Imaginary creatures abound on Friday at Northfield St. Nicholas Primary school in Lowestoft. Imagination is safely in the hands of this lovely bunch of imagineers. Once going the children grew their fantasy creatures from ones we already know. This bit is the kind of 'cotton wool' cushioning bit for children who might sometimes say I can't think of anything. There are lots of examples to get children into less worrying about this and more willing to have a go. We talked about the Banderbear from the Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell as you can see we recognise the Bear in banderbear so children can use something familiar as a base then adapt. The Banderbear has amazingly camouflaged fur like moss, fitting into his woodland surrounds and some fairly sharp fangs too. (He's not quite all he appears though...read and found out :-))
Giving children a little 'hook' just reduces that immediate 'help, I can't think of anything' pressure. Then looking at natural found objects or just popping a pair of goggly eyes on a shape can bring a character to life. Once you have a character the world's your oyster....'Oh the places you'll go....'
For those of you who are big Harry Potter film fans apologies, as the quote doesn't match the film clip. Happen to have tuned in to the 'Order of the Phoenix' just at the right time to hear Dumbldore's quote above which struck a chord. Happen to be party to SATS this week. Happen to be part of the teaching community still. Happen to be over hearing many similar conversations about SATS looming so large these days children aren't allowed to do anything else, think about anything else and appear to be rapidly losing their entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum AND indeed for many who spent holidays being 'boosted' appear to be losing their right to be a child.
UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
Article 29 (goals of education)
Education must develop every child’s personality, talents and abilities to the full. It must encourage the child’s respect for human rights, as well as respect for their parents, their own and other cultures, and the environment.
Article 31 (leisure, play and culture)
Every child has the right to relax, play and join in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities.
I wonder why we came into education and what folk think it's all about? What they're prepared to protect their children for above and beyond anything else. What they're prepared to 'nail their colours to the mast for'? I wonder whether families realise what their 10 and 11 year olds are doing this week and whether they appreciate how tricky some of those questions are? I wonder when we're going to shout EXPECTO PATRONUS and fight for our children's rights to be children and to ENJOY learning (which is really, after all, what they will need for LIFE).
Or are we in danger of following the Dolores Umbridge school of education in 'The Order of the Phoenix'? She states her lessons are there 'to get you through your examinations which is what school is all about." Her school, when she becomes the Headteacher shortly afterwards, seems to be based on fear, bullying and edicts which are routinely hammered into the wall by the caretaker. Scroll through previous blogs and you'll find a wonderful end to those edicts which I've already featured involving the Weasley twins and more magic-HURRAH!!
I guess it's easy for me to say as I'm not a head teacher at present but I think as a teacher, think as somebody who went into education bright eyed and bushy tailed in order to help make things happen for children, in order to make learning open doors to endless possibilities, in order to explore and imagine all they could BE and go on to DO IT I want to still try to make a CHANGE.
If I could I'd learn a spell to protect our children from the dark political mark because education is so much more than circling NOUNS. But when are we going to make it so much MORE than that for our children once more.
"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."George Bernard Shaw
"It really doesn’t matter if it’s raining or it’s fine Just as long as you’ve got time To P-L-A-Y playaway-play, playaway,Play-a-play, layaway..." Remember??
This is Emma's story...what's yours? What's the story for your children? What's the story for the children in your school?
Make the book and they will write (a bit like build it and they will come I think). The power of being in charge of your own choices, of your own destiny, of your own creativity I truly believe gives you more will, determination to be more creative....AND WRITE. Look at how it works with young people every time. There hasn't been one moment in Storyshack's time OR, indeed, when I've been making books with children over the years when they haven't wanted to write something in them. Today, yesterday, over the summer both boys and girls have found a spot and written to their heart's content. In fact some adults have seen their own children, grandchildren sitting still and absorbed for a very long time indeed and have remarked upon how unusual that can sometimes be. I hope the pictures speak for themselves. Making books feeds the imagination. We need a broader curriculum and broader opportunities for our children if we are really going to inspire them. Dry, false reasons for writing will give you dry, boring writing. Writing in your own book, for your own purpose is a very different thing. Ultimately don't we all want children to write 'of their own free will' BECAUSE they want to explore language, communicate and create stories and ideas.......
Once upon a time there was Thumbelina, there was a bird who couldn't fly and there were 3 stories AND a diary of Scotland all to be written, read and enjoyed....and here they are at the beginnings. Ooh plus a rather gory story, in picture form, about a man eating shark with a kinder looking jelly fish on the page you're looking at. But what brilliant ideas and how heartening to see children do write, they write when they're enjoying the moment and can become absorbed in it. Don't we all?
The original and a forerunner of books with pockets and secret compartments and more letters and jolly things. A joy to read with somebody-in fact probably easier to read with a small group or individual because then all the tiny illustrations and detailed can be fully admired. I've already featured the book in this blog-it holds many memories of my first class. I used it when I went in to meet them in June before they were 'my Year 4s'.
Queen's House are having a wonderful time immersing themselves in fairy tales so you do have to know a few characters to get the most of 'The Jolly postman' but that's a very good reason. Obviously having some knowledge of SHREK helps too-another reason to be able to tell those tales really really well. Year 1 had a blank book (their own Jolly postman) to fill up with their own letters.
Having read some extracts from 'The Jolly Christmas Postman' (confusing I know but since the flood it was the only copy could find in our upstairs store room!) children started to discuss their ideas with their teachers and began to write some UNIQUE, FUNNY and DELIGHTFUL letters:
There was much discussion about the characters-for example Ruby having the understanding of the wolf being a bit sneaky continued the theme with his apparently innocent invitation asking Baby bear to the ball...actually it was a trap and the wolf was hiding up a tree!
There was an apologetic Fox who said sorry to the gingerbread-he just really wanted to eat him: ' Yum Yum' + 'Delicious' as he gobbled him up! Year 1s also thought of some interesting places for their characters to live. The power of reading ever present in this activity and the IMPORTANCE of STORY. There was a lot of previous knowledge in this without which the children wouldn't have been able to explore new ideas and vocabulary. The young lady below really thought hard about her address using some of the ideas from 'The Jolly postman' to help her but knew that it would have be somewhere for a swan to live...I'm sure she can put capitals in when she has a look back at some of the other letters to help her. It really is all THERE in a book or two to inspire.
And lastly- as I know I'm preaching to the converted and you know all this already if you're on this site!-what a difference it makes if you have your own book or character to write in or about. Year 2s immediately started writing; many in their playtime as they wanted to communicate immediately and the writing really just poured out. It's not just happened in schools but in story shack itself in the summer-boys AND girls, different ages have sat and taken an imaginative journey with their pencil or pen. Now of course we all know authors don't just write their first draft and have it published but it's the power of making a book and being surrounded by them that spurs children on to take those first steps into ENJOYING WRITING. Above you can also see a R's mini book which she went away and wrote for a good half an hour having made her characters 'Eylian and 2 sticks'. She was absorbed in the moment - we need more of those MOMENTS for our children I think.
This is the amazing 'a' belonging to an equally amazing Yr 1 chap. He has been working on this a over a few sessions now. I wanted to bring up this apparently small thing just to show how absorbed and determined he was to pursue making the right shape and controlling his left hand. He really really put effort in to this. He needed time to do it, he needed to concentrate and he'll now need time to embed his achievements so they're part of his natural, every day writing 'schema'. I hope we can continue to give our children TIME to achieve things NOT rush on before they have. It's very very difficult to pull back sometimes and do that in our every more hasty society and with increasing pressures from top down but quick fixes just don't work Mr. Gove et al. We have to make sure we light LONGLASTING fires :-)
What a very interesting piece about LEGO and the purple pink pieces that have come into the LEGO "FOLD" . The lefthand picture was taken in 1981...the girl is now a woman is interviewed in the article above :-)
'It's about what goes on in here(points to heart)+it's about what goes on in here (points to head)....'
Loved Dave Grohl's 'Sound CIty' BBC 4 film last Friday about a famous recording studio which fell on to hard times as people began to experiment with producing music on line. That wasn't the only reason for its demise but a strong pervading theme throughout-working for something and practising again and again until you get it right. But also listening to each other and building on musical responses. We were all really touched by the whole film with lots of lovely bits but especially when the remaining Nirvana band members invited Paul McCartney to come record in Dave Grohl's studio on the 'rescued from Sound City Neve console'. They were pretty thrilled with the whole idea of jamming with their hero-one of the reasons they'd got in to music in the first place. They then formed the song by continuing to build on each's other's musical contributions....loved watching it come together.....totally absorbed in the moment, in the human responses.
I'm not just pattering on as the programme had 2 of my favourite peeps in it....in the big scheme of things this absorption, this working on something and feeling something with your heart and head-it's the big, important stuff. The notion that children might think the only way to make music is to queue for the X Factor and be rejected is pretty awful for you childhood dreams.
“When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or The Voice, then they think, ‘Oh, okay, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight ******** hours with 800 people at a convention centre and then you sing your heart out for someone and then they tell you it’s not ******* good enough.’ Can you imagine?”
Folk in the programme played music...that's what they did and do. I like the quote above about not being perfect, about doing what feels right and doing something TOGETHER, something human. What about that for our children instead? It's not just about music, it's about everything but music is a way into the notion of working on something and following a creative path. If you expect computers to do all that for you you take the human element out of creativity yet that is the element that IS creativity-our human heart and head.
A very interesting, well written article about Mr. Gove's wishes (and formation of policies which is just a little bit more frightening) to create outstanding schools based on the private school system. I'm not going to insult your intelligence by summing it up as I couldn't put it better but it does seem to me that educational professionals need to unite and take up the mantle of reforms in education ourselves. Schools can and do make a difference every day. Is it too idealistic to believe we can make a difference at a higher level? After all, the people who are doing the job every day have a lot to offer policy makers. Could the anger and sheer frustration at the way education is going be steered into discussion to give solid, real practical direction in the way we would like it to be going.
Head's Roundtable has formed to take matters into their own hands and contribute to those discussions:
The Headteachers’ Roundtable originated from a roundtable meeting on 12 October 2012 at The Guardian newspaper offices. It grew out of frustration regarding current government educational policy and the Opposition response to it. Its origins and subsequent growth are down to the power of Twitter as a tool for connecting people to try and bring about change where they feel it is needed.
We are a non-party political group that wants to influence national education policymakers so that education policy is centred upon what is best for the learning of all children.
Composition of the Core Group
Dave Whitaker – Executive Principal, Springwell (‘Special’) Community School and Barnsley PRU
John Tomsett – Headteacher, Huntington School, York
Tom Sherrington – Headteacher, King Edward VI Grammar School, Chelmsford
Chris McShane – Headteacher, Quilley School of Engineering, Eastleigh
Ros McMullen – Principal, David Young Community Academy, Leeds and CEO Leaf Academy Trust
Vic Goddard – Principal, Passmores Academy, Harlow
Jon Chaloner – Executive Headteacher of GLF Schools; Glyn School & Danetree Junior School, Epsom; Lime Tree Primary School, Reigate
Rob Campbell – Headteacher, Impington Village College, Cambridge
What about primary heads? I know there is some representation on the Roundtable but a little under represented so far-they would welcome more HTS from the primary sector. Are primary heads able to become more involved at a national strategic level? Can we use our primary associations to come together and formulate, steer, support educational direction? There is much talk on social networking sites, in the media, between teachers and parents too but can we harness it and use it to make change for the better as we see it?
I think we can; that we can make a difference. I feel if we don't everything primary practitioners hold dear will be squeezed out. I truly understand how folk feel - there's no time as every day your energy is taken by the immense amount of paperwork and piling standards pressure from govt, LA, parents etc. But is there time to actually think about what is the most important thing about our job, what are we doing it for and why? How many meetings do people have to attend when we talk about making unattainable levels of progress, testing at 4, drilling the children to improve their results, having booster classes in holidays. I've only just stopped-I hear about it from those around me, people do go out of their schools to do the above-to almost become complicit in these changes ourselves. I know I've done it! Before you know it you're coming home with glossy booklets suggesting boostering children to within an inch of their lives and making 3 levels progress as 2 is just merely rubbish now a days. Rarely was there a suggestion about how to engage children and inspire them into learning. I wonder why we are all in it in the first place. For this? For this constant drive to all become average (I didn't think that was possible mathematically anyway).
Surely there comes a point when we have to stand up and say this is wrong-use our time to be proactive and at least TRY to change our system from within for our own children's sake.