"Stefan completely revolutionised my teaching of writing - not an understatement!"
Sarah, Deputy Head & Literacy Leader, Leeds

"I believe I have seen a genuine correlation between children involved in the ARTiculate workshops and target children making Age Related Expectation (ARE)...Every child benefited with progress, clearly evident in their school books."
Simon, Y4 Teacher, Leeds

"Very inspirational and creative - lots of new ideas to improve writing and unlock children's imaginations."
Nadia, Year 4 teacher

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Story Makers Company at Leeds Beckett University

Last month I was delighted to join up with the Story Makers Company at Leeds Beckett University - a collective of creative practitioners who work with schools across Leeds and beyond to promote storytelling and encourage young authors to find their voices.

SMC held a creative event on 27th June where members showcased their excellent work to teachers. The event was a huge success - well done to all who were involved.

To celebrate the event, the SMC published the first edition of Story Maker Dialogues: an interactive journal collecting ideas and 'think pieces' to promote discussion about creative practices in school.

My article about developing creative writing in primary schools was included too. Click on the picture below to access the full journal.

To find out more about the Story Maker Company, visit their website!



http://anyflip.com/lcyg/uosj

If the journal didn't load, please follow the link: http://anyflip.com/lcyg/uosj

 

Sunday, 1 July 2018

ARTiculate newsletter: July & August 2018

Dr Peter Mugo Gathara (left) and Prof Kisulu Kombo (right) from Kenyatta University 
Hello teachers!

Jambo from Kenya! I’m here for a visit to Nairobi. When I have not been striding across the Maasai Mara, feeding baby giraffe to the Out of Africa soundtrack, I have been visiting the School of Education at Kenyatta University. Thank you for the welcome – asante sana!  But don’t be jealous UK teachers – it’s colder here in Kenya than it is in Leeds!

Book literacy CPD for your school’s September INSET!

Whether your school’s literacy teaching needs a bit of a shake up or a new sparkle, an ARTiculate CPD workshop is the ideal for your school’s INSET day in September.

If your school is getting back to basics, I have workshops designed to help teachers choose and use quality texts, develop independent writers, engage reluctant writers and use more effective editing or redrafting techniques.

For schools looking to develop and enhance their literacy teaching, I can guide your staff in using film to teach literacy, teaching whole school Shakespeare, using art to inspire writing or something else entirely. To find out more, click here or visit www.articulateeducation.co.uk.

Half/full day workshops are priced between £450 and £600 and can be combined with 1-2-1 coaching sessions for teachers, planning surgeries or co-teaching. Drop me an email to articulateeducation@gmail.com and we can take it from there.

A book for your shelf: The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird


Mamo and Dani live opposite lives. For Mamo, home is a ramshackle hut in the slums of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa with his older sister and troubled mother. On the other side of the city, Dani lives a life of privilege with his parents. But when their lives are both turned upside down, they find themselves alone on the city streets with the beggars, orphans and gangs.  A challenging but fascinating read for upper Key Stage 2.

This resource can be purchased from my e-shop on TES online (click here to access).
You can get it for free by joining my mailing list. Email articulateeducation@gmail.com with the word 'subscribe' as the email subject.

Resource summary


•    Inspire your class with a juicy discussion about the relevance of their education…
•    Write a ‘character book’ to use in drama to build deeper understanding of Dani, Mamo and the gang…
•    Explore the wider themes of the story through drama, geography and PSHE…
•    Draw scenes from the story in the style of beautiful Ethiopian iconography…
•    Collaborate on a written version of a scene in the story told from multiple perspectives…

Ideas for other books and films ideal for creative literacy can be found in my e-shop, click here to visit my website.

Have a relaxing summer holiday. Until September!

Stefan

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Jambo! Visit to Brookhouse School, Kenya

Me (left) and the Doctor (right) in the fantastic grounds of Brookhouse School (no, it's not the Disney castle...)


Our second week on our Kenya trip and an opportunity to visit the Karen campus of the Brookhouse School, Nairobi. And quite an experience it was too!

A private school, Brookhouse is regarded as one of the most prestigious schools in the country and it is hard to deny that the campus is stunning: a small farm with ostriches, secretary birds and guinea fowl, life size sculptures of safari animals in the playground, the library with the 'learning tree' that is also a staircase (and also the pride and joy of Jonathan, the school's librarian) and a computer lab that is decked out like a space station. These are facilities that most schools in Kenya - and, for that matter, the UK - can only dream of.

While this material investment may be out of reach for many schools, the schools commitment to creative learning is not.

Meeting the deputy headteacher and curriculum leader Andrew Kimwele and teacher Susan Bantu, it was interesting to hear the school's approach to creative, cross-curricular learning. In language learning, the school prioritises independence, creativity, collaboration and application of language skills in the primary phase. This, the school claims, has a significant impact on the later stages of children's education.

 Some standout ideas include holding writing and art competitions where children collaborate to create a unique artwork and creative writing pieces, publishing children's work in printed books, encouraging children to write for pleasure and using drama as a key feature of their literacy work.

But, OK, I will hold my hands up - the resources and materials available to this prestigious school is not an appropriate source of comparrison for UK education. Developing these approaches does require significant investments of money and time. But it is hard to deny that these practices are the key to developing confident, creative and flexible learners. As Brookhouse School reaps the benefits in Kenya, it is hard not to think that a focus on authentic writing experiences could have a significant impact on schools in the UK too.

Perhaps the key difference is not simply the resources available, but the freedom the teachers are given to experiment in an environment free from government inspectors, league tables and a hostile environment of surveillance, performance management and teaching to the test.

Jambo! Visiting the School of Education at Kenyatta University, Nairobi


The Doctor (that's my wife: no regeneration powers or Tardis but two hearts) and I both love to travel and this year has been a lucky one: a trip to Kenya in June to follow our visit to South Africa earlier in the year. Whenever we are away for 'workation', we always like to meet up with colleagues who work in education. It is a great opportunity to get insights into the perspectives, practices and challenges of educational practitioners around the world.  

In Nairobi, I met with two leading staff from Kenyatta University: Professor Kisulu Kombo (Dean of the School of Education) and Dr Peter Mugo Gathara (Head of Department of Educational Foundations). It was a warm welcome and involved many cups of Kenyan tea, a visit to Dr Peter's house and sampling milk from Dr Peter's cows while we were there. Asante sana! 

At Kenyatta University Nairobi: Dr Peter Mugo Gathara, Head of Department of Educational Foundations (left), me (centre), and Professor Kisulu Kombo, Dean of the School of Education (right)
During our meeting, we discussed teacher training in Kenya as well as educational reform. Following the global trend for intensive educational reform, Kenya is currently in the process of overhauling their National Curriculum. Read more about it here.

The key change affecting early education sees the existing 8 year primary stage split into a two years pre-primary and six year primary education. The reforms also state a new focus on pedagogy, personalised learning and inclusion with teachers expected to deliver a higher quality of education.

Sounds promising.

But this drastic reform programme clearly faces challenges. Resources in Kenyan state education are limited and a huge discrepancy remains between the quality of state education in different areas of the country. What might be practical in urban Nairobi may be harder to implement in isolated, rural regions.

Crucially, there is also a sense that primary education lacks status in the Kenyan system and, by consequence, so do its teachers. With the new reforms demanding professional excellence from educators, it is hard to see how this can be fulfilled when class sizes are large, professional training is limited and an unhealthy attachment to standardised assessment remains.

It will be interesting to see whether this ambitious programme can fulfil its ambitions. 

Friday, 1 June 2018

ARTiculate newsletter: June 2018

Hello teachers!

Happy half term to you all. You’re nearly over the line! As you roll into that post-SATs-practising-sports-day-empty-out-your-trays time of year, there is no better time to experiment.

With that in mind, take your class for a magical browse in Ross MacKenzie’s brilliant The Nowhere Emporium, a place of secrets and wonders. Ideal for free-flowing creative writing for all of Key Stage 2 and the perfect starting point for some exciting art and drama.

Scroll down for details on how to use The Nowhere Emporium with your class.

Harris Burdick: the case file
Last month, as part of a CPD course for primary leaders, I lead a workshop on creative writing that explored Chris Van Allsburg’s intriguing picture book, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. After discovering a mysterious letter by Chris Van Allsburg, teachers were asked to write part of a story linked to the Harris Burdick illustrations.

Their writing has been passed onto the relevant authorities and has been added to the case file of the disappearance of Harris Burdick which can be viewed below.

Where is Harris Burdick? Who has the illustrations now? What really did happen in Prague? And who is the man with the dachshund? Can you follow the paper-trail and uncover the real mystery of Harris Burdick?

Click on the picture below to find out...






If the video didn't load you can access it at: https://youtu.be/h_XE7yXcdQw

Staff really enjoyed this training and if you would like to book this or similar CPD for your school, please contact me at articulateeducation@gmail.com. Info on training courses I offer can be found at www.articulateeducation.co.uk/p/teacher-training


A book for your shelf: The Nowhere Emporium by Ross MacKenzie
When Daniel Holmes hides from the local bully in the doorway of a newly appeared shop, he has no idea that he has stepped over a magical threshold. The Nowhere Emporium is the invention of magician Lucien Silver: part shop, part theme park, a place where wonders - amazing sights and experiences - appear at the stroke of a magician’s pen. Fascinated by the wonders of the Emporium, Daniel begins to discover his own magical potential and the places his imagination can take him to. But as Daniel quickly discovers, the world of magic can be a dangerous place.

This resource can be purchased from my e-shop on TES online (click here to access).
You can get it for free by joining my mailing list. Email articulateeducation@gmail.com with the word 'subscribe' as the email subject. 

Resource summary
•    Explore a real set of treasures at a local museum…
•    Engage in lateral thinking and consider where imaginative ideas come from…
•    Experiment with dance and music to interpret the wonders of The Nowhere Emporium…
•    Write your own book of wonders…
•    Design and build a snow-globe…

Ideas for other books and films ideal for creative literacy can be found in my e-shop, click here to visit my website.

How can I get Stefan to work with my school?
When schools approach me, these are usually the things they need to know. Click on what your school needs to visit my website and find out more.

#1 We need someone to show us how to inspire a class or year group about literacy and writing.
#2 We want a creative challenge for a high-flying group of children.
#3 We need a boost for a group of children who struggle with writing.
#4 We'd love someone to offer regular creative classes at our school.
#5 Our staff want training on how to plan better literacy topics.
#6 It is none of those things, but we’d like you to...

Why not drop me an email at articulateeducation@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Enjoy the last half term!
Stefan

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

ARTiculate newsletter: May 2018

Hello teachers!

With the number of ‘awareness’ days slightly overwhelming the calendar, it is most certainly forgivable if you’ve blanked them all out. May is full of them, by the way. While National Handwashing Day and International Dawn Chorus Day (5th and 7th of May respectively, if you have your diary to hand) might not get your pulse racing, one awareness worth being aware of is National Share a Story Month which runs throughout May.

So, if you are looking for a perfect sharing-book to celebrate, look no further than The Willow Pattern Story by Allan Drummond, a beautiful take on the story of the famous Chinese pottery design. It is ideal for reading together, alone or using it for your literacy lessons.

Scroll down for details on how to use The Willow Pattern Story to set your literacy lessons aflutter.

Greater Depth in writing CPD – Pudsey schools away day – April 2018I was delighted to be invited to present at the Pudsey Family of Schools away day last week. It was an opportunity to discuss achieving greater depth in primary writing. It was great to meet the teachers of Pudsey and they had some wonderful ideas as we followed hot on the trail of the mysteriously disappeared writer and illustrator, Harris Burdick.

For me, developing independent, creative and high-achieving writers is linked to shifting our view of children as writers and the importance of moving children towards the idea that they are authors with a unique voice rather than simply pupils in a literacy lesson.  Achieving this requires a whole-school focus on creativity, publishing children’s work, feedback and collaboration rather than surges on grammar, spelling and handwriting.

Feedback from the teachers was excellent with one teacher commenting: “Was a great session! Made me think of myself as a writer as well as a teacher.” Thanks again!

If you would like to book this, or similar, CPD for your school, please contact me at articulateeducation@gmail.com. Info on training courses I offer can be found at www.articulateeducation.co.uk/p/teacher-training-packages.

A book for your shelf: The Willow Pattern Story by Allan Drummond




 
This beautifully illustrated book tells the classic story of Chinese lovers Koong-Shee and Chang that is immortalised in the familiar blue and white pottery pattern that we know, love and take to charity shops. Actually, the story and has no basis in China whatsoever and was invented in England after the pottery design was already popular in the 1800s. But the story draws on stylistic elements of Chinese culture and is brilliantly retold and reimagined by Allan Drummond. The book is perfect for encouraging storytelling in Key Stage 1.

This resource can be purchased from my e-shop on TES online (click here to access).
You can get it for free by joining my mailing list. Email articulateeducation@gmail.com with the word 'subscribe' as the email subject.




Resource summary


Ideas for talking and thinking: Use the classic design as a visual story map to encourage thinking and storytelling…
Ideas for writing: Retell this love story through writing and performance…
Ideas for art: Create your own willow pattern plates…

Ideas for other books and films ideal for creative literacy can be found in my e-shop, click here to visit my website.

How can I get Stefan to work with my school?
When schools approach me, these are usually the things they need to know. Click on what your school needs to visit my website and find out more.
#1 We need someone to show us how to inspire a class or year group about literacy and writing.
#2 We want a creative challenge for a high-flying group of children.
#3 We need a boost for a group of children who struggle with writing.
#4 We'd love someone to offer regular creative classes at our school.
#5 Our staff want training on how to plan better literacy topics.
#6 It is none of those things, but we’d like you to...

Why not drop me an email at articulateeducation@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Happy book sharing!
Stefan

PS – after an enquiry about the research project in Cape Town featured in last month’s bulletin, I’d like to clarify that the film made in a primary school was independent of the research project. The film was made for the school and the children who participated – it was not for profit and is not publicly available.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

ARTiculate newsletter: April 2018

Hello teachers!

Lights, camera, ACTION! This month’s newsletter is all about film and about how it can be used to inspire creative teaching and creative writing.

Read on to see how I am using it with children in classrooms from Leeds to Cape Town, changing the way schools teach and how children think about themselves as storytellers. I have even included a free resource to help get you started using film to inspire your class.

If you want to know more, I offer CPD training on using film to teach literacy for primary teachers in the UK and around the world. Click here or visit www.articulateeducation.co.uk to book it for your school!

The Arrival: child migration in Cape Town
​​

One of the things that brings me to Cape Town this year is the chance to support a research project in one of the city’s primary schools. The project explores how child migrants to Cape Town are accommodated by the education system. Using innovative methods such as photography and The Arrival – a picture book by Shaun Tan - the researcher is exploring the issue of inclusion for migrant children from the perspective of the children themselves. What challenges do they face when arriving in a new school? How do they feel school helps them settle in? What do they think could be done better?

You can read my blog posts on this project here.

My role in the project was to help the children turn their ideas into a short movie based on the story of The Arrival. Filmed with a group of children from Grade 4 and Grade 6, the film tells the story of a new arrival and what an inclusive and excluding school might look like to them.

The children really enjoyed the filming and, as this was their first experience of writing and starring in a movie, I was pleased to be able to offer them a new way to tell stories.

Julia Caesar – an ARTiculate film!
Earlier this year, I worked with a fantastic group of Year 6 children in a primary school in Leeds (UK) on a Shakespeare project. We pulled on our togas and jumped, sandals first, into the murky world of intrigue and blood-thirsty revenge that is the Roman epic, ‘Julius Caesar’. We reimagined the story, swapping the Roman forum for the school corridors of power and explored Julia Caesar’s ambitious plans for the school council. But will she succeed?

Click below to watch the trailer for the movie...


If the link did not load, follow this link to access the video: https://youtu.be/fl4gZIjTQ-w


A MOVIE for your classroom: Pandora from Avatar by James Cameron

To get you started in the movie-business, why not try Pandora, a short sci-fi film perfect for inspiring both fiction and non-fictional writing. Pandora is a mini-documentary featured in the blockbuster film Avatar by James Cameron and explores an alien planet and the natural wonders that can be found there.


This resource can be purchased from my e-shop on TES online (click here to access).
You can get it for free by joining my mailing list. Email articulateeducation@gmail.com with the word 'subscribe' as the email subject. 

Resource summary

Ideas for talking and thinking: consider how we might explain our human lives to aliens through the objects we have and get children world building….

Ideas for writing: Write and film your own documentaries about alien worlds….

Ideas for art: Use collage to create alien landscapes…

Ideas for other books and films ideal for creative literacy can be found in my e-shop.


How can I get Stefan to work with my school?

When schools approach me, these are usually the things they need to know. Click on what your school needs to visit my website and find out more.

#1 We need someone to show us how to inspire a class or year group about literacy and writing.
#2 We want a creative challenge for a high-flying group of children.
#3 We need a boost for a group of children who struggle with writing.
#4 We'd love someone to offer regular creative classes at our school.
#5 Our staff want training on how to plan better literacy topics.
#6 It is none of those things, but we’d like you to...
Why not drop me an email at articulateeducation@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Happy teaching!

Stefan

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

...and cut! Cape Town filming, day 2

A lovely way to wrap up the filming today at the primary school in Cape Town. Following yesterday’s session where we focused our imaginary migrant’s first day at school – an unfriendly, unwelcoming place – today we looked on the bright side: what would a positive, friendly school look like?
Me filming on our beautiful set!
After yesterday’s filming where the researcher and I had modelled a lot of ideas and techniques for the group, I was hoping that the children would get more of a chance to take the lead today. I hoped that this independence would be both in front of and behind the camera.

We started off the session by discussing what they could remember from the previous day’s conversation - about what we had imagined might happen to the boy. Making a film had seemed a bit of an abstract process to them to begin with so I hoped that by refreshing their memory with their ideas, the children would see how these ideas correlated into the actual film.
We then sat down to watch the footage that we had filmed so far: from their reactions – a lot of smiling and laughing –  they seemed that they were happy with the result! Phew! Children can be a tough crowd sometimes...   This was pleasing for us too, as we felt that the children could see their stamp on the movie we had made and that it was their ideas, rather than our own, at the centre. This is a challenge for creative practitioners and, from my experiences in school, an outcome that requires having a prior agreement between staff about which aspects the teacher or child will lead on, a structure that allows discussion and reflection and time to let the children work.
After watching the film, the children could easily see how they could alter the film to show a friendly, welcoming school. We asked them what their characters might do or say differently this time to be more welcoming to the migrant boy. The children quickly made suggestions of what their character could do differently: rather than push him, give him a hug; instead of steal from him, give him a pencil to use; rather than ignore him, help him to read the signs that had confused him before. We noted down their ideas to use in our filming schedule – this process was a lot more focused and done with confidence - and we were soon outside filming.
Done this way, I felt that the children had a sense that they were seeing the purpose of their activities and had visibly become more confident with the role of storyteller.
One area that I felt we didn’t give the children the full experience, was operating the camera. It would have made the experience more complete – at least from my perspective – to let them be more hands on. Sometimes it is hard to quieten your inner-teacher and follow their direction. This is especially true with having an end-product in mind. Would the footage have been as good if they had filmed it? Would they have got more from the experience if we had let them? Were they happy to let us take the lead initially? These are questions we should both consider before next time.
In any case, the next step will be to put together a short trailer and then the finished movie in time for the children’s premier (early April).

Monday, 19 March 2018

Movie poster - The Arrival!


Ok, I know we are only half way through filming but I couldn’t resist making a quick poster for the movie! A lot of the work I do involves children filming or publishing their work. I think a fundamental part of developing children as authors or artists with a genuine sense of voice is that they get to see their work promoted, shared and celebrated. If you’re making a film for a real audience, then it needs to be promoted as a real movie. I wonder how much of a perception shift the impact of this has? 

When you explain to a group of children that you are going to publish a book or make a film, one of the greatest challenges is convincing the children that you mean it – that their work really will get shared even if it is just locally in the school. This, I suppose, offers an insight into how they view their education. From past experiences, getting children to see themselves as authors requires an injection of confidence and when they see their work being shared publicly, I think this is when they start to feel more confident about their capabilities.

So here is the poster for the movie ‘The Arrival’ featuring the wonderful children of Grade 4, filmed on location in Cape Town. 


...and action! Cape Town filming Day 1

The film project got off to a flying start with the children at a primary school in Cape Town this afternoon. It was wonderful to be invited to work on this research project into migrant children’s perspectives on inclusion in schools.

Last week, the lead researcher discussed inclusion with a group of six children from Grade 4 – a mixture of migrant and local children. To make this topic accessible, the researcher had used The Arrival by Shaun Tan: a wonderful picture book that follows the journey of a man and his family who leave their home to build a life in a new country; the story explores the challenges and surprises that await them. The book has no words and the fantastic illustrations make the book part graphic novel, part photograph album.

Last week, the lead researcher worked with the children to take their own photographs around school to enable the children to identify things that showed that the school was including them (or not) in the life of the school. With this insight, I was asked to help the children turn these ideas into a film based on The Arrival showing the arrival of a new migrant child to the school.

Overall, my aim for this film-making project was to incorporate as many of the children’s ideas as possible rather than impose my own plan. As much as possible, I wanted this project to be directed by them. This is often an issue I grapple with in my teaching – how can you enable children to be creative whilst still offering them guidance? When does the line lie between enabler and enforcer? As someone who enjoys being creative, it is hard not to want to join in! The key challenge in this case was that film making was an entirely new experience for them. Pedagogy, curriculum and practical issues such as large class sizes and lack of resources means that drama, technology and more free-flow methods don’t feature much. In this sense, I have something to offer but I realised they would need a lot of guidance from me in how to fit a plot together, use camera angles and so on. We are going to follow the same formula in our next session, however, so I was happy to use this session to model the storytelling process, so they could take more ownership next time.  

On meeting the children, I planned to discuss the story that they had read and ask them to find parallels with arriving at school. For the children, this was a challenge. Although this was something they do every day, it was tricky for them to put into words something so prosaic. It could have been the arrival (no pun intended) of a tall British man with a funny accent that spirited away their tongues! One boy however had a lot to say – a Grade 4 boy who had recently migrated from Zimbabwe who I will call Tinashe*. 

Arriving at school for the first time was a fresh experience for Tinashe, so he had quite a lot to contribute. Letting him take the lead, I drew the other children in to the discussion about the plot of our film by directly asking them by name what they thought could happen next. This seemed to get some of the other children talking. I showed the children some different camera angles using photographs I had taken of the researcher prior to the session and we discussed how using a high angle can make the subject look small or intimidated whereas using a low angle could make them look taller or more menacing. This was useful as it helped them visualise what they might look like on screen. So far so good.

The filming outside was much more engaging for the children and largely they seemed to become more confident with acting and performing. Tinashe volunteered to play the lead role of the new arrival and he seemed to flourish in the spotlight. It was almost like this was something he really wanted others to understand – maybe us being outsiders helped.

The filming today centred on what an unwelcoming school would look like and I was really satisfied that the ideas we used came from the children’s experiences; being ignored for not speaking their language and being confused by a new place were important migrant experiences while stealing, bullying and gangs were some of the local children’s worries.

Although it was their first time filming we both felt that the children took something from the experience and seemed to grow in confidence in the role of storyteller, especially when they could see their ideas were valued and listened to. Hopefully tomorrow, the children will be able to take more of a lead behind the camera.

A short trailer will follow!

*Not his real name.