Having just watched Lifelines, I can’t quite believe I used to moan about doing my paper round. The early mornings, silly weather and ridiculous pay don’t seem all that bad when compared to what Joe – a powder monkey aboard HMS Victory – had to endure. Having regularly risked falling into the sea or getting blown up, it’s fair to say he probably had one or two more genuine complaints.

Lifelines is an imaginative new resource from Rising Stars that uses nine filmic shorts to develop digital literacy skills and stimulate creative writing. The shorts tell the stories of young people from across the world – living in the past and present – and are shown from the child’s perspective. It is pitched for Y6 and beyond, although you could easily adapt it for Y3-5 without too much trouble.

The mini-autobiographies are 5-7 minutes long and can be played as a whole or in short chapters. Each story can be viewed with text, speech and music turned on or off.

There are plenty of opportunities for reading, writing, speaking and listening as Lifelines encourages everyone to immerse themselves in the characters and settings. These include life on the ice, life as a chimney sweep, life in the Hebrides, life in techno-Tokyo, life in Tornado Alley, life on a slave ship, life in the Blitz, and life on the Amazon. 

The teacher’s book is a goldmine of ideas and information, although you won’t find any lesson plans. The book recommends a sequence of Present it, Discuss it, Dramatise it, Create it and Write it. This involves creating a moment at the start of each lesson to capture children’s attention, developing this by showing the film, and following up with a range of creative techniques to get children totally immersed in the story.

The suggestions on offer are sound enough and should kick-start a number of creative ideas that can be adapted for your class. There is a planning grid included with learning objectives linked to literacy for Y6 and KS3, subject links, APP assessment criteria and SEAL and PLTS goals. Supporting resources for each autobiography are also included. 

The resource comes with a very useful asset bank of pictures, text and sound files, which help children really go to town and create their own multi-modal stories. The possibilities here are delicious. You can make a film using Microsoft’s Photo Story 3, use open source cross-platform software Audacity to make radio broadcasts, or create a comic strip using the award-winning Comic Life. (Links to free downloads for all of these programmes are included within Lifelines.)

Creating their own digital texts allows children to unleash their creativity and use Lifelines as their source of inspiration. However, make sure to plan for this as you will need plenty of time to accommodate everyone’s cinematic ambitions.

Our Verdict

oodles of inspiration

Lifelines is a clever resource with lots of potential. There are talking points galore when viewing the films that allow for rich discussion, dramatisation, and oodles of inspiration for creative writing – not to mention plenty of opportunities for digital literacy to grow and shine.

I think some of the photocopiables might have been more inspiring and better structured, but Lifelines is a different and well-crafted resource that will give your literacy and ICT lessons a real blast of fresh air. It is ambitious, challenging and creative to the core, although the lack of lesson plans won’t be to everyone’s liking.

Pie Corbett