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Pippa McGeoch

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A Spelling Seed for Alte Zachen: Old Things


KS: Upper KS2

Year Group: Year 5

Literary Theme: Lessons From History

Author(s): Ziggy Hanaor


This is a three-session Spelling Seed for the book Alte Zachen: Old Things by Ziggy Hanaor.  Below is the coverage from Appendix 1 of the National Curriculum 2014.

Spelling Seeds have been designed to complement Writing Roots by providing weekly, contextualised sequences of sessions for the teaching of spelling that include open-ended investigations and opportunities to practise and apply within meaningful and purposeful contexts, linked (where relevant) to other areas of the curriculum and a suggestion of how to extend the investigation into home learning.

There is a Spelling Seed session for every week of the associated Writing Root.


Word List Words

correspond, marvellous, occupy, sincere(ly), signature soldier

Spelling Rules and Patterns

Use of the hyphen

Words ending in –ant, –ance/–ancy

Words ending in –ent, –ence/–ency

A Writing Root is available for Alte Zachen: Old Things.

Writing Root Overview:


Character descriptions, flashbacks, diary entries in role, short autobiographies

Main Outcome:

Analytical essay on what we can learn from other generations


15 session, 3 weeks

Overview and Outcomes:

This is a three-week Writing Root for Alte Zachen: Old Things by Ziggy Hanaor in which children begin by making predictions about the story theme and events by exploring images and props from the story, such as a walking stick, shopping bag, the circular image of tattooed arms. As the text is shared, children write a character description, a flashback, a diary entry in role and a short autobiography. The sequence of learning culminates in the writing of an analytical essay on identity and what other generations can teach us. This works well as part of a curriculum topic about World War Two as children can use their knowledge about events to make deeper inferences about the experiences of others.

Synopsis of Text:

This graphic novel follows 11-year-old Benji and his elderly grandmother, Bubbe Rosa, as they traverse Brooklyn and Manhattan, gathering the ingredients for a Friday night dinner. Bubbe’s relationship with the city is complex – nothing is quite as she remembered it and she feels alienated and angry at the world around her. Benji, on the other hand, looks at the world, and his grandmother, with clear-eyed acceptance. 

As they wander the city, we catch glimpses of Bubbe’s childhood in Germany, her young adulthood in 1950s Brooklyn, and her relationships; first with a baker called Gershon, and later with successful Joe, Benji’s grandfather. Gradually we piece together snippets of Bubbe’s life, gaining an insight to some of the things that have formed her cantankerous personality.

The journey culminates on the Lower East Side in a moving reunion between Rosa and Gershon, her first love. As the sun sets, Benji and his Bubbe walk home over the Williamsburg Bridge to make dinner.

This is a powerful, affecting and deceptively simple story of Jewish identity, of generational divides, of the surmountability of difference and of a restless city and its inhabitants.

Text rationale:

This unique graphic novel is a multigenerational tale of division, identity and the impacts of history on the present. References to Jewish culture and language are woven throughout as the story explores the relationship between grandmother and grandson and the complex differences in outlook that exist between the two.  Benjamin Phillips’ atmospheric illustrations and clever use of colour provide wordless moments of profound storytelling that children can interpret on their own. There is also a glossary of Yiddish terms to support language development.

Links and themes:

Jewish, generations, change, acceptance, multigenerational relationships, migration, identity, division, family connection

Date written: December 2022

View Alte Zachen: Old Things Writing Root

Literary Leaves within the same Literary Theme

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