Monthly Archives: December 2010

Great DT? It’s in the bag

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I had a fantastic week of DT last week. In my wisdom, early in the term I decided it would be a great idea to leave the DT until the last week and get it all done in one big block. Well, what an endeavour it was! Halfway through, I was sick of the sight of bags and said I would be happy if I didn’t have to tie another knot in a piece of thread ever again. But in the end it was all worth it. Anyway, to start at the beginning…

Our topic this term has been “People on the Move” and so as part of that it was decided that our DT would be to make a bag. We were quite short of materials, so we offered only binca, but there was a wide selection of buttons, beads, zips, threads etc that they could use to customise them.

I have to admit that I am not the best of sewing – never have been. To prove this to the kids, I took in the toy mouse I made when I was at school. He’s cute, but his head lolls at a very disturbing angle and his ears are sadly misshapen. However, he showed them that even if they are as bad at sewing as I am they could still make something quite nice!

The basic design of the bag had to be quite simple – a long strip of material that was folded in half, sewn up the side with a running stitch and then turned inside out to decorate. I got my TA to demo the stitching method using the visualiser (VERY effective use of this technology, absolutely excellent) and she also showed back stitch. I’d never heard of this but it was quite easy once I saw her do it.

I have a bit of an issue with DT. My worry in the past few years has been that I was showing them exactly how to do it, leaving no room for their creativity. We made Jack-in-the-Boxes a few years ago, and I had to show them exactly how long to cut each piece of wood, how to glue them together, how to make the outside, how to fold the spring, etc. Not much room for originality. But then some projects, if you just let them loose it can turn out to be pretty poor quality (such as when we said “make a house” with materials. Not very advanced modelling took place).

The project I liked best in the past was pneumatic modelling in Year 3. I taught them a few skills using syringes, tubing, balloons etc and then their imaginations took over to create fab moving monsters.

Well, now I have another favourite DT project. The bags are just the same. Teach kids a few simple stitches and methods, and then off they go and make some absolutely fantastic creations. The project started off slowly. A few kids were a bit dispirited as they tried to turn their bags inside out and all the stitching came undone, but I taught them a better way to tie off the knots and then they tried again.

As the days went by, they got more and more confident and happy with it. On the last day, a boy who does not find fine motor skills easy said, “I love this project. This project is awesome. Although it is quite hard at the start, but you get the hang of it.” I was so happy to hear him say that. Isn’t that what we really want in teaching? Children find something difficult, but motivation is high, they try and try, and they get the hang of it. That’s the sort of learning that I love.

At the end of the project, all the children had successfully made a bag, and I was amazed at the variety on show – some with inside pockets, some zipped, some buttoned, all different shapes and sizes, some made with material brought from home, all fit for purpose (eg gifts for mums, bags to carry a DS) and all unique.

That’s just the way I want my DT to be, and I’m going to try really hard to make the next DT project we do just as open-ended and engaging.

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Well Versed

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During November and December I have been involved with a poetry project called “Well Versed”. Its aim is to improve the way poetry is taught in schools by bringing poets and teachers together and coming up with innovative new approaches.

I was able to attend 4 sessions, which covered a range of subjects:

1) The other side of the fence – We took part in a writing workshop and tried out some different games and ways of writing poetry. One I particularly liked was being asked to write a poem in which something opened in the first line, then closed on the last line, with a colour in line 3 and a sound in line 6. Structure and freedom linked – very helpful and I could see this being very good for children to try.

2) What I didn’t do on my holidays – My favourite part of this session was learning about the Oulipo, which you really must look up on Wikipedia! They were a group of mathematicians turned poets who believed you could apply mathematical structure to language. We wrote poems called Lipograms which miss out a vowel (or any letter), and univocal lipograms which only use one vowel! I have seen this before in the book “Eunoia” (this is the shortest word in the English language which uses all 5 vowels, and means “beautiful thinking”) by Christian Bök, in which every chapter uses only one vowel. It’s great fun and challenging to write! We also played N+7 where you choose a passage and replace every noun with the noun 7 entries down in the dictionary, resulting in such gems as “To be, or not to be – that is the quiche”, and “We are all in the gymnastics, but some of us are looking at the starlings.” My class LOVE N+7 and I read on their blogs that they have been playing it round at each others’ houses!

3) Dr Techlove – or how I learned to stop worrying and love the gadgets – I missed quite a bit of this session, ironically because I had left my phone at work and had to meet my friend at the local garage to pick it up. Gadgets eh! But there were some very good ideas about using technology such as Wordle, Prezi, etc to enhance poetry teaching. I have really loved using Moviemaker this term –  I will come onto this shortly!

4) From typeface to chalkface – here we got to meet the two poets that we will be working with in class next term! We worked together to plan how they are going to work with my class in order to get them excited about poetry and creating lots of it. It’s going to involve performance, music, games, and lots of guerilla poetry tactics such as hiding poems around the school for people to find etc. Very exciting!

I really enjoyed the course – the only thing I would have changed is to have teachers working alongside poets all the way through, as I feel both sides would have had a lot to offer and share. This was the pilot project so I hope it returns next year and maybe this will happen!

The other great thing about the project is that we’ve had writers in the classroom. We had “Strangers and Canaries” early on in the first half term, learning about Norwich’s role as a City of Refuge, and then we had a session called “Letters to Europe.”

I have rarely seen children as highly motivated and enthused about a piece of work before! We wrote letters to Europe, imagining Europe personified and ourselves as refugees hoping to live in Europe. The children’s writing was fantastic, and we went on to record them reading out their poems and then fitting images to match their words using Moviemaker. It was a really rewarding and fantastic project, even more so because we could share their work with parents via the blog. So often these filmed pieces are only ever seen by the class then left to rot on the server. Not any more! The work was shared and enjoyed with the world!

So next term sees my class taking part in the “Well Versed” sessions in class with our two poets. I can’t wait!