Last week was fantastic. Why? I remembered that I have the best job ever.
I was in the midst of being smothered by the political gubbins that is being shoved in our faces… There was lot of gnashing of teeth (mine included and with good reason) and I was forgetting that I like what I do…that I love what I do. I forgot that I like to take risks when I teach, that I turn left when everyone else goes right…until I spent the day with the very special Shonette Bason-Wood. She gave me permission to be happy – it is what she does.
She told us that these constant political changes don’t mean that you can’t be exciting. It is true. I work in a school where we work really hard to just get to age related expectations, but when I enjoy it so do the children and their work reflects this.
These are the things I enjoy the most:
Play it to set the scene. I like to have a picture on the whiteboard with music to heighten mood so that when the children enter the classroom they immediately engage in learning. In school we believe every second counts. I often use ‘Pobble 365’ or some of the images on ‘The Literacy Shed’. The bonus with both of these sites is the high level questioning and writing stimulus, plus SPaG ideas that are already prepared and totally free to use. I also compulsively collect stuff to write about:
All of the ideas above take a few minutes to download. Win.
I love using the soundtrack to ‘The Lord of the Rings’, ‘Jurassic Park’ or ‘Harry Potter’. Each of these can be used as a stimulus for creative writing and are brilliant for changes in mood and tension building.
At the other end of the scale I use giddy music to energise – choose something that you enjoy listening to when you are getting ready to go out. Due to my age these are mainly songs from the 80s where the lyrics tend to be safe. I love Kylie – you can’t beat the old Stock, Aitken and Waterman classics!
Try a little ‘Dough Disco’ to get fingers warmed up ready for writing…
And yes I have done this with Year 6. Sometimes just wearing my Professor McGonagall hat cheers me and them right up. It also gives me permission to be someone else and tell stories that somehow seem more believable. Many times I have gone into Nursery dressed up which has led to mark-making opportunities (and a little bit of screaming!) including notes to the naughty witch and instructions on what to feed a crocodile.
Follow the children’s interests:
And yes I have done this with Year 6. Because I am a teacher I can tell a good story and given a captive audience I am in heaven! It also helps if you involve a member of staff with your fabrication (my poor Principal has seen the Loch Ness Monster, strange lights in the night sky and found a trap door that leads to an abandoned Victorian cellars beneath school).
I love teaching non-fiction texts because I use Pie Corbett’s principles of using fantasy. I have trapped dragons, persuaded Brian Cox that aliens do exist, written information texts about Bigfoot and created a travel brochure for the planet Pandora (see the brilliant video clip from Avatar).
The day your Year 6 class gets a tweet from a Bigfoot hunter in America is the best day ever! We asked various Sasquatch experts (yes they do exist!), via Twitter, what they could tell us about Bigfoot. This is what we got back…
My football-playing boys stayed in at playtime, blogging and tweeting about the potential existence of Sasquatch. It was the best two weeks of writing I have ever experienced…
We used ‘Google Earth’ to visit Ohio and imaged what it would be like to walk through the woods that Bigfoot is supposed to stalk.
I use film for teaching reading as well as writing. My first port of call is ‘The Literacy Shed’ because the collection there is vast. Again lots of the work has been done for you, questions, writing ideas, top links, age appropriateness…
I love the focus and engagement film brings, especially for my EAL pupils or those with literacy difficulties. It is a brilliant way into a text, comparing film to the written version or to activate schema before starting a new story. We discuss how to recreate the tension seen in a film on the page, how playing with the order of the sentence changes the focus of the reader and how varying sentence lengths controls the pace and rhythm of a story.
Be brave and enjoy your job.
As Shonette would say don’t let the lemon-suckers suck out your happy juice!