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Showing posts from 2019

Green Man movie trailer

In October 2019, I worked with a Year 2 class on a project about the English folk story of the Green Man. If you're not familiar with the story, the Green Man (or Jack in the Green as he is sometimes known) is a mythical creature who nutures the trees and the woods and entices unsuspecting people out of their homes and into the woods. A full suamry of the project will follow but as part of it, the children made a film.

Here is the trailer for Green Man! The full movie is due in December 2019. Watch this space...

Green Man -- Trailer #1


Video project in Cape Town, South Africa

I'm currently in Cape Town working as part of a research project in primary schools in the city. The project is looking at the experiences of new migrant children to school. I'll write more about the project once it's complete but it has been great to act as a consultant supporting the research with advice on visual literacy and film-making.

The project uses The Arrival by Shaun Tan as a way of getting the children involved to share their own experiences. I am also helping the children turn their ideas into a short film. This is the trailer I made with the children based on their idea about telling the story of a new child arriving at their school. All the footage was taken by the children!The finished movie will hopefully be ready soon. Watch this space!



Button it and butt out - helping children find their voices in creative writing

Teachers are terrible for butting in, don't you think? If you're a teacher, or if there's a teacher in your family, you'll know what I mean here. In my local Headingley cafe, I am always wildlife watching for parent-teacher hybrids with their talk of 'making good choices' and loud interruptions to children's chatter with choice dollops of wisdom. I am just as culpable. Taking my nephew to the park, the teacher that lurks within me spots the opportunity for quick lesson on plant life or bird migration. Cue deep sighs and athletic eye-rolls from my nephew. Reading a book with him is too tempting to pass up an impromptu phonics lesson or when playing computer battle simulations together on Rome Total War, I can't help myself from giving him a little lesson on the Roman Empire as I pulverise his centurions with my Egyptian chariots. The inner teacher bursts out, hulk-like, from your unsuspecting human form.
As a teacher of writing, I have become more aware…

Time to change: a project-based learning approach to primary writing

The English National Curriculum has been criticised for being prescriptive and robbing teachers of the opportunity to experiment. So what is the alternative?  
Project-based learning (PBL) has a bit of a tarnished reputation. If you went to school in the 1980s and before, you might remember wonderful afternoons doing 'topic': a wonderfully evocative phrase to those who remember it as essentially a byword for cutting things out and sticking them in a scrap book. I've spoken about my former teacher Mr Collins and his accidental genius before but I remember one particular topic on fashion. Fashion topic was little more than cutting pictures of clothes out of the Littlewoods catalogue and putting them into groups while Mr Collins heard children read. He'd also made no effort to pre-tear out the pages with the bras on. It would quite possibly be career-ending today. To recent education reformers, my aforementioned encounter with the lingerie section of the Littlewoods catal…

Is your classroom a creative place?

Is your classroom a creative place? If you are a teacher pondering this question, the answer you give will depend on how you understand the term 'creativity'. It might also give an idea about how much you value creativity as a skill for learning and how much of it goes on in your lessons. 
Defining creativity can be a challenge because how we understand the term is often tied up with how we feel about ourselves as a creative being. It can be quite personal. For some people, the idea of being creative is about art or dance because this seems like when people are at their most imaginative. If you can't draw, that line of thinking goes, then you're not creative. For others, creativity is about being a free spirit, breaking free of the rules. These are both misleading and it is the persistence of these myths that has helped many people decide that they are not a 'creative type'. That only certain people can be creative is yet another myth. 
The truth is creativity…

Mr Collins and the ping pong balls: a lesson about creativity from the dark days of 1988

I'd like to share with you an experience from my time as a child at school. It is a story about a teacher, a lesson, something I learned. You can put the handkerchief away as this isn't a sob story, and you don't need to jot anything down as it doesn't represent a masterclass in teaching from a lost age. It is an experience that was accidently inspiring and formative, in spite of what may have been intended, rather than because of it. It is the story of Mr Collins, a ping pong ball and a DT lesson.
First a bit of context. The date is a little fuzzy, but it was possibly 1988 (once I've explained you'll see it certainly has a 1988 feel to it) and I was in Year 2 at my first school in South Staffordshire. That's what upwardly mobile Eighties families called (and still call) parts of Wolverhampton. I was probably seven years old and was a child fairly unmoved by the whole 'school' thing. My class teacher was the aforementioned Mr Collins. At this point…

A talk at the University of the Western Cape

Last month, I submitted my Masters by Research thesis at Leeds Beckett University. My topic was teacher identity and creativity and on Tuesday, I was delighted to be invited to speak on it at the University of the Western Cape. It was lovely to meet the staff from the Faculty of Education and I thank them for going easy on me with the questions! It was my first academic talk and I am glad it was in my home-from-home of Cape Town.
I'll spare you the full 15,000 words, but the research was into my identity as a teacher and how growing accountability is reshaping not only the role of teachers but also how they see themselves as trusted professionals. Although this autoethnographic research was into my own story as a teacher, exploring the experiences of others is something I am following up through my Facebook blog Teacher Talking Time
The key aspect of this research was in the area of creativity in primary education. If the process of learning and working creativily involves risk…

Pay-as-you-feel for my teaching resources

One of the most influential books I have read over the last few months is Open: how we'll work, live and learn in the future by musician, educator and fellow Leeds resident, David Price. If you haven’t come across it before, I can thoroughly recommend it. 
In his book, David Price explores new trends in working and learning made possible by the internet and the rise of social media. There are several ideas from Open that have powerful implications for education and I will explore several of these on this blog in the next few months. One of the most important parts of being ‘open’ is about reciprocal sharing. 
Over the last few years, I have been turning my ideas into buyable teaching resources available from my shop on the TES platform. I put together short and long planning prompts and Medium Term Planning documents for creative writing, literacy, and cross-curricular units of work.
Selling resources is a vital source of income to support my independent work (most of the work I …

Between a blog and a hard place: what this blog is for

It has been a while since I last posted on this blog but it does not mean that I have not been busy. Since January 2018, I have been studying for a Masters by Research at Leeds Beckett University - I handed it in last month (fingers crossed for a good mark!). The research was a critical reflection on my transition from a full-time primary school teacher to independent teaching consultant in July 2014. It looks at how that transition has changed the way I feel about being a teacher. 
I’ll spare you the full 15,000 words, but it is enough to say that this study helped me, for the first time, to begin to untangle some of the complex and difficult feelings I have about my time as a full-time teacher. For a long time I have tried to present that transition as a choice, as a promotion almost whereby I put aside my work to follow a specialist interest in creative writing. A noble cause. While there are elements of truth in this, it is far from the whole story.
If I am honest, I found it di…