phonic story

I haven’t yet created all the pages to the book I made for children to read about Bottle Village’s Phonic story. I made up the story arranging the phonics in alphabetical order, though I firmly believe that when first  introducing phonics, this should not be done in this order. The easier sounds should come first to give children confidence. Many of the other sounds require quite distinct  auditory discrimination and young children often struggle with this especially with the very soft sounds.

And it must be soft sounds! Those harsh sounds of yesteryear do not blend and were used so the children at the back of a large class could hear. For example, if you sound out the letters c,a,t using harsh sounds, they blend to  make a word that sounds like Katter! If you use soft sounds, breath sounds, they easily blend to make “cat”!

So here is the story so far, at least the skeleton of it. Teachers can add flourishes to hold the children’s interest and to go at their pace. Then hand the home made book over to them to read and practice the sounds.


Fleur the florist sees her baby Flora putting a flower petal in her mouth. Fleur scolds the baby with the sound “a”. (Teachers facing the learner can put  a forefinger to the left side of the teacher’s face making the shape of the letter “a”)

The baby starts to cough, so Fleur gets a bottle of water and pours it into a cup. The moving water makes the sound “b,b,b”

The baby drinks and starts to cough “c,c,c”

The baby is distracted by a band passing Fleur’s shop. The drummer makes the sound “d,d,d”

Granny is snoozing and wakes from her sleep. She is a bit deaf and has heard a sound and wonders what she heard. She cups her ear with her hand and says “e”?

Fleur picks up a feather from her flower arranging supplies and gently blows it to show the baby. She makes the blowing sound “f”  The shape of the feather echoes the letter shape.

Fleur takes the baby for a walk. They see a frog and the frog goes “g”. The letter shape echoes the shape of the frog.

A dog rushes towards them and jumps and pants “h,h,h” The shape of the letter echoes the movement of the dog when he jumps!

I am not sure about the “i” sound! Let me know what you think!

The letter “j” is a slippy sound, so perhaps a child rushes by and his shoe makes that sound as he slips up running to  the football field.

The player kicks the ball “k” and the shape of the letter echoes this kicking movement.

They pass a pole and the wires to it are vibrating  “l”.

Fleur starts to hum as she walks. “m,m,m,”

They come to an ice cream seller and the  fridge  makes a sound “n,n,n,”

The baby has a lovely surprise. An ice cream “o”. (Make sure you make the sound for orange and not the sound for only).

They pass a fisherman. He takes down his pipe from a rack and the pipe echoes the “p” letter. He starts  smoking his pipe and it makes the sound “p”

They see a poster for the beauty queen pageant “qu” for queen says Fleur.

A man takes down a saw he has hanging on a nail. The saw shape echoes the letter “r”.  He saws some wood. “r,r,r,”

Fleur lifts her wrist to look at her watch. “t,t,t,”

Time to go home. Baby hugs the teddy and presses it’s tummy “u,u,u,”  The tummy shape echoes the letter shape!

There’s the baker’s van. The engine sounds “v,v,v,”

The wind starts to blow “w,w,w,”

At home  the baby kisses Granny with a kzz sound for “x,x,x,”

Baby yawns  “y,y,y”

Baby settles to sleep. All is quiet except for a fly flying over the cot in a zig zag pattern echoing the shape of the letter. “z”.

Please note, teachers can improve greatly on this story, but I hope this gives the idea! It works! I know it does! I have made the book, used it and have experienced children working in twos in a book corner reading it and making the sounds. They loved it, despite my purile illustrations. Maybe I should have got them to do those illustrations! Now why didn’t I think of that before?




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