Wordy Wanderings at Whitesheet, Wiltshire

| November 2, 2007 | 2 Comments 

Today, I paid a return visit to Whitesheet Primary School, a small school set on two sites in the Wiltshire countryside near Stourhead. We were joined by visiting teachers from other local schools.

Headeacher, Ben Howden had chosen to do what a lot of schools and authorities are getting me to do nowadays: a practical “watch him doing it” day to follow on from the training day we enjoyed recently. That is apparently when people are heard to say “Aha! I see!” Ben astutely said: “It is not about just using visual image as a stimulus for creativity. Rather, the ways of working, questioning and motivating children of all abilities.”

What an enjoyable day. I taught three classes: years 1 and 2; years 3 and 4; years 5 and 6. To work through the ages in “chronological order” accompanied by those teachers observing, meant we had the opportunity to discuss the continuity and progression elements of organising a literacy programme. I valued their insightful and encouraging observations.

With the younger class, we visited the spiral staircase plant in Edanna. The children spoke incredibly well and cherished the contributions of their classmates. They showed a good understanding of interdependence and adaptation when we sat and watched a large mother bird feeding her chick.

Again, I was left thinking about why we call a spiral staircase a”spiral” staircase when a spiral increases in size and a staircase remains within a cylindrical shape. In mathematics, a spiral is “a curve which emanates from a central point, getting progressively farther away as it revolves around the point.” A spiral staircase actually has a helical shape. We had a look at a corkscrew and saw how similar it was to the structure of the magical “spiral escalator plant.”

We did find an object that was a cross between a spiral and a helix: the tendril of the huge plant.

Who would believe that year 1 and 2 children could get into such deep conversations and all inspired by a computer game?! They produced some superb pieces of writing too.

In the second lesson, I was impressed by their responsiveness and, in particular by one slightly “reluctant writer” who rose to the challenges I set him, with great humour, confidence and increasing gusto.

They came up with some more great ideas for why my walking stick, Mr Walker, might be full of holes.

Some of the ideas mentioned were:

The results of an incredibly accurate sniper, a sign of his great age, to make his height adjustable, so he can sing, a storage stick for lots of different flavoured drinks, a place to try out sewing and threading techniques…

The year 5 and 6 class, as well as producing some amazing ideas, also arranged a question and answer session as they had performed my musical, A Load of Rubbish!, last year. They asked some perceptive and challenging questions about the song writing process, how the structure of the musical had developed, how the character names ( such as Greta Garbage, Dustbin Hoffman, Slimey Minogue, Mould Hawn, Laura Ashtray, Recycled Jackson etc) had been invented, and much more.

I wasn’t able to get to their performance but the reaction, the write ups and the photographs looked stunning!

All three classes today worked with great enthusiasm and surprised themselves at times too, I believe.

I would like to thank Ben Howden, the staff and children of Whitesheet Primary for a fascinating and fun filled day. A real SPIRAL UPWARDS in creativity!
Thank you to headteacher, Ben, for his comment on the whole day:

Tim
A superb day and helped to cement the great ideas that came from the TD day earlier this year. Thanks again for you fantastically positive approach to the children – never letting a moment slip by when a child could be praised for what they said, how they listened, how they encouraged others or simply how they smiled. Oh boy did they smile- most came out on cloud 10 let alone 9! I was struck by actually how little ICT is actually involved – we hardly went anywhere in the actual game but the children went on a fantastic literary journey with very few images in front of them. The chat at the end of the day was superb as well and gave use time to further think about how the programme could be used. I particularly love the idea about LO and Behold. Where the LO for the lesson is hidden until the end and then children fire guesses about what it might be – if they guess correctly then it was good ant if they come up with loads of ideas then that’s even better. I was also struck by the discussion on the more and less able and how it is often the more able that find themselves struggling – is that due to the pressure they feel to get it right and produce good work every time? Do we need to free them up to say it is OK to write drivel every now and then because in the drivel there are gems.

We are ready to run with this and will do so as a school from Monday. Just a though but the approach that you take is really SEAL literacy (it makes every child valued and every contribution cherished) – what more could anyone want for the children in their school.

Thank you yet again and if you manage to bottle what you do or produce it in pill form, let me know, I will be first in line.

Ben

Category: 1) Events and Training days

Comments (2)

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  1. Carol says:

    Impressed how quickly you managed to write the days visit up and love the photos. I’m sure I’m not going to be the first or last to say this but I found you very inspirational, I can’t wait to try a lesson using ‘Myst’ and use your ideas, especially on a Y2 child in my class of high ability but challenging behaviour who is a reluctant writer but very keen to use a computer.
    Thanks for a great morning, I nearly gatecrashed the afternoon!
    Carol

  2. Ben says:

    It was a superb day and helped to cement the great ideas that came from the TD day earlier this year. Thanks again for you fantastically positive approach to the children – never letting a moment slip by when a child could be praised for what they said, how they listened, how they encouraged others or simply how they smiled. Oh boy did they smile- most came out on cloud 10 let alone 9! I was struck by actually how little ICT is actually involved – we hardly went anywhere in the actual game but the children went on a fantastic literary journey with very few images in front of them. The chat at the end of the day was superb as well and gave use time to further think about how the programme could be used. I particularly love the idea about LO and Behold. Where the LO for the lesson is hidden until the end and then children fire guesses about what it might be – if they guess correctly then it was good ant if they come up with loads of ideas then that’s even better. I was also struck by the discussion on the more and less able and how it is often the more able that find themselves struggling – is that due to the pressure they feel to get it right and produce good work every time? Do we need to free them up to say it is OK to write drivel every now and then because in the drivel there are gems.

    We are ready to run with this and will do so as a school from Monday. Just a though but the approach that you take is really SEAL literacy (it makes every child valued and every contribution cherished) – what more could anyone want for the children in their school.

    Thank you yet again and if you manage to bottle what you do or produce it in pill form, let me know, I will be first in line.

    Ben

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