Michael Morpurgo books – Best teaching resources for KS1 and KS2

Michael Morpurgo Month resources

Discover a treasure trove of engaging Michael Morpurgo resources, designed to help you bring the magic of his stories to life in the classroom…

by Teachwire
Kensuke's Kingdom resource
DOWNLOAD A FREE RESOURCE! Kensuke’s Kingdom – KS2 vocabulary list and activity ideas

Who is Michael Morpurgo?

Michael Morpurgo is a British author whose enchanting children’s books have become staples in classrooms around the world. Born in 1943, Morpurgo’s background as a primary school teacher greatly influenced his storytelling, imbuing his tales with themes that resonate deeply with young readers, such as bravery, kindness, and the bond between humans and animals.

Morpurgo’s ability to craft stories that engage children’s emotions and stimulate their imaginations has made his books cherished resources for educators seeking to inspire a love of reading. Awarded the title of Children’s Laureate from 2003 to 2005, Morpurgo’s extensive body of work offers a treasure trove of material if you’re aiming to introduce children to the joys and complexities of life through literature.

Which Michael Morpurgo books are great for primary classrooms?

Michael Morpurgo books are a treasure trove of engaging narratives, perfect for primary classrooms. They offer stories that not only captivate young readers but also impart valuable lessons. Great choices for the classroom include:

  • War Horse – With its themes of friendship, loyalty and the impacts of war, this offers a profound experience suitable for upper primary students, facilitating discussions on history and empathy.
  • Kensuke’s Kingdom – For lessons on courage and overcoming adversity, this title is an excellent choice, captivating students with the adventure of a boy stranded on an island.
  • The Butterfly Lion – This weaves themes of friendship, perseverance and the beauty of nature into a story that can inspire younger pupils to explore their own connections to the natural world.
  • Private Peaceful – This provides an accessible way to introduce themes of love, loss and the realities of war, though it’s best suited for more mature primary students due to its emotional depth.

Kensuke’s Kingdom KS2 book topic

Kensuke’s Kingdom won the Teachers’ Choice category in our Teach Primary Book Awards. It’s packed with exciting themes to inspire creative cross-curricular work.

Use these KS2 cross-curricular activity ideas to study the book in your classroom. You can also download this vocabulary list of 96 words related to the book.

Author in your Classroom podcast and activities

Inspire KS2 pupils to write their own story using a classic tale to raise awareness of an issue that matters to them, with advice from Sir Michael Morpurgo himself.

This free resources pack from Plazoom includes teacher notes and a PowerPoint. There’s also planning sheets and beautifully designed elements for a ‘new take on a classic tale’ working wall.

Use it with episode nine of the Author In Your Classroom podcast. This is a virtual ‘author visit’ you can share with children whenever you like, absolutely free!

Free extracts

Visit the official Michael Morpurgo Month website to listen to free audio excerpts of the six books celebrated in 2023. These include War Horse, Farm Boy, Kensuke’s Kingdom, Listen to the Moon and Barney the Horse.

Boy Giant KS2 activities

When war comes to Omar’s Afghan village, 10-year-old Omar and his mother set off on a long and dangerous journey. They’re heading for England and Uncle Said’s café.

But Omar’s mother can’t afford two boat tickets and Omar must travel on alone. When the worst happens at sea, Omar expects his life to end.

Instead he washes up somewhere marvellous and strange. It’s the island of Lilliput, whose tiny inhabitants welcomed Gulliver so long ago.

Helped by his new friends, Omar becomes Son of Gulliver – a role that requires him to develop peacemaking abilities.

Find classroom activity ideas and a 12-page PDF packed full of more lesson ideas and activities to explore alongside reading the book.

The Birthday Duck resources

This free KS1 reading comprehension resource includes a creative topic map with engaging ideas for using The Birthday Duck as the focus for work across the curriculum, and a set of comprehension questions.

Flamingo Boy resources

You can use the activities in this Flamingo Boy resource from HarperCollins as either quick starters or a longer lesson. They provide a great opportunity to develop children’s comprehension and vocabulary.

This resource shares an extract from the story, describing the flamingos that live on the salt flats of the Camargue. It also features suggested discussion activities considering the author’s craft. This includes looking at effective features of descriptive writing, specific vocabulary choices made by an author, and introducing unfamiliar vocabulary.

More Michael Morpurgo resources

You can also get similar resources from the HarperCollins site. Click the links below to find resources for the following titles:

The Butterfly Lion persuasive writing KS1 book topic

These KS1 activity ideas for The Butterfly Lion ask children to imagine what life would be like with a lion for a best friend.

Ideas include writing a persuasive letter from the main character’s perspective in boarding school, a survival guide for lions and a plot outline for the novel.

This Morning I Met a Whale

Use Morpurgo’s tale of a boy who spies a bottlenose whale in the Thames as the centrepiece of your next Key Stage 2 storybook curriculum.

In this free PDF there are loads of ideas and writing opportunities. These range from environmental information pamphlets and persuasive letters to news reports.

Where My Wellies Take Me

Where My Wellies Take Me, by Michael and Clare Morpurgo, uses 40 evocative poems to celebrate the wonder of childhood, germinating a love of verse that will stay with pupils for many years to come.

Explore the spark of an idea in starting the writing process, map out your poetry project in your local area and create an inspiration scrapbook with this free PDF of classroom ideas.

Private Peaceful writing resources

There are three different worksheets of writing exercises for the ever-popular Private Peaceful.

One asks students to write a different ending for the story. Another features 13 pages of diary writing activities. The third features four sheets of reading comprehension and writing activities.

Writing worksheets for three books

This resource features three printable worksheets for three Morpurgo books: Sparrow: The True Story of Joan of ArcAlone on a Wide Wide Sea and A Medal for Leroy.

Each worksheet features a variety of writing, comprehension and research activities for pupils to carry out. These include writing a timeline of Joan of Arc’s life and describing how you met your best friend.

More Michael Morpurgo Month teaching ideas

James Clements, education writer and former primary teacher, shares ideas for celebrating the master storyteller this February

For generations of teachers, myself included, Michael Morpurgo’s books are an integral part of school life.

As a child, I remember listening with baited breath as our headteacher read Friend or Foe aloud in assembly. He was sure to always stop on a cliffhanger so we’d have to wait a whole week to find out what happened next.

In my first year teaching, I adopted the same approach with Kensuke’s Kingdom, my class howling when we had to stop each day at home time.

During his long career, Sir Michael Morpurgo has served as Children’s Laureate and written more than 150 books. He’s sold more than 35 million copies worldwide, touching the lives of many readers.

Michael Morpurgo has long been a powerful advocate of reading aloud to children, famously saying:

“Let there be half an hour of storytime at the end of the day in primary schools up and down the country. Make this the half hour they all long for, that they don’t want to be over. Let the children go home dreaming of the story, reliving it, wondering.”

The suggested books and classroom activities below are perfect if you want to take part in Michael Morpurgo Month. Or use them to enjoy the richness of his stories at any time of the year.

The natural world

Kensuke’s Kingdom

This story of adventure, survival and friendship is a staple of the KS2 classroom. As well as being a masterclass in evocative descriptive writing, it provides an excellent opportunity for teaching narrative point of view.

Retelling the same scene from the perspectives of both Michael (the stranded boy) and Kensuke (the inhabitant of the island) can help children to explore how different characters see the same situation. Explore how this can be communicated by a skilful writer.

Running Wild

In this tale of the unlikely friendship between Will and Oona the elephant, Michael Morpurgo captures the setting of the Indonesian rainforest to perfection.

Read as a class and imagine what it would be like to be there. Next, look carefully at how the author describes the setting. This can support children’s own development as writers.

The class can then choose another setting – the desert, the tundra – and use the same techniques to create the feeling of being there.

Animal adventures

The Butterfly Lion

This is a magical story that spans many decades. The Butterfly Lion provides a motivating and memorable way of teaching children to control shifts in time in their own writing. Listen to the story and think about how the author moves from one period to another.

Children can then use some of the techniques themselves. Write stories that move from the present to the past and back again, or try out adverbials of time.

The Fox and the Ghost King

Bringing together history, nature (and football!), this short story is a perfect book to read aloud to older KS1 children. Beautifully illustrated by Michael Foreman, it’s packed with rich vocabulary for children to explore.

Asking pupils to think about some of the words that younger children might find challenging and then writing a glossary to help them understand the book will help them reflect on their own comprehension and to practise communicating the meaning of words.

Pupils could then be challenged to use the word in their own writing.

Tales retold

Arthur, High King of Britain

This is a beautifully constructed story-within-a-story. When a boy awakens after being stranded on a sandbank, he finds himself confronted by the legendary King Arthur himself. The King then proceeds to tell his story.

As well as terrific writing, this book gives older children the chance to explore narrative structure, using the device of a character telling another story.

Pupils could try to write their own story-within-a-story, based on another myth or legend they know.

Pinocchio by Pinocchio

A delightful version of the much-loved story, this version is told by the puppet himself. ‘The truth is I’m not just a puppet, I’m more than just bits of wood and string. I’m me. So I thought it was about time that I, Pinocchio, told you my story…’

This text can provide a great model for first-person writing. Children can invent new adventures for Pinocchio or retell another familiar story with themselves in the role of the protagonist.

Times of war

Friend or Foe

Evacuated to Devon during WWII, David and Tucky have their lives changed and preconceptions challenged when a German bomber crashes nearby.

This BBC radio play of the story is free to listen to, which makes this a valuable text for comparing play scripts and prose, and how the same story can be told in different ways.

Children can then choose scenes from the book and adapt them for performance.

Flamingo Boy

The powerful story of an autistic boy set in WWII, this story provides an excellent opportunity for children to research the background to a work of fiction.

While listening to the story, groups of children could be given different topics from the books to research: the Camargue, the occupation of France during WWII, flamingos, carousels.

As well as practising their research skills, the new knowledge they will build will give them a connection and deeper understanding of the book.

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