Gifted & Talented Cluster, Bristol- Ashley Down Primary

| May 18, 2011 | 3 Comments 

Great to be back at Ashley Down Primary for a day with children and staff from the East Central 1 Gifted & Talented Cluster: Glenfrome Primary, Ashley Down Primary, Lockleaze Primary, Cabot Primary and Sefton Park Infant and Junior School.

Last time we were at Ashley Down, we were at the original building. This time we made it to the newly opened Brunel fields site. This was a strange and magical experience in its own right: the school will gradually fill up over the next few years. At the moment, there are only classes from the Reception age. Therefore, the rest of the school looks like it is twinned with the Marie Céleste- lots of empty rooms, waiting and ready for future pupils.

Thank you to Jane Robinson, who is ‘Gifted and Talented’ cluster leader for the East Central 1 area in Bristol, for inviting us as part of their training and enrichment activities for KS1 and KS2 creative writers.

screenshot021It was good to work with folk who are supporting the more gifted, talented and able. The techniques, tips and doodlies we have been developing over the last few years are applicable across ALL age and ability ranges .

They are a great way of stretching, broadening and sparkling up the imaginations of the more able because, sometimes, they might know how to tick the boxes, (or, even, get ticks) but might not always be so confident taking off and flying.

The National Association for Gifted Children, has some superb guidance for helping the more able take off.

We had the pleasure of a dear friend, Helen Peter,  joining us today and she kindly recorded her reflections for us here.

I am here sitting in an expectant classroom in Ashley Down Primary School. The buzz is because Tim Rylands is about to make magic with a mixed group of about 30 pupils from Years 5 & 6 from various local primary schools.

Tim is hovering in the background so that his introduction is spectacular-as always!

A great start- as soon as the last group arrives Tim goes straight in with the sound of the wind & birds.

He’s immediately on stage & mimicking the assembly way of saying “Goooood moooorning Mrrrrrrrr Rylannnndds!”- waking everyone up with accents, humour & introducing Sarah with her camera nose-to be ignored (so no gurning at the camera)- Here’s Mr. Walker the walking stick- Tim’s essential tool- for anti-wobbling! Tim’s making a boy’s eyes as big as saucers by waving Mr. Walker around- One boy asks if Mr. W is a flute- brilliant, out-of-the-box thinking! Sarah is taking a million photos, as usual.

Time to witter and close the windows against the bleeping dustcarts outside.

How can Mr. Walker be full of holes? Why?  A forest of hands. Tim tells them to save their muscles. It’s like putting a cork in a bottle so the ideas can’t get out & none of the new ones can get in either! Good to have ideas but drip them in at the right time….

So, why may Mr. W be full of holes?-Poison darts- we are sprayed by Tim & all “die”- An AK47 made the holes which shrunk- to the right size to adjust- Tim says that he was in the snow, or icing sugar on the mountains behind him, so we are drawn into the magic land. We are shown some flippers and Tim shows us where he was this morning:

…wondering, & wandering, in this magical landscape.

Mr. W is a snake which turns into a flute;  tie string through the holes in Mr. W and tie up naughty children- Hmmm! and use Mr. W as a pencil holder-it works well apart from the fat that they all fall out. Everyone is relaxed, alert and laughing now- they are tuned in and ready to go….and it’s only 10 to 10 in the morning! Guy just comes up with a new idea – Tim thanks him for having a well-formed idea with lots of words- the humour makes the kids realize they are safe- any idea is fine & you can expand and it doesn’t matter –you can be as crazy as you like and that’s fine.

Back to the image- what’s that smoke? Why are there flippers? Where are the people? Chat to see where you think you are. Listen to the wind and birds and a rumble in the background-a waterfall?

Lots and lots of excited chatter- Tim calms them by turning up the volume- and NEVER saying Shhhh!

Lots of praise for the right behavior- very positive and kind-to reinforce the best behaviour….

The ideas flow…

The feedback includes popcorn ovens, the popcorn cooked by sparrows, (another reminder to keep the hands down and the ideas flowing)- Some hunters came & took human brains ….A feisty girl says  decisively- “Well,….” Tim picks this up to get her to go straight into the action- She tells the story of cooking dinner & being eaten by a shark, having her flippers eaten & then burning them….The smoke comes from the children’s ears, who run away & cook fish from the lake & the teachers’ ears are eaten & get depressed-(!)- this earns a ripple of applause- so more ideas flow- it’s a magic, creative soup here, all cooked up by Tim & these fantastic children….

Tim points out overtly his active listening techniques so he is coaching teachers too- subtly- Don’t make kids put their hand up, don’t say Shhhh!, Ask carefully for more- showing how to listen actively without interrupting- and insisting on full sentences-and details- Who needs to shout when you have eyebrows that speak!

Body language is all you need- eye contact- looking at what she is talking about, nod, smile, use the eyebrows-tilting your head to one side- making a few grunts to keep them talking, giving children TIME

Time to say what they want to and thinking time… all the techniques come out- (Tim makes it easier by blaming TV needing instant answers….so no blame here!)

Tim moves the discussion and thinking onto the senses- what can you smell? Charcoaly- burnt embers, like my granny’s fire- bird poo- Tim takes the chance to explain that guano gatherers makes millions for some people  and that glue and fertilizer uses guano.(Never lose an opportunity to teach and inspire!). Tim asks the kids why he was chewing the cup as he listened and some adults hide behind their cup! A diversion- he gulps some brain fuel (water) & back to the screen- what’s that building & the window- Are they prisoners? Are they dead? Tim invites everyone to keep saying lots of interesting things and asks for similes.

He pops in a quick story about his daughter Ellie so they learn about metaphors & similes- They found the brown gravel paths  in Queen’s square-when she was about 4 years old – This gravel is like an apple crumble- -a simile…Simile timbers (+ arm movements)!

Old lady similes –stand up- be posh- so we have everyone being dead posh with sparkly freshly clean eyebrows- all kinesthetically anchored in their memories- “When we compare things like an apple crumble or blind as a bat it could be called a simile!”

Later Ellie went one step beyond and shouted “Dad! I AM walking on an apple crumble”- Rudi comes up with a fantastic posh explanation of a metaphor & gets a ripple- here comes the challenge.  Spot the simile- shout screech & arms up wildly- Tim describes the village clinging to the side of the mountain—cue metaphor- Mountains sprinkled as if with icing sugar- cue-simile- & so on. A great story- full of picturesque language-We’re back in the picture & having fun so we are warmed up & being drawn into the magic land.

A quick chat and wake up to walk into the virtual world…..Tim asks us who has a PS and who has a Wii- In fact they don’t need them-this magic Mr. w will do much better.

Suddenly we are in a 360 view of the scene- turning as the stick, Mr. W turns (actually Mr. R using his mouse).

Nick my sentence starter- “Standing here, looking out across the th th th eth the th…” So please jot down my sentence with your simple idea to stand & say what you can see- using metaphors & similes- no right ideas- anything is fine- no wrong ideas at all- & you can nick Tim’s ideas or anyone’s ideas as long as you add & enrich it with your own ideas- and don’t worry about your spelling too much- as long as we can understand it, that’s fine-we need your brilliant ideas- watch the baldy & go for it!

The volume up again and Tim making some suggestions for smells, similes and ….

Everyone is writing crazily. Tim stops them after 5 minutes (checking timing s with Jane)-He snatches Lewis’s work & goes into role as harsh teacher mode- then reads it out & praises it- How can we add extra similes & metaphors???

Rip the “I”s & “me”s to make it more interesting & raise the level. Everyone feverishly writing a again-the concentration level has gone right up- the excitement is rising & you can feel the steam of real creativity & thought happening.

Tim stops everyone & reminds them of parrot graphs-Can you split it to use another sense maybe? Tim tells them not to let it fizzle out-but end strongly- maybe with a question.(but addressing the audience directly is banned as too spooking for the reader).

Time to share before the break- Tim explains that people can read theirs out & it will take courage- but no hands up. 2nd & 3rd & 4th will take more courage- Be the brave soldier to have a go & break out!

The children start to read their descriptions out- amazing! Tim encourages and beats his chest like a frightened heart- smiling and listening- The children take their turns- fantastic writing- still a little reluctance and shyness but it’s disappearing & their confidence level is rising. Tim is there always- a warmth and encourager.

He finishes it with the East Enders theme- & praises them then they have 45 seconds to start their new paragraph starter – NOT with “Suddenly…”- Quote “Suddenly is a pile of pants!”

“Desperate to find more…..” “Smash!” “Trailing behind…” “Into the wilderness…”Tim tantalizingly shows them into the scene- turning 360 degrees and  into the buildings- he taps the structures to ask them what they think it is made of….Would you like to meet whoever made this building? You can- after our break!

Tim pulls us all back by inviting us along a wooden walkway- intriguing! Where shall we go? He asks us- and tries a running commentary-the children offer to help him out-  Tim scans all around the bridge, turrets- and fills in when the children freeze up.

Tim moves the hand & pointer to dip into the water butt- tap solid items to ask what they are made of- & to touch birds & dragon flies who fly off and away…….

What would you ask the people who built this place? Think of interesting questions and how would you ask them? The children chatter animatedly….

Would you like to meet the gardener? He invites us in- and one of the children steps up to answer  questions ….Tim helps him along- The lady he works for steps up to the front- She tells us all about the gardener ,who has worked for her for 20 years- The gardener explains that his work is secret-  Tim jumps in and asks the floor- Any questions?- Why are they there? The children improvise bravely-

Tim “translates” & clarifies the questions-They explain that their energy source

Solar energy is used & they eat the vegetables that he grows… The children explain that a great war happened many years ago & the gardener’s great grandfather built the place to escape & live his dream.

Tim explains that the two volunteers rose to the challenge in improvising their fantastic answers- They get praise & a ripple & add an explanation of why there is only two left- They explain that the volcano erupted & ruined it all.

Tim prompts them to tell the tale of what happened when he fell off the ladder- each child contributes & makes a good story- with Tim filling in where necessary. It’s an excellent example of how to draw children’s ideas out without taking over.

It’s time to give the Thinking dice out- each table gets a set-to help them phrase questions to allow you a different way in- Yellow pink & orange are simpler,the darker blue, purple & green need more complex answers.

The children immediately grab them- & Tim asks them to move to talk to new people- just talk- not marry them

Each group of 3 will have a translator, a questioner & someone who lives in the village. He asks them to ask open questions, not close ones where they can only answer yes or no.

The children move around & the staff help them mix into groups of 3, all from different schools.

By now the children are fine working with others. They come up with all sorts of fantastic phrases & ideas, using the Thinking Dice to formulate questions. The translator role gives the child being questioned extra thinking time, so it’s all useful stuff.

Tim is constantly modeling how to open children up & allow them their voices by giving them time- even though this is very short.

In what seems no time at all we have heard the questions and some answers, moved about to stretch and then they are back with their original groups to do the last bit of stretched writing- I mean stretched because Tim really does manage to move these children forward. By making them feel valued and safe, by using years of classroom experience & his humour, he manages to extend these children’s writing in a few hours in a way that could take a more traditional teacher years!

That’s not to say that ordinary classroom teachers can’t do this stuff- of course they can use the tools & programs-just that they need to find their own way & style (& of course the ICT stuff all needs to work!)

The staff are delighted too.  Luckily, they have a whole afternoon session with Tim & Sarah to look forward to. Can’t wait!

Helen Peter, Educational Trainer

Category: 1) Events and Training days

Comments (3)

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  1. Lora White says:

    Thank you for a wonderful day – my children enjoyed it so much and were talking about their favourite parts of the morning and what they’d like to do next so much, they didn’t care that they were late to lunch when we got back to school! Although the workshop was for G&T writers, it was clear that the activities and ideas can be transferred to whole classes – thanks for so many ideas!

  2. Jane Robinson says:

    What a great day! Tim and Sarah were so inspiring and gave us so many brilliant ideas and things to think about. I can’t wait to try things out with my class. Thank you so much to all the amazing children from EC1 cluster who came along today, you were wonderful!

  3. Helen Peter says:

    Thanks, Tim & Sarah, for a wonderful day at Ashley Down! The whole day was really inspiring. It made me feel more confident that I could indeed use all this ict equipment & slides & use them confidently as a teaching tool.
    Tim’s easy style & vast experience mean that he can train staff and pupils together- fantastic! Thanks again guys- hope to see you both in action again soon!

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