Monthly Archives: February 2011

Well Versed – The Showcase

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I have just realised that I never blogged about the culmination of the Well Versed project!

It was really fantastic. We were working with Hannah Walker and Martin Figura, two local performance poets.

In the first session, the children each had to wear a name badge with their name on and their favourite word. This led to excellent discussions about why we like particular words and enabled the children to add interesting words to their vocabularies. Some words were chosen because they liked what they meant (chinchilla) or how they sounded (blob). The idea of choosing a word for the week on a name tag continued in every session. and I think  is a great idea. (I now have 4 name tags on my door saying intrinsic, incandescent, myriad and possibility as these were my words)

We then heard some metaphors about what a poem is. Martin had some great suggestions such as “a giggle in assembly” or “an orange in a box” and the children came up with their own. It took a while for them to get going, but then it suddenly seemed to click and they came up with things like “a detached house in a city”, “a pebble on a beach”, “juice in a lemon”.

Our final activity was writing a poem based on “In a girl’s head” and “In a boy’s head”, steering clear from stereotypes as much as possible. The children went on to perform these and they were excellent! I filmed them and put them up on our class blog: http://avenue5d2010.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/well-versed-in-poetry/

In the second session, the children were given an orange in pairs. They had to describe what it reminded them of, how it looked, how it moved, put it to their ear and peel a bit to see how it sounded when amplified, feel it, and then eat it and say what it tasted nothing like!

The results were some really excellent poems. Here’s a lovely example: http://avenue5d2010.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/orange-poem-by-syrie/

And here’s the link to my blog about the session: http://avenue5d2010.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/oranges-riddles-and-fantastic-journeys/

We also were given objects and asked to write riddles, using metaphors as much as possible. All this work really helped the children get a very secure grip on metaphor.

In the third session we focused on editing. I wasn’t sure how well the children would take to being asked to rewrite their work, but Martin explained it extremely well. He’d taken a poem and added lots of padding to it, so that the children could then look at his “bad” version (which I still thought was really good!) and could trim it back down to size. One of the children even suggested an improvement by adding the word “incandescent”, which Martin liked so much he added in – we had then succeeded in editing the poem and making it even better than it was to start with!

After this the children were very happy to edit their poems, making some excellent improvements.

In between the sessions I worked on more poems with the children, using the work Martin and Hannah had done with them as the basis and giving them more ideas for types of poems, such as praise poems and poems based on Fishbones Dreaming by Matthew Sweeney.

Praise poems are great fun – I modelled one based on my well-known love for coffee, including phrases such as “Oh milky goddess, you complete me!” The children loved the idea and went off writing wonderful creations.

Here are a few: http://avenue5d2010.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/praise-poem-shark/

http://avenue5d2010.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/praise-poem-for-cupcake-by-emily/

In the final session, it was all about our showcase. That afternoon the children were all going to stay back after school, and at 4pm the parents were invited in to watch a showcase of the poetry that had been written over the 4 weeks. It was very exciting! They all worked incredibly hard on it, using projection and tone of voice really well.

We decided that before the event we would have “Poetry Stalls”, where the children would charge 20p to perform one of their other poems to the parents. This went down really well – one of the parents told me that they were very impressed with the performances they saw. The children decided that all the money from this would go to East Anglian Children’s Hospices (EACH), who cared for one of the children’s former classmates when she sadly passed away last year.

After the stalls, the showcase began. The children started off in amongst the audience, then performed their “What is a poem?” metaphor poem, standing up one at a time, reciting their line then coming out to the front – very effective!

Each child then performed their chosen poem, and everyone did brilliantly – I was so proud! They spoke clearly and the quality of the poetry they had written was fantastic.

At the end we performed a final surprise poem – we had written a poem about what it was like to work with Martin and Hannah! I think they were really pleased.

I had a really lovely email from one of the parents thanking me for the showcase, and saying how inspired her son had been by it and how she had never seen him write anything so profound or be so proud of his work. It made my day to hear that!

I’ve seen it in the children too – they had to write feedback forms afterwards and all of them said they had throughly enjoyed the session – it had changed their opinion of poetry, that they now love poetry, or feel more confident to write it themselves, they understand it more – all the outcomes that we wanted from the project.

All in all, this was a really excellent project to be involved in and I’m so glad that I was the person handed the enquiry form about it way back in July last year! I hope that they can secure funding so that even more primary teachers can be involved next year, and I look forward to passing on the ideas to my colleagues.

And I hope that some people reading may be inspired to try some of the ideas, too!

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Halfway through the year!

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I can’t believe we’re halfway through the year already – this one really seems to be flying! I think it’s because I’m thoroughly enjoying myself this year. This class are fantastic – there are no problems with behaviour or motivation so we can get on with enjoying the learning journey together. It makes it a lot easier to try new things and to have fun.

I wanted to look back at my aims for the year to see how far I’ve got and to see if I need to change any of my goals for the year. So here we go!

1) Assessment involvement

This area is not going as well as I had hoped earlier in the year. Nothing’s really been mentioned about me taking over as assessment co-ordinator, although the head did compliment me in a governors’ meeting on my expertise in the area. I may need to be a bit more pro-active on this one and really push for more involvement.

2) Using more technology in class

This is going very well. The blog has become a vital part of the class ethos, and I have been making pretty good use of technology, I think. We use Google docs for collaborative writing, Wallwisher for gathering ideas, Audioboo to upload recordings of the class to the blog, have used the Easispeak microphones well, Moviemaker for films and sound recordings with still images,¬† I am enjoying my Visualiser… That is all I can think of for now but I am always willing to try new things. Just must remember to keep using the things that have worked well in the past!

3) D4LC

This has gone pretty well too. I have felt a bit let down as I have not been to any extra training on drama techniques, just 2 planning sessions, but I have been doing my best to use drama more in class. We had an excellent session where we flew to Turkey on an imaginary plane and had a mini holiday there. Our work on Robin Hood let to some excellent writing, and more recently we held a very involved debate about ethics linked to a “relic” we imagined had been stolen from Cyprus – we had to decide whether to sell it to build the village a hospital, or whether to return it to its rightful owners.

The trouble I have now is with timetabling. I have been dedicating an hour a week to drama but this is now at risk of squeezing out my DT time so I am going to have to do some creative work with my schedule…

4) Poetry course with Norwich Writers Centre

Wow – this was amazing. I am so glad I did this! Working with the poets was inspirational for both me and the children. Their attitudes towards poetry completely shifted over the course of 4 weeks from indifference to “AWESOME”!!!! An incidental benefit of the course has been introducing me to Norwich’s lively performance poetry scene that I previously knew nothing about and am now thoroughly enjoying!

5) ICT co-ordinator

This is definitely something I need to work on. Although I am not ICT co-ordinator, my PMR says that I am supposed to be helping with the curriculum in ICT… I really need to get going on this as nothing has happened at all with it so far. I also haven’t managed to do any ICT “techie brekkie” training sessions. This is mainly because no one wants to do training early in the morning, and I do clubs 4 lunchtimes a week. I think I am going to have to cut back on these clubs, which is a shame, but I am getting quite tired through having no lunch breaks and also other teachers are starting to want to use the ICT suite themselves some lunchtimes. So maybe then I can start to do a training session every other week or so. I’ve also asked for a few slots in staff meetings to demo a few useful sites and tools. But generally, as targets go this is the big one I need to stay focused on.

6) Teachmeets

These have been a big success. I have really enjoyed both of the Teachmeets I have attended this year! I have learnt a lot and met some brilliant people. The trouble is that they are addictive and now I want to go to more. I am simply going to have to get myself a car!

Another great thing is I persuaded the SMT to let us have a Teachmeet style staff meeting where people can share their good practice and ideas. This will be fab!

7) Problem solving in maths

Finally, this has been another big success story this year. This has shown me that NRich is a resource for the whole class, not just G & T children. My class love our problem solving lessons, and after marking the recent maths tests I can see it’s had an impact as many more of the children attempted the more difficult multi-step problems towards the end of the paper than I have seen previously. It’s not working perfectly though, as I feel 3 days a week in set is not giving us time to cover topics in adequate detail. We are moving to 4 days in set and 1 in class solving problems. That’s as far as I know, these things are subject to change and there is also a chance we will move to 5 days a week in set. However, I think that even if we do I am going to make a point of still doing an extra problem solving session in class as I have seen massive benefits from this approach.

I enjoyed looking back over that… It has been a very good year for me. I am feeling much more confident in myself and think I am doing a good job for the kids, which is, after all, what it’s all about.