Words and Pictures

Up in the Attic

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Up in the Attic(from Words and Pictures)
Up in the Attic title.jpg
BBC Schools TV
Company:BBC
First run:
20th April
1970

- 17th June 1970

Repeated until
23rd June
1972

(3 school years)
[more][less]
Episodes:16 episodes
Duration:15 minutes
Subject:English: Language, Reading
Audience:Age 5-7
Language:In English
Browse programme details
18 images from this programme

Contents

In the very first experimental Words and Pictures programmes, shown in summer 1970, presenter Gabriel Woolf is exploring an old house when a magic lamp produces an attic full of toys. Each week he meets a different set of toys, who have all sorts of phonic-based adventures.

Each week's story used a different type of puppetry - string puppets, glove puppets & shadow puppets. After the story there was another episode later in the week in which Gabriel Woolf and the puppets learned about reading and phonics.

These first programmes most clearly show the links between Words and Pictures and Look and Read as part of "the continuing contribution (of the BBC) to children's learning to read"[1]. Both series were based on an interesting story for children to follow, including a pamphlet with a simplified version of the story, and extra teaching content to help with typical areas of reading difficulty. Words and Pictures extended this format for slightly young children, by splitting apart the stories ("Programme A") and the teaching content ("Programme B") into separate programmes shown on different days of the week so teachers had chance to do some follow-up work with children in the classroom in between.

Programme A: The Stories

The story begins with the presenter, Gabriel Woolf, looking over an old house which is up for sale. He finds a large attic, empty except for an old-fashioned lamp in the middle of the floor. When he rubs the lamp, wishing that something wonderful would happen, the attic is filled with furniture and toys.

Each week he examines a different set of toys and rubs the lamp wishing to find out about them. This brings the toys to life and they tell a story.

Although each episode is about a different set of toys and different styles of puppets (so that teachers could choose to watch only some of the episodes if they wished, without messing up a serialised story) the different stories do overlap. For example the commander of the toy fort appears in several of the stories before we meet him in episode 6 and discover that he is named General George. The final episode introduces some new characters but it is mainly about all of the toys from earlier coming together when they have to leave the attic.


Num Title Writer 1st Broadcast
1. The Animals in the Ark by John Tully 20 Apr 1970
 
Up in the Attic Mr Mrs Noah.jpg

The first toys that Gabriel Woolf spots in the attic are a Noah's Ark set, with a large boat and two wooden dolls. He wishes to find out more about them, and Mr & Mrs Noah spring to life.

All the toy animals come into the ark, two by two, and they are sorted into cabins alphabetically by the Noahs. Each cabin houses animals whose names start with the same letter, such as bears, badgers and bees.

But there are disputes. The rabbits complain about the rhinoceros and ask to be moved, so Mrs Noah calls them "bunny rabbits" and puts them in the 'b' cabin. The kangaroos complain that Mr Noah has put them in the wrong cabin, with the cats, camels and cows. Mr Noah can't see the problem but Mrs Noah moves to them to the correct cabin, where they are almost alone.

  • Phonics: Initial consonants. All the animals were grouped according to their initial consonant letters, and understanding the difference between similar letters was crucial to the plot of the story. In the episode, the presenter repeatedly asks viewers if they see why Mrs Noah grouped certain animals together, and what was wrong with Mr Noah's idea of grouping cats and kangaroos.
  • I believe this story was told using string puppets.
2. Pug's Favourite Things by Glynn Christian 27 Apr 1970
 
Up in the Attic 71 p8 Pug.jpg

The presenter finds a dolls' house where five dolls live:

  • Pam, a floppy rag doll
  • Meg, a cross-looking wooden peg doll
  • Jim, a tin can man
  • Tog, a dog with ruff (round his neck)
  • Pug, a clown with a magic flying umbrella

All of the dolls keep a box of their favourite things, for instance Pam's box contains a bat, a cap, a mat, a tap and a hat.

Pug returns to the dolls' house and finds that his favourite things have been stolen. He suspects the other dolls and tried to investigate. First he makes such a noise that they all throw things at him, but they won't throw any favourite things.

Next he fetches a toy truck with a box on the back, which he says is an un-favourite things box. The dolls come to have a look and he traps them inside.

Pug goes inside the house and saws all the favourite things boxes in half to look inside. He discovers one of his favourite things in each of the other toys' boxes, and throws everything else outside.

Pug returns to his own room while the others escape and try to identify their own favourite things from the big mess of objects outside the house.

  • Phonics: short vowels. Each toy represents one of the vowels a, e, i, o and u, and their favourite things all contain the shorts sound of their vowel. When Pug is searching the house he has to identify which of the objects in each box is the odd one out and contains his sound instead of the other dolls' sounds. At the end of the story viewers are asked to help the dolls identify the objects with the correct vowel sounds.
  • This story was told using glove puppets[2].
3. The Magic Pin by Gabriel Woolf 4 May 1970
 
Up in the Attic 70 p2 house.jpg

Next the presenter finds a jigsaw puzzle of a cottage and a garden. He completes the jigsaw to show a girl called Polly and a hedgehog in the garden. Next to the puzzle is a balloon with a face on it and he starts to blow it up but voices from the jigsaw tell him to stop because it is a wicked balloon.

The toys tell their story. The hedgehog sleeps in a hut in Polly's garden. One day he found a record in the rubbish and when they played it back it told them that "clues upon the wall" would help them find a magic pin.

The balloon also heard the gramophone and wants the pin, to pop balloons he doesn't like. He used a spell to break the wall in Polly's cottage, which might have been the one with the clues.

Polly and the hedgehog put the wall back together and found the words 'hut', 'tin' and 'magnet'. They rushed out to the little hut, where they found a magnet in a tin. Polly waved this across the hedgehog's prickly back and the magic pin popped out.

Up in the Attic 71 p18 Polly hedgehog.jpg

The wicked balloon reappeared, bigger than ever, and demanded the pin. Polly waved the magic pin and said "oh I wish you'd get small again and go away." The balloon instantly shrank and ran away. Polly wished for a nice hut for the hedgehog to live in and a picnic and new hats for everybody.

That was the end of the story, but Polly still had the magic pin. Gabriel Woolf realises that the reason the two toys are laughing at him is that he is wearing a new hat too.

  • Phonics: word building. When the wall of Polly's cottage was knocked down, she and the hedgehog built it back up by piecing together different letters to make words like a jigsaw, then blending them and reading the whole words back.
  • I believe this story was told using string puppets.
4. Lazybones by Glynn Christian 11 May 1970
 
Up in the Attic Lazybones 2.jpg

Gabriel Woolf finds a skeleton sleeping on a rocking horse. He rubs the lamp and the skeleton wakes up to tell his story.

The skeleton's name was Bones and he was the busiest person in the attic. Every day he ran around waking up all the toys and doing odd jobs for them in his workshop. He did everything in a hurry and was always very busy.

But then one day he fell into the horn of the old gramophone and couldn't get out until after dawn the next day. He found that everybody was already awake and had done their own odd jobs. They all say he won't need to do his jobs anymore, but they will miss him if he stops coming round.

Bones threw away his watch and said that suddenly no one wanted him. For a while he continued to visit the toys because they said they missed him. But he began to enjoy doing nothing and eventually asked simply to be left alone. If anybody spoke to him he would rattle his bones at them and make a terrible noise.

The toys all gave him a new name, Lazybones, and they never heard him speak or do anything again - but they still miss him if he isn't there.

  • Phonics: lazy letters. Unlike the previous stories where the toys had to undertake phonic work as part of the plot, this one was allegorical. Lazybones represented the 'lazy letters' in words, such as doubled consonants, and the dolls liked having him around even though he was 'lazy', because such letters are needed for spelling. There were a good deal of words with double consonants in the story, like dolls, rattle and tomorrow. There were also some words with 'lazy' initial consonants, such as knock and wriggle.
  • This story was told using string puppets.
5. The Boy Without a Name by Glynn Christian 18 May 1970
 
Up in the Attic 71 p26 Boy Without a Name.jpg

The presenter comes across some shadow puppets in the attic, and with the aid of the lamp to produce a screen and a light, he is shown a story.

Once upon a time in a land far away" there was a boy who would spy on people and then call them names, like "Mrs Fat Face" and "Bone Man". One day he crept up to a magician's house and shouted "Mad Magician!". But the magician caught him and cast a spell so that the boy could not remember his own name.

The boy runs home but his mother does not recognise him and send him away. He first meets a cat, who suggests that the boy doesn't need one name, he could use lots of names as the cat does. The cat takes him to the market, where various traders call him Jade or Jude, but they offer nothing to the boy but "a good kick in the pants." The cat gives up and tells the boy to "scat, shoo!"

At the edge of a cliff on a cold mountain the boy meets a huge bird with a sharp beak. He tells the boy that birds do not need names, and carries him high up into the sky. The bird lets go when he thinks the boy will be able to fly on his own, but of course he can't and he plummets to the ground.

He lands at the feet of an army commander, who tells him that soliders don't need names as they have numbers. The boy stands in line to have his number called, but it takes so long that he falls asleep during the roll call and the soldiers march off to battle without him. In his sleep, a voice tells the boy that he would remember his name if he went home.

He runs the very long journey home and goes to see the magician, where he tells his story. The magician says that the boy now sees how important it is to be called by your proper name. He offers to lift the spell if the boy agrees to be his slave and stay exactly two paces from him at all times. The boy agrees.

When they get out into the lane the boy can suddenly remember his name - Kade. His mother sees him and calls him to come home, but he explains that he is now the magician's slave and walks away. The boy happily shouts out his name and follows the magician, exactly two paces behind him.

  • Phonics: magic 'e'. This is another allegorical story. Although it contained a lot of "magic 'e'" words, including all the names, it's main purpose was to show the boy saying his name exactly two paces behind the magician, to represent a vowel "saying its name" exactly two places behind a magic 'e'.
  • This story was told using shadow puppets.
6. The Prince and the Spy by Gabriel Woolf 1 Jun 1970
 
Up in the Attic General George.jpg

A happy tale of bombings, beheadings and political tension.

The presenter finds a toy castle. He hears a loud bang and sees that lots of the towers are broken. General George, the commander, explains that an enemy spy comes into the castle every week and plants a bomb. The spy looks exactly like Prince Cedric, and if the General stopped the real prince by mistake the Prince would slice off his head.

The presenter thinks the spy and the Prince might speak differently, but neither will say anything to the General.

General George follows the Prince and discovers that he buys ice creams from a stall in the woods. The General takes over the stand. One of the men comes up to the stall and asks for an ice cream, then leaves. An identical man then comes up and asks for an "ike cream". He calls himself "Prink Kedrik" and the General realises he has found the spy.

Later the General asks each man to read out a note as they cross the drawbridge. The Prince reads out "Mice are nice but ices are nicer" and is allowed to pass. Then the spy comes along and pronounces all the words with hard 'c's. The spy is arrested and placed in a cell in the cellar.

  • Phonics: inconsistent consonants. The spy couldn't pronounce soft 'c's or 'g's, and viewers realised his mistakes by listening to what he was saying. So if children are unsure of a pronunciation they should try saying a word aloud both ways and listen to which one sounds best.
  • This story was told using string puppets.
7. The Story of Moka by Glynn Christian 8 Jun 1970
 
Up in the Attic 71 p31 Moka Princess.jpg

The presenter finds a dull-looking book about a fat, ugly & greedy princess from South America. But he rubs the lamp and has the book tell its story.

The princess had a dream about eating a cake with a flavour different from anything she had tasted before. She orders the cook, a man called Moka, to find the flavour. He tries all the flavours he can think of but fails, and the King gives him four days to succeed or be killed.

The Royal Magician gives Moka a bag of magic powder which might help him. Moka has a dream about finding a strange berry bush on top of a mountain. He wishes he could take it back to the castle, and when he wakes up he finds the berry in his hand. The magic powder makes the berry - a coffee bean - grow into a bush all at once and Moka bakes a coffee cake for the princess, but the flavour is not right.

Moka has another dream about a tree with pods hanging over a river. Again he wishes he could take this back to the castle, and wakes up with a pod in his hand. The magic powder makes the cocoa pod grow into a tree and Moka bakes a chocolate cake, but it is still not right for the princess.

The King says that Moka will be put to death tomorrow, and the cook goes to clean his kitchen. He has an idea as he is wiping off the two mixing bowls, and quickly bakes a new cake with coffee and chocolate mixed together. This is the flavour the princess was looking for.

The King grants Moka two wishes. He wishes to be free from the kitchens, and to have the new flavour named after him forever.

  • Phonics: consonant blends and digraphs The story was full of words such as 'brown', 'dream' and 'chocolate', and also told a story about how useful blending can be. Children were encouraged to blend consonants together just as Moka blended the flavours.
  • Incidentally the teacher's notes explained that the programme deliberately avoided the more complex spelling of 'mocha' (pronounced 'moka') which would have been far too confusing in a programme about the 'ch' digraph.
  • In all repeats of these programmes, The Story of Moka was shown before The Prince and the Spy, so that consonant blends were introduced before the hard & soft consonants.
  • I believe this story was told using real children wearing masks.


8. Going, Going... by John Tully 15 Jun 1970
 
Up in the Attic 71 p46 Ing Ed.jpg

The big house, in whose attic all the adventures have taken place, has been sold. The presenter tells all the dolls what has happened, and they want to know what will become of them.

Polly says that they must go away and she telephones Mr Ing, the one who gets you going. Ing appears in the attic immediately, he is a spinning top who never stops moving fast. Ing asks the toys if they are ready to move, but they all have things to do first. They get on with their packing, sorting, mending, planting and resting while Ing whizzes about helping them.

At last everybody is ready and Mr Ing telephones his friend Ed. Ed arrives as Ing whizzes off, and checks that everything is packed, sorted, mended, planted and rested. Everything seems to be ready, but there are a series of disasters. The hedgehog eats all the seed so Polly has to start planting again, the toy truck spills its boxes all over the floor so the dolls have to start packing again, Lazybones must start resting again, and so on. It seems as if the dolls will never get away.

  • Phonics: word endings Obviously Mr Ing helped with doing the -ing words and Ed came along to check that all the -ed words were done. The whole story was about the difference between packing and packed, sorting and sorted etc.
  • I believe this story was told using string puppets.

The Final 'Episode'

There was one further chapter printed at the end of the teacher's notes and described as "the final episode of the story". It did not appear in the pupils' pamphlets or any episode listings, so it might not have been dramatised on TV at all and just appeared for teachers to read out to the class after the series had ended. If anybody can remember seeing this story on TV, please get in touch by email or on the forum.


   Somewhere, Anywhere by John Tully  
 

The dolls are finally starting their journey. Mr Ing is manning the ticket office at the station (in the attic), and asks the toys where they would like to go. Nobody had thought about that.

Polly asks for "nowhere," but Ing can't find that on his list of destinations. She says "anywhere will do," but he says she will have to think of somewhere. "Alright, give us tickets to somewhere," says Polly.

Ing is becoming impatient and says that "somewhere could mean everywhere." The dolls complain that he doesn't know what he's talking about.

Ing asks the toys where they all came from before they were in the attic. They say it must have been somewhere, but it might have been anywhere. Mr Ing finally gives up and whizzes off, leaving the toys alone.

The presenter steps in with the magic lamp and explains that it is the lamp which brought them all together in the first place. He offers to rub it again and see what happens. The toys agree and one by one all the toys disappear until the attic is bare again.

Gabriel Woolf walks down the stairs and leaves the house, taking the lamp with him.

Programme B: Reading Practice

Gabriel Woolf presenting

These episodes were shown later in the week, after the story episodes had been broadcast. Each one emphasised the phonic teaching from the story episode and featured Gabriel Woolf with the puppets from the week's story.

For instance following The Magic Pin, Polly once again tried to build up the wall of her cottage by piecing words together with letters on jigsaw pieces, then blending them together and reading the word. And the Prince and the spy both appeared in the Programme B following their story to pronounce words with insonsistent consonants in different ways.

Reaction to the series

The series, and in particular the story programmes, attracted "unstinted and almost universal praise" from viewing teachers and children.

It was designed for use with carefully selected groups of children from top infants and 1st year juniors classes (6 to 8 year olds), who were able to read, but not as well as they should be able to. In practice it was usually used with whole classes of children watching at once, including those who could not read at all. One Education Officer reported on a "near riot" which took place at a school when only some of the children were allowed to watch the series.

It was also found to be particularly useful for classes of partially or severely deaf children, and children with learning difficulties - an article in the journal Teaching and Training described in great detail the use made of the series in one school for such children, and concluded that it was "of invaluable help to the group."[3]

In all cases it was the series' aim to enthuse children that was most successful - to enthrall them with exciting stories whilst at the same time teaching them the vocabulary they would need to talk and write about the programmes, and helping them with the trickier phonic points of reading and writing.

There were some complaints that some of the stories were too complicated, such as the quite convoluted Boy Without a Name, and The Prince and the Spy where children were relied on to notice the difference between hard and soft pronunciations of 'c' and 'g', they often missed the point.

Complaints were also received by the BBC about the word 'lazy', used in the Lazybones episode to describe one letter in a pair of double consonants. The producer replied with reference to the Pronouncing Dictionary by Daniel Jones. Teachers in some regions enquired about the used of the word 'pot' in Pug's Favourite Things, for the item known locally as a 'pan'. There were also some questions raised about the background music during the programmes, which was distracting to some.

Children wrote in to query the number of humps of dromedaries and camels as portrayed in the programmes, and one child wrote to complain that cats should not be placed with canaries in The Animals in the Ark because "cats eat canaries." The producer "(undertook) in correspondence that the cats for the period of the voyage had promised to do no such thing."[3]

Gabriel Woolf's active role in all the stories was welcomed, as he became "an endearing figure for most". Particularly praised was the fact that the presenter was a man, a welcome feature in schools with mostly female teachers.

Many teachers requested more programmes of the same type, to delve into even more phonic issues. But the biggest problem encountered by teachers had been keeping pace with the weekly programmes, in the days before common use of recording equipment in schools, and doing enough follow-up work to make them worthwhile. There were calls for the programmes to be transmitted fortnightly to allow suitable time. All of these points were considered when the next Words and Pictures programmes, telling the story of Sam on Boffs' Island, were made.

Credits

Presented by Gabriel Woolf
Puppet voices Mollie Maureen
Charles Collingwood
Written by John Tully
Glynn Christian
Gabriel Woolf
Devised by Joyce M. Morris & Claire Chovil
Reading consultant Joyce M. Morris
Director Dorothea Brooking
Producer Claire Chovil

Resources

Pupils' Pamphlet

Pupils' pamphlet

The pamphlets were printed in black and white with some blue colouring, and contained a simplified text of each story, illustrations by Charles Front, space for drawing or colouring pictures and exercises to do with writing or sorting words.

The original pamphlet in 1970 had 40 pages and attracted some criticism - for instance that "children of six need larger spaces in which to write" and that the layout of some pages was too complicated and distracted the children[4]. The entire book was rearranged and subsequent versions had 48 pages, with items more spread out.

Correction slip sent out with the pupils' pamphlets in 1972.

The title of the first chapter, The Animals in the Ark, was wrongly presented as The Animals and the Ark in the pamphlets for both 1970 and 1971, but this was corrected for the 1972 printing. There was a separate problem with the books in 1972 though, as the letters "YELO" were accidentally printed on top of one of the illustrations, and a correction slip had to be distributed to prevent children from trying to read a non-existant word!

In summer 1970 there were 148,426 copies of the pupils' pamphlet sent out to 7,600 different schools, an average of about 20 copies per school[5].


Layout of pages 4 & 5 of the 1970 edition pupils' pamphlet
Revised layout of pages 4 & 5 of the 1971 edition pupils' pamphlet


Teacher's Notes

Teacher's notes, 1971

The teacher's notes for the series were extensive - 40 pages to cover just 8 story episodes and (in much less detail) 8 teching episodes.

There was a very detailed version of the story to each episode told, as they would be in the programmes, by the presenter ("guess how I felt when I saw a skeleton sleeping on the rocking horse"; "I rubbed the lamp in the attic and told the dolls what had happened"). This could be read out to children after they had seen the TV programmes, or simply used for reference by teachers.

There were also full word lists for each episode, and many suggestions for follow up work to be done in the classroom, including games such as 'Ark Bingo' and 'Make a Skeleton', activities and oral work. Follow-up suggestions were credited to Barbara Thairs.

The notes were described in teachers' reports to the BBC as "excellent" and "astonishingly good," and note was made of "children 'becoming obsessed' with some of the games."[6] The biggest problem seems to have been that there were so many suggestions for high quality follow-up work that teachers simply did not have time to do all or even most of it.

On the original printing in 1970, 15,200 copies of the teacher's notes were sent out to schools[5].


Film Recordings

A Study Unit based on Up in the Attic was issued on the School Broadcasting Council Loan Scheme in 1971 - SBC Cat. No. TV 8. This was to be used by trainee teachers in training colleges only, it was not for use with children in the classroom.

It contained 16mm films of the first Programme A and the first Programme B, both based on the story The Animals in the Ark. This was accompanied by a 40 minute audio recording of the programmes being used with children at a junior school and a filmstrip with photographs of the usage. There were also copies of the pupils' pamphlet and teacher's notes, and a "borrower's guide to the study material".[7]

In the archive

According to the free online version of the BBC Programme Catalogue, the only remaining episode from this series is the very first, The Animals in the Ark, which is held complete.

An extract from the first Programme B, covering consonants and featuring the Mr and Mrs Noah from the previous episode, was included in a programme called Celebration and Innovation, shown during autumn term 1993 to celebrate 70 years of BBC schools broadcasting, so at least some of that episode also exists.

I do hope that the BBC archives haven't got mixed up, so that the episode listed in the archive as the first Programme A turns out to actually be Programme B...

In any case none of the later episodes survive as far as I know.

Sources & References

  • BBC (1970) Words and Pictures Notes for the Teacher, Summer 1970. ISBN 0 563 08620 3
  • BBC (1971) Words and Pictures Notes for the Teacher, Summer 1971. ISBN 0 563 09997 6
  • SBC (1971) Words and Pictures: A television series for children of 6-8 who have made little progress in reading London: School Broadcasting Council for the United Kingdom. ISBN 0 563 10592 5
  1. "Continuing contribution... to learning to read" quote and links between this serial, the early Look and Read serials and their Merry Go Round predecessors emphasised in SBC (1971) p.4
  2. BBC (1970) p.11 confirms that Pug's Favourite Things was told with glove puppets.
  3. 3.0 3.1 All quotes and most analysis on reaction to the series from SBC (1971). The article from Teaching and Training ('Making the best use of television' by Agnes Punter, winter 1970) was also printed in full in SBC (1971).
  4. Criticisms of the pupils' pamphlets explained in SBC (1971) p.18
  5. 5.0 5.1 Distribution figures for the first printing of the pupils' and teacher's pamphlets given in SBC (1971) p.11
  6. Quotes from teachers' reports about the teacher's notes (yes those apostrophes are the right way around!) from SBC (1971) p.17
  7. All details of the SBC Study Unit containing film recordings of these programmes from Appendix 2 (back page) of SBC (1971).