Tag Archives: INSPIRATION

Playing Shops: How Abie Longstaff wrote Cavegirl

There are six children in my family. I was the oldest and the bossiest, so I coordinated endless games to amuse my younger sisters. We stole Mum and Dads’ clothes for dress-ups; we pulled all the cushions off the sofa to make a gymnastics team; we even used the old wooden hostess trolley to sail away to sea.

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Abbie and her sisters

One of our favourite styles of game was shops! There’s something about buying and selling that really appeals to children. I think it’s because it’s a basic form of transaction; one that’s easy to understand. Someone has an object to sell, the other offers to buy it. So as children, my sisters and I made pretend shops that sold sweets, or books or toys to one another. I saw this game continue in my own children – they loved making yard sales: setting up a little stall on the street to sell old toys or DVDs for pennies, helping at the school fair with second uniform or biscuit sales.

With my first books, The Fairytale Hairdresser series, I created a world of shops, where the Big Bad Wolf is an optician (‘all the better to see you with’), Little Bo Peep has a wool shop; and the Tooth Fairy is a dentist. My main character, Kittie Lacey, has a salon. The books celebrate entrepreneurship and creativity. This theme is evidently close to my heart because my chapter books, The Magic Potions Shop, also feature a shop! It’s funny how the things you loved as a child are brought out in the stories you write. On school visits I often tell children that the games they play, and the books they read will influence the kind of writer they’ll become, and I guess I’m proof of that.

With this new book, Cavegirl, I’ve taken the idea of buying and selling back to Neolithic times – the late Stone Age. The Neolithic period (very roughly 8000 to 3000 BC) was an era of change. Societies had begun to develop; communities living in fixed shelters, farming crops and keeping livestock.  Clothing was made of animal skins, and stone was fashioned into tools or weapons. Settling in one place allowed time for creativity, in the form of pottery, cave paintings and jewellery. On a trip to the UAE to see schools, I was lucky enough to visit the Mleiha Archaeological Centre, which displays ancient artefacts from the Stone and Bronze ages, including arrowheads, axes, tools and fireplaces excavated in the surrounding area. Some of the region used to be underwater, and I was even taken to see ancient seashells embedded in the Desert Mountains.

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Ancient shells in the desert rock

The trip really inspired me to set a story in this period.

In those days, a barter system was in operation; goods such as weapons, pottery and copper were traded. Trade is the most basic form of commerce – one that children practise every time they swap a sticker or a trading card.

In Cavegirl, I wanted to play with the game of buy and sell in its purest form, but I wanted to add in entrepreneurship and creativity. I wanted my character to adapt the object she swaps, enhancing its value each time. In this way she moves up the ladder of trade, aiming to purchase the perfect birthday present for Mum. Only – it doesn’t all go to plan.Cavegirl

Abie Longstaff is the eldest of six children and grew up in Australia, Hong Kong and France. She knows all about squabbling, chaos and bossing younger sisters around so she logically began her career as a barrister. She started writing when her children were born and lives in Hove with her family. Abie writes for children from picture books to older fiction and is best known for the Fairytale Hairdresser series. Her latest book Cavegirl is out now!

Check Out Bloomsbury Education’s YouTube!

The Bloomsbury Education YouTube channel has TONS of brilliant videos to get stuck into; from five top tips for surviving in teaching to dramatic readings of poetry, animated trailers for up-and-coming fiction to suggestions on how to incorporate more kindness in the classroom.

Here’s a quick run-through of all the exciting videos on offer:

Bloomsbury Young Readers

Meet the characters, authors and illustrators behind the Bloomsbury Young Reader series, our book-banded stories for children aged 5-7. There will be pirate ships, there will be canine birthday parties, but most importantly, there will be some children flying into space!

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Happiness and Wellbeing in the Primary Classroom

Adrian Bethune, the author behind Wellbeing in the Primary Classroom, brings you a series of videos on how to create happiness, stillness and positivity in the hive of chaos that is a primary classroom! From tips for teaching kindness to writing your ‘what went wells’ at the end of each week, Adrian is awash with ideas on how to foster happy and healthy children!

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Meet Daniel Sobel

Who’s Daniel Sobel, you may wonder. Well, wonder no more. The inspiring author behind Narrowing the Attainment Gap and Leading on Pastoral Care describes his wonderful work on inclusion and how you can apply his ideas to your school.

Daniel

Andrew Brodie Apps

We have a have a terrific range of apps for primary learners, written and designed by the legend himself, Andrew Brodie (full range here). These confidence-boosting apps for home and school cover telling the time, spelling, times tables and mental maths, and are a brilliant way of prepping students for SATS. Want to know more? Here’s a video to show you…

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Teacher Toolkit

Want to hear from the UK’s leading education blogger? We’ve got you covered. Ross Morrison McGill, aka Teacher Toolkit, shares tips, tricks and techniques from his bestselling book, Mark. Plan. Teach.!

Ross

Poetry from Joshua Seigal

He’s hilarious, he’s insightful, he’s brilliant…

Joshua Seigal is the mastermind poet behind Little Lemur Laughing, I Don’t Like Poetry and I Bet I Can Make You Laugh, and here he is reading a variety of poems. From Addicted to Chicken to Love Letter to a Lychee, there’s nothing quite like them!

Josh Seigal

Make Your School an Excellent One

Rob Carpenter, author of A Manifesto for Excellence, has created a series of videos on how to make your school bloomin’ excellent. From creating an aspirational school environment to the importance of mindfulness and wellbeing, there are a plethora of great takeaways to enhance your teaching and inspire your pupils.

Rob Carpenter

Philosophy: 40 Lessons to Get Children Thinking

Fancy a whole lesson at your fingertips, FOR FREE?! Esteemed founder and CEO of The Philosophy Foundation and author of 40 Lessons to Get Children Thinking and The If Machine, Peter Worley presents a 44-minute video where he undertakes a sentence activity with a primary class, encouraging the children to think about meaning, structure and relationships.

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How to Survive in Teaching

How does one survive in teaching amidst the long hours, endless paperwork, demoralising colleagues, stress and anxiety? Ask Dr Emma Kell, author of How to Survive in Teaching and general unwavering optimist, who will teach you how to survive, nay, THRIVE, in this brilliant profession.

Emma Kell

Let’s Perform!

Loosen those limbs and begin those warm-up exercises, it’s time to get dramatic! Watch Cath Howe’s collection of original monologues, duologues and poetry in action, performed by the shining stars of Fern Hill Primary School!

Let's Perform

Head over to our YouTube channel to browse!

A Well-Balanced Acting and Drama Lesson: 6 activities for you to try today!

“Here is the book that every drama teacher should have on their shelf” –  Sylvia Young, OBE

For a lesson that is an hour in length, you should be using about four to seven exercises.

For a well-balanced lesson, the teacher should take exercises from at least three or four different chapters. A well-balanced lesson might include one exercise from Chapter 1, ‘Relaxation and Focus’, one exercise from Chapter 2, ‘Voice’, one exercise from Chapter 3, ‘Movement’, one exercise from Chapter 4, ‘Unblocking Performers’ and two exercises from Chapter 6, ‘Objectives’.


Chapter 1: Relaxation and Focus

1.1 Releasing tension while lying down

A simple relaxation exercise in which students relax each body part, one body part at a time, while lying down.

Age: 8 plus.

Skills: Concentration, awareness, focus, relaxation and mindfulness.

Participants: This exercise can be done alone or in a group.

Time: 10–40 minutes (depending on the age group).

You’ll need: A warm room with a comfortable floor for students to lie on. If the room is cold, students should wear coats and/or use blankets to keep warm. If the floor is hard, students should lie on yoga mats or blankets.

How to: Ask the students to lie on the floor with their eyes closed. If the actor starts to feel sleepy during this exercise, they should open their eyes and try to bring the energy back into the body without moving; if they really need to, they can wiggle their toes or fingers to try and wake up.

Students need to try and bring their energy inwards, reclaiming it from others and different spaces, bringing their circle of attention in. Ask the students to notice the breath: is it slow, fast, steady, scattered? Is the breath in the chest, stomach or pelvic area? If it’s up in the chest, or even the throat, bring the breath down so that it’s lower in the body. The stomach, not the chest, should move up and down with each in- and out-breath.

Once the breath is stable, the actor can start relaxing each part of the body, one part at a time. They can start with softening the muscles in the forehead and then the eyebrows, the eyelids, the temples, the cheeks, the lips, the jaw, the tongue and any other parts of the face. It is important to spend a long time on the face as it’s one of the main areas people hold tension.

Once the actor has relaxed every part of the face, they can make very gentle ‘blah blah’ sounds, being careful to keep the tongue relaxed, as well as the face, as the sound is released. Once the actor has finished relaxing the face, they can move onto the body. Ask the students to start with the neck, allowing it to sink into the floor. Then they should drop the shoulders, noticing where the shoulders are in contact with the floor. Ask students to try and increase the contact with the floor by loosening into the ground: imagine the upper part of the body is melting into the floor. Next ask students to bring the attention to the hands, letting the fingers, thumbs, palms and wrists melt into the ground. Talk then through working the attention up into the arms, releasing the tension from the forearm, elbow and upper arm. Now ask them to work the attention down the body, releasing the mid back and lower back, relaxing the abdominal muscles and then moving onto the lower body.

Explain that people vary – some tend to carry most of their tension in the lower body, others in the upper body and others in isolated areas such as the eyelids or jaw. Ask students to reflect on where they hold their tension.

For the relaxation of the lower body, the actor can start by wiggling their toes and then relax the toes, the feet, the calf muscles, quad muscles, hamstrings, pelvis and buttocks. Once every part of the body has been relaxed, ask the actor to imagine energy flowing in through the feet, up the legs, through the hips, up into the upper body and face. Allow this energy to move freely through the body with no blockages of tension. Allow a good few minutes for this sensation to arise, and when it is time to stand up, make sure the students really take their time; firstly you don’t want them to get dizzy. But secondly it’s important to keep the relaxation that was just achieved in the body while standing up.

Variation: It’s also possible to do this exercise standing up with the back against a wall, or standing with no support or sitting down. If practising this exercise standing up, it’s important to keep the feet hip-width apart.

Tip: Students shouldn’t rush this exercise but take their time as they relax every part of the body. Anxieties and thoughts should be left outside of the rehearsal space.

The aim: For the actor to become more aware of their body and face, exploring where it is they are prone to holding tension and then releasing this.


Chapter 2: Voice

2.2 Diction and tongue-twisters

Vocal exercises to help students with speech and projection.

Age: 8 plus.

Skills: Voice, diction, speech and projection. Participants: This exercise can be done alone or in a group.

Time: 5–15 minutes.

You’ll need: A space for students to stand in a circle.

How to: Ask students to stand in a circle and to check their posture. The feet should be hip-width apart and the spine pulled up gently from the tip of the head. Start the warm-up by asking the students to open their mouths really wide and then quickly scrunch their lips up into a really tight prune shape. Repeat opening and closing the mouth like this three or four times. Now ask the students to place their hands on their diaphragms. With the in-breath the diaphragm pushes out the hand and with the out-breath the diaphragm contracts. Ask the students to think of their diaphragm as a balloon: with the in-breath the balloon blows up, filling with air, and with the out-breath the air is released, making the balloon shrink. After a few of these deep breaths in and out, ask the students to make a humming sound on the out-breath. Breathe in together to the count of three, expanding the diaphragm, and breathe out on a hum to the count of six. Explain to the students that they should choose one note and that sound should come from deep down in the pelvic area. This humming noise should vibrate the torso and lips; if it’s not doing so, ask the students to hum a little louder and deeper.

Now explain to the students that diction is very important, particularly in theatre work. Good diction will help the audience to hear and understand the actor. I find that diction is particularly a problem with younger students. For good diction, explain that consonants need to be pronounced very clearly at the beginning and end of each word. The 21 consonant letters in the English alphabet are b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, x, z and usually w and y. Say a consonant, for example, ‘b, b, b, b’, and then ask the students to say it with you, ‘b, b, b, b’. Do this for at least five or six constants, or go through all of them if the class is older and focused. Now do the same for some constant sounds such as ch, sh and th. Now move onto some words that start and end in a consonant, asking students to really emphasize pronouncing the letters. Some examples include bed, sack, hat, tall, Bob, fizz, frozen and Jack.

After this group warm-up, give the group some tongue-twisters to work on; these can be said as a group altogether or in smaller groups. Once the group knows each other well, you can ask students to say a tongue-twister on their own in front of the group; however, they must never be forced to do this.

Tongue-twisters:

Red lorry, yellow lorry.
Red lorry, yellow lorry.
Red lorry, yellow lorry.
Red lorry, yellow lorry. …

She sells sea shells on the sea shore.
She sells sea shells on the sea shore.
She sells sea shells on the sea shore.
She sells sea shells on the sea shore. …

Round and round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran.
Round and round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran.
Round and round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran.
Round and round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran. …

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. …

Toy boat.
Toy boat.
Toy boat.
Toy boat. …

A proper copper coffee pot.
A proper copper coffee pot.
A proper copper coffee pot.
A proper copper coffee pot. …

Unique New York.
Unique New York.
Unique New York.
Unique New York. …

A big black bear ate a big black bug.
A big black bear ate a big black bug.
A big black bear ate a big black bug.
A big black bear ate a big black bug. …

Eleven benevolent elephants.
Eleven benevolent elephants.
Eleven benevolent elephants.
Eleven benevolent elephants.

Variation: You can ask the students to invent some of their own tongue-twisters.

Tip: Listen and learn from news readers, theatre actors, good public speakers (and fingers-crossed drama teachers!) to hear how they use their voices to communicate clearly.

The aim: To help students to speak with good diction.


Chapter 3: Movement

3.2 Elbow to elbow
A simple physical warm-up exercise.
Age: 8 plus.
Skills: Movement, energy, spatial awareness and group awareness.
Participants: Needs to be done in a group of five or more.

Time: 5–10 minutes. You’ll need: A room big enough for students to walk around in at a fast pace.

How to: The students walk around the room at a brisk speed, making sure they don’t bump into anyone or anything. Encourage the students to use up all of the space in the room and to change direction frequently. The teacher will call out a body part. Let’s say ‘elbow’ to start with, and the students run towards someone and touch their elbow to someone else’s elbow. This doesn’t have to be done in pairs; there can be groups of three or more touching elbows, although you will find the group will naturally gravitate into pairs. After everyone has found an elbow to touch their elbow with, the teacher calls ‘go’ and the students walk around the room again. After a few moments, the teacher calls out another body part – hand, for example – and the students race to touch their hand to someone else’s hand. Good body parts to call include knee, hand, thumb, foot, shoulder, back, little finger, wrist and ankle. Be careful not to call out any inappropriate body parts.

Tip: Don’t let anyone feel left out in this game. If someone is hovering around feeling like they can’t join a pair who are already touching elbows, encourage them to go over and make a three. This game is about inclusion, not exclusion.

The aim: To warm students up physically.


Chapter 4: Unblocking Performers

4.4 Yes, let’s!

A fast-paced group improvisation exercise.

Age: 8 plus.

Skills: Listening, spontaneity, imagination and improvisation.

Participants: This exercise needs to be practised in a group of five or more.

Time: 5–10 minutes.

You’ll need: A space big enough for students to walk around in.

How to: Ask the students to stand in a space in the room and then initiate an

action by saying something like ‘Let’s bake a cake.’ Ask the class to reply with

‘Yes, let’s!’ and then they will all pretend to bake a cake. The students can

shout out any idea they like; nothing is too crazy. Perhaps someone might

call out:

‘Let’s wash a lion!’

‘Yes, let’s!’ the class will call out.

And everyone will wash a lion.

Then someone might call, ‘Let’s all be aeroplanes.’

‘Yes, let’s!’ the class will call out.

And everyone will pretend to be aeroplanes. The game continues like this.

Theming: This game can be themed. Let’s imagine that you are leading a fairytale workshop. In this case, the game could be played as above, but instead

of the suggestions being random, they are suggestions which meet the theme

fairy tales. For example, someone might say, ‘Let’s all climb a beanstalk.’ The

class is to reply with ‘Yes, let’s!’ and then they will all pretend to climb a

beanstalk. The students can shout out any idea they like; nothing is too crazy,

but ask them to keep to the fairy-tale theme. Perhaps someone else might

call out:

‘Let’s blow down the little pig’s house.’

‘Yes, let’s!’ the class will call out.

And everyone will blow down the little pig’s house.

Then someone might call, ‘Let’s clean the fireplace.’

‘Yes, let’s!’ the class will call out.

And everyone will pretend to clean the fireplace. The game continues like this.

Tip: For younger students or/and groups that are lively, it’s a good idea for the

teacher to stop the class with a signal for silence and then ask students to put

their hands up if they have a suggestion for the next ‘Yes, let’s!’ idea. This way

the student calling the idea will be heard and a mixture of students will get to

make suggestions. Encourage the quieter members of the group to contribute

ideas too.

The aim: For all improvisation ideas to be accepted and acted on with the aim of

loosening up students and creating a space where they feel safe to improvise in


Chapter 6: Objectives

6.5 Objectives with props

A fun verbal reasoning exercise where students try to convince the group why they need an object the most.

Age: 8 plus.

Skills: Communicative skills, verbal reasoning, persuasion, lateral thinking and intuition. Participants: For a group of five or more.

Time: 10–15 minutes.

You’ll need: Anything between five and twenty props laid down in the centre of a circle of students. These props can be absolutely anything, but a variety is good. For example, a helmet, wooden spoon, scarf, mask, teddy bear, candle, coat, thermometer, headphones and yoga mat.

How to: The class sit in a circle, and in the centre of the circle, there is a collection of props. As explained above, this can be a collection of random objects. One student will then go to the centre of the circle, pick up one of these objects and explain to the circle of students around them why they really need that object. The person explaining needs to imagine that the class doesn’t want them to have the object. The actor has to try really hard to talk the group into letting them have the object. For example, if Chen were in the centre of the circle and she picked up a doll, she would need to convince the class to let her have this doll. She can think of any made-up reason she likes. Perhaps she could explain that she really needs it for her little sister as her sister is in hospital and the doll will cheer her up. Or Chen might explain that this is her long-lost doll from childhood and she lost it on holiday when she was four. It’s Chen’s objective to make the class say yes she can have the object. Once Chen has finished her story, the class can respond with yes or no.

Students can make the stories as elaborate as they like; if Chen were feeling adventurous, she could say the doll belongs to an enchanted empress and that if the class doesn’t let Chen have it, she can take it back to the rightful owner and the empress will cast a terrible spell on the group!

Tip: Encourage students to make eye contact with the people in the circle as a means to get what they want.

The aim: For students to think laterally and improve their persuasion skills.


6.4 Group improvisation with objectives

In groups, students create a short improvisation where each character has a strong objective.

Age: 8 plus.

Skills: Improvisation, teamwork, creating a character and communicative skills. Participants: This needs to be practised in groups of three or four.

Time: 20–25 minutes. You’ll need: A space big enough for students to rehearse.

How to: Ask the students to get into groups of three or four. Explain that they are going to create a 5-minute improvisation. In this improvisation, each character must have one want, and this want can be anything: to go to the moon, to have an ice cream, to be a world-famous skate boarder. Once each actor has thought up an objective; ask the group to agree on a setting for their improvisation. A public space works best, such as a park bench, doctor’s waiting room, art gallery, airport or bus stop.

Give the students about 10 minutes to practise an improvisation with those three or four characters together with their strong objectives in a public space. Once the 10 minutes is up, ask the students to show the improvisation to the rest of the class, and the audience can try and guess the characters’ objectives.

Tip: Each actor should only play one objective. Simple objectives are acceptable; sometimes it’s the simple ones that are the most effective. Something like ‘wants to do their coat up (but the zip’s broken)’ is enough.

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The aim: For students to create a group improvisation where objectives take centre stage and to show students that objectives are a great way to create conflict and action within a scene.

 

This is an extract from Samantha Marsden’s new book 100 Acting Exercises for 8-18 Year Olds. It is available to buy now.

Samantha Marsden studied method acting at The Method Studio in London. She worked as a freelance drama teacher for eleven years at theatre companies, youth theatres, private schools, state schools, special schools and weekend theatre schools. In 2012, she set up her own youth theatre, which quickly grew into one of the largest regional youth theatres in the country. Follow her on Twitter @SamMarsdenDrama

 

A Sense of Place: Young Children, Resilience and Climate Justice

“If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”- David Attenborough 2018.

Whatever your beliefs, you cannot escape the issue of climate change.  Scientists all over the world agree that this is the greatest disaster facing life on earth. Our mortgages, bank accounts, university educations and insurance policies will not protect us. Personally I flip between anger and the urge to campaign, and the temptation to bury my feelings with mind numbing distractions. I feel fortunate to have young children and nature in my life  –  both of which are huge incentives to stay awake and practice resilience to face the future – whatever it might hold.

I often talk to teachers and carers of young children about how to share this most pressing concern with young children. They are not responsible for climate change and yet it is their generation that will deal with the consequences if we cannot find a way to halt global warming and mitigate its effects on their chances of survival.

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Whether our children become scientists, philosophers or politicians of the future, is it our job as teachers and carers to raise them with the capacity to respond to these central questions:

  • What is it to be human and alive on this planet right now?
  • What is needed of us? How can we lead purposeful lives and leave a legacy of more good than harm?
  • How do we share our journey with young children with courage and fortitude?

Slowing down and shifting perspective

Our increasingly materialistic, technologically-driven busy-ness gives plenty to distract ourselves and our children from reflecting on these central questions.

But simply stepping outside under the sky, feeling the wind or the warmth of the sun on my cheeks and drawing breath can open up space in my mind to think differently.

Nature is my daily resource and it’s accessible wherever I am to support a shift in perspective when needed. Whether it’s stretching my eyes to change the view, tuning into bird song to shift receptivity, finding a sit spot to calm my mind, or going on a ‘no destination’ mindful walk to order my thoughts.

Nature gives children a multi-sensory, multi-dimensional environment in which to develop physical resilience and lay down the neural pathways for lifelong learning.

Children need time to ‘do nothing’ – to daydream as well as to explore their own ‘unadulterated’ lines of enquiry (or play) without interruptions and timetables getting in the way. We can take our cue from Nature’s rhythms, night and day and the changing seasons and weather.  Without electronic white noise, children can experience what quiet feels like and develop their capacity for greater attention. In the absence of bright neon and screen lights they can experience the restfulness of natural light and dark, or the magic of fire light or stars.

Finding the ways to share the hard stuff

When children are very young, we don’t want to overburden them with the troubles of the world. It would be like dumping too much grit on a bed of new seedlings. They need the right amount of water, sunshine and shelter to develop strong roots. But they also do not need to be wrapped in cotton wool. They need gradual exposure with much care, attention and support. Our job is to notice what they need and when.

Outdoors, children will encounter the hard stuff of life – cold, heat, discomfort, impermanence and change, and most likely at some point the death of a bird animal or insect. They will learn through observation, experience and gentle guidance of an adult companion about scarcity and abundance and about impermanence and the joy of sharing and caring.

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Responding to children’s questions with honesty and integrity is important. But mostly we need to listen well. We need to listen to what they themselves are expressing through what Magaluzzi calls ‘the 100 of languages of children’, and be prepared to receive what they communicate. They will tell us when they are ready to hear more.

What can we do about it?

It is through our behaviour that children absorb the values of the culture in which they are born. We can show appreciation for the gifts of nature that sustain our lives. We can learn the names of plants and animals; we can explore the properties and gifts of the earth and air around us. We can develop empathy and alleviate suffering through kindness and fairness. Outdoors children recognise their interdependence with plants, animals, minerals and ether. We can grow food with them, we can harvest water, and we can recycle and save energy.

As teachers and carers we are advocates for young children and their future on earth. The way in which we practice this advocacy will vary according to what feels right for each person. Some will campaign for and against policy locally or nationally, others will focus on teaching children, talking to parents and carers. Most importantly we need to keep learning ourselves, and developing our own resilience practice.

And me? What do I do? When I am outdoors I find it easier to let go of overwhelming feelings of fear, loss, grief and suffering. These difficulties don’t go away but somehow the vastness of the sky and the sea, the rootedness of trees shift my perspective. Outside I often feel smaller but also part of something bigger and eternally changing – a universal dance of light, air, space, ether and life! I draw strength from it.

We owe it to ourselves and young children to advocate for sustainable human life on earth however we can.

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With thanks and with gratitude to our teachers  and companions in life and in work – those that help us find resilience to stand with the challenges that life present us.

 

Annie Davy was Head of Early Years in Oxfordshire where she led an award-winning service for 12 years and is founder and director of several community-based projects. Annie’s book A Sense of Place publishes on 7th February.

All of the images are credited to Schnell Photography.

 

Re-learning to be wrong: philosophy in schools and metacognition

By Peter Worley 

‘Metacognition’ is one of those words that gets thrown around a great deal in education circles, but if you ask what it means, very often you’ll be met with silence or stammering. Philosophy is put forward as an exemplar intervention for metacognitive development in classrooms in a recent programme for the BBC World Service:  and in a short BBC film (in which ‘The Happy Prisoner’ from my book The If Machine is being used). So, what is ‘metacognition’ and how does philosophy help achieve it?

In short, metacognition is when one reflects on one’s own thinking or learning process, evaluating and monitoring it. Put as simply as possible, one is not merely thinking or learning when one is ‘metacognising’, one is thinking about how well one is thinking or learning in order to improve.

The Education Endowment Foundation has conducted research into metacognition and ‘philosophy for children’, but no link between the two is shown or claimed in either piece of research, and, as far as I can tell (please correct me if you know this to be wrong!) there is no research showing the link between philosophy interventions and metacognition. However, intuitively, it would seem that philosophy is par excellence the discipline of metacognition; after all, philosophy has for millennia been associated with classic metacognitive attitudes: questioning assumptions, demanding critical analysis, changing shifts of perception (even when unwanted!), problematisation and so on. Though this may be uncontroversially the case with adult academic philosophy I think we should be cautious about attributing all these metacognitive attitudes to philosophy interventions with children. Only if we can show that these attitudes are actually occurring within the philosophy sessions in schools can we perhaps make the claim that philosophy in schools develops metacognition.

I think that if, during a philosophy session in a school, the children merely respond to a stimulus and then discuss it, sometimes disagreeing with other along the way, then I would say that this is not sufficiently critical for metacognition to occur in any significant or substantive way. So, the easiest way to observe and measure metacognition (though, not the only way) is to consider how critical thinking skills are being deployed.

The Philosophy Foundation and King’s College London are currently looking into exactly this: how doing philosophy develops critical thinking skills. However, we are not only measuring and observing what critical thinking skills the children demonstrate, we are also implementing a critical thinking intervention: we are teaching the children (aged between 8 and 11) certain critical thinking skills (e.g. counter-example, distinction-drawing and conceptual analysis) and seeing what they do, in philosophical enquiries, when they have those skills at their disposal.

Ahead of the research I have been running some preliminary ‘test’ sessions using the critical thinking intervention in my philosophy sessions in schools and I’ve seen some fascinating anecdotal results:-

First of all, the children love learning skills and being presented with content in philosophy sessions; something that is usually left out of standard ‘philosophy in schools’ approaches (including our own).

Secondly, contrary to my own expectations, it is not only the high-ability children that respond well to the use of critical thinking.

And thirdly, it changes the climate of the discussions from a ‘sharing’ emphasis to an ‘evaluative’ emphasis. This, for me, is the most important change. There has been a lot of ‘talking up’ of philosophy in these recent heady days of ‘post truth’, ‘fake news’ and ‘alt facts’, philosophy and ‘philosophy in schools’ interventions are seen as antidotes to this extreme kind of relativism or ‘epistemological authoritarianism’. But I would be careful about being too confident about philosophy’s role here. Indeed, philosophy in schools – when it is done well – can provide the children with the critical thinking tools for tackling misinformation and misleading rhetoric, but philosophy when not done so well it can, I believe, itself contribute to the climate of ‘post truth’. Every time a practitioner of ‘philosophy with children’ says that ‘in philosophy no one can be wrong’ or ‘in philosophy there are no right or wrong answers’ then, I’m afraid philosophy interventions become part of the ‘post truth’ problem. This is why I think, in order to genuinely show that philosophy in schools develops metacognition we need to start teaching children critical thinking skills and have them evaluate themselves and each other. As one Year 6 child said, ‘If the counter-example against what [another child] said is a good one then [the other child] has to change what they said; they have to be wrong’. If we want children to become better thinkers and to be able to tackle what’s coming their way in the media, on the internet, or from a campaigning government, then we need to reacquaint children with the (currently ‘dirty’) word ‘wrong’. They need to accept that they, their peers and their elders can all, quite appropriately, be wrong.

If you are a school that would like to be involved in our research then please contact us: info@philosophy-foundation.org.

Peter Worley teaches philosophy in schools every week. He is a Resident Philosopher at 6 state primary schools in London and he is the founder and CEO of The Philosophy Foundation (www.philosophy-foundation.org), a charity that specialises in philosophy in primary and secondary schools, based in the UK. Peter has over 20 years’ experience in teaching and regularly gives talks and presentations about philosophy in schools. He is a Fellow of the RSA and is a Visiting Research Associate at King’s College London.

He is the author of three titles for Bloomsbury Education, to find out more about any of them please click the jacket images below:

9781441155832978144117495617, 40 lessons to get children thinking Philosophical thought adventures across the curriculum

My Favourite Childhood Book…

We all have one book that sticks out in our memories – one that set our imaginations wild and sparked a life-long love of reading. To celebrate World Book Day  2017 we asked a few Bloomsbury Education authors to talk about the books that began their reading journey…

Visit our online shop to find out more about the authors, their books and more!

Benjamin Hulme-CrossImage result for treasure island

Treasure Island was my favourite book when I was growing up. Buried gold; the original pirate-rogue, Long John Silver; a mutiny; a young hero somehow defying death and a swarm of cut-throat buccaneers; and a treacherous parrot. I’ve never wanted to be part of an adventure quite the way I wanted to be on board The Hispaniola as a boy.

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Ross Morrison McGill (@TeacherToolkit)

Sophie’s World. It captured my imagination and rekindled my love for reading as a young adult.

Stephen Scoffham 

One of my favourite books was Rudyard Kipling’s Just So StoriesImage result for just so stories I was particularly fond of the story about how the elephant got his trunk. I think it appealed to me because of the focus on the naughty young elephant who got his own back on this uncles and aunts.  But there was a deep sense of Africa and the exoticism of distant lands which permeated the both the pages and, ofcourse, the illustrations.  Another Kipling story, in a different collection, which appealed to me enormously was Rikki Tikki Tavi, the heroic mongoose who fought with the snakes.  I identified whole-heartedly with Rikki and I thrilled as I read the account of his battles from which he always emerged victorious against the odds.

Joshua Seigal 

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“My favourite book as a young child was There’s a Wocket in My Pocket by Dr. Seuss. My dad used to read this to me and my sister in bed, so I associate the book with bonding. The book is full of weird and wonderful nonsense words too, and I’m sure that it helped fuel my subsequent love of language and wordplay. I also perceived a melancholy underpinning to the book – the illustrations seem to portray the protagonist as being all alone in a vast house, even though he is a young kid, and no reference is ever made to his parents or family. The story is told in the first person singular. I found this somehow sad.”Image result for famous five

Jon Tait

My favourite books that I read as a child were the Famous Five series. I used to love reading them and imagining the adventures as if they were real life. It was a world that I felt I could dive into when I opened the books.

James Carter

The book that inspired me most as a young reader like no other was the TinTin book The Black Island. Why? It was THRILLING, a non-stop adventure.

It was FUNNY – The Thompson/Thomson twins are sooo stupid, especially as they are supposed to be policeman. And Captain Haddock – what a great name for a former ship’s Image result for the black islandcaptain! He was always get a little ‘tiddly’ shall we say and would begin saying such ridiculous things as ‘blistering barnacles’!

What’s more, it was totally and utterly MAGICAL. I wanted to jump into the world of that book and BE Tintin – have Snowy as my dog, and go on an adventure to a Scottish island where I would meet a g- I won’t say any more. You try it. You find out. But all TinTin books are fantastic. They’re wonderfully escapist stories, and have such fabulous artwork.And great, memorable characters to boot. I love geography and travel, so I loved the fact that TinTin travelled all over the world too – Tibet, Africa, South America, Australia, Russia – everywhere. Even the moon!

Judy Waite

I was horse-mad so Black Beauty stands out, but there were always ‘girl gets horse/girl wins horse/girl wins prizes with horse’ type books that I devoured. Especially the ‘girl wins horse’ one, as I’d entered a real competition to win a horse, run by a daily newspaper (which seems massively irresponsible these daImage result for black beauty bookys). Anyway, I didn’t win so horse ownership remained an endless dream, and ‘girl wins horse’ allowed me to experience such joy vicariously.

There’s another book I remember. It was called Isle of Dogs and no, it wasn’t about a dockland area in London. It was about an actual island with dogs on it. The dogs were all pedigrees being transferred somewhere (by ship or plane, I can’t remember which) but a sinking/crash into the sea meant the humans all perished and the dogs swam to a remote island, and the story played out in a sort of doggy Lord of the Flies type of way. I was primary age when I read it, and at the time it latched into my imagination and took me over. I’ve never been able to find it since, despite various searches, so it clearly wasn’t a classic or written by someone well known. But whoever that author is, and wherever they may be, thank you!!

Jo Image result for the dark rising bookCotterill 

My favourite book was The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper. I was fascinated by the concept of the Light and the Dark and the battle raging through the centuries – and of course, Will is a fantastic central character, learning about his abilities and frequently in real danger. It kept me gripped and enthralled for many a night!

Saviour PirottaImage result for the silver sword

My favourite book as a child was easily The Silver Sword by Ian Serrallier. It was the first story I read that had a multi viewpoint.  I’ve always been fascinated by World War 2 and this had a different take on the subject with children as the main characters. I especially identified with Jan, a misfit who was part rogue part hero. I still have The tattered copy I read in my collection.

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Tony Bradman

My favourite book when I was young was The Hobbit. I loved the adventure of it all, that journey through strange, exotic lands that Tolkien describes so well it seems as if they’re real. And what a great ending! A huge battle with a dragon – I mean, what’s not to like?

Andrew BrodieImage result for Winnie-the-Pooh: The Complete Collection of Stories and Poems

As a young child, my absolute favourite book was Winnie the Pooh – my battered copy shows evidence of how much I read and reread it. I liked it so much for its gentle humour, which still appeals to me now.

Stephen Lockyer

Sly Fox and the Red Hen. When I was very young, my parents wentaway for ten days to

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Canada, and some family friends stayed with us. My parents had hidden a present around the house for each of my siblings and I every day, with cryptic clues (I struggle with one packed lunch for my own children), and this book was one of my presents.

I remember it distinctly as being the first book I read on my own, and read it to everyone and anyone so much that I recited it back to my parents on their return.

This book started my love for books. And hens. But mainly hens.

 

Joshua Seigal on visiting schools as a poet

For me, the best thing about being a professional poet is not actually writing poetry. It is being afforded the regular opportunity to perform my poems to children, and to visit schools where I help them write their own. Here is a list of some of the most memorable things that I have experienced during school visits:

Experiencing a giant group hug whilst visiting a Reception class. The more I wailed “help!” the more kids joined in, and the more the teacher laughed.

The time a child told me that he lived in a buffalo. I was totally mystified, until it dawned on me later that he’d meant ‘bungalow’.

The time a child yelled out “custard man!” in the middle of my assembly performance. I asked him afterwards what he meant, and he didn’t appear to know. He simply blurted it out. This really tickled me, and I now regularly tell this story as part of my performance routine. (In the same assembly, another child asked me the bizarre question, “if you were a monkey, what kind of astronaut would you be?”)

Being presented with a ‘thank you letter’ by a group of year 2 children, in which they had spelt my name ‘Goshoowar’.capture-2

Teaching a child in Year 5 called Tyrone, who hated writing. After my visit, his teacher told me that he simply could not stop writing poetry, at break time, lunch time, and even in class when he was supposed to be doing other things. He simply had to get it out.

Teaching a girl in Year 7 called Precious, who wrote an amazing p
em about her experience as a black person. My workshop wasn’t on this theme; she simply wrote the poem in her own time and decided to show it to me. I entered it for her into a competition, where it was shortlisted.

Undertaking long-term work at Plashet School in East London. Last year I compiled a group of students’ poems into an anthology, which helped raise £500 for the charity Care 4 Calais.

Running a poetry workshop on the theme of ‘what if’. The intention was to write humorous and playful poetry, but the best thing about workshops is that students often deviate from what I expect, and come up with their own ideas (heaven forbid!). Here is a wonderful, and sad, poem produced by a boy called Giacomo in Year 6:

 

What If…

 

What if when I’m older I fail

What if when I’m older I don’t have

any money

What if when I’m older I get lost

and become homeless

What if when I’m older my wife

and children die in a fire and my

house has gone

what if when I’m older

my body gets cancer

what if when I’m older

I’m forced to fight a war

What if I’m in Afghanistan

And get killed at a firing squad

What if when I’m older

I never get married and live alone

What if I could stay a child.

Joshua Seigal is a poet, performer and workshop leader who spends his time visiting schools, libraries and theatres around the country and beyond. He has taken critically-acclaimed poetry shows to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but usually ends up performing in front of his mirror, using a hairbrush as a microphone. He has managed to gain the minimal skills required to make his own website – www.joshuaseigal.co.uk.

Available from Bloomsbury Education:

I Don’t Like Poetry 

Little Lemur Laughing  (publishes 9th March 2017)

WHAT WOULD YOU ASK A POET?

How do you teach poetry?

Haven’t a clue – but I can tell you about some  really exciting poetry activities you can do with KS2 classes…

READ YOUR CLASS A POEM every morning. Every single morning. I know lots of KS2 teachers that do this and they say the results are manifold.

PUT ON POETRY CONCERTS/ASSEMBLIES – try whole classes performing poems such as Boneyard Rap (Wes Magee), Gran, Can You Rap? (Jack Ouseby), Little Red Rap/I Wanna Be A Star (Tony Mitton), Talking Turkeys (Benjamin Zephaniah), How To Turn Your Teacher Purple (by me..woops.).

twgsc-twitter-imagesv2-2WRITE POEMS AS PART OF YOUR CLASS TOPICS – poetry modules are great, but nothing beats writing poems for a real purpose – creating poems that express a subject matter that a class is enthused about and fully immersed in. Try shape poems (rivers, mountains, volcanoes, planets), kennings ( Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans), haiku ( rainforest creatures, sea creatures), and best of all free verse (memories, real events) – children too easily get stuck in the rhyme rut. And you don’t need to be an expert in all the various forms of poetry – just knowing a few is absolutely fine!

PUBLISH CHILDREN’S POEMS around the school, in the hall, on the school website. And I’ve noticed that children love nothing more than having to take a brand new poem of theirs to show the headteacher!

FIND A RANGE OF POETRY BOOKS – single poet collections and themed anthologies. Set up a poetry corner or poetry book box. Public libraries always have a great selection of contemporary children’s poetry titles – and Oxfam bookshops too are usually good for poetry.

PUT UP POETRY TREES IN THE CLASS/HALL – featuring poems by the children, or the children’s favourite poems.

PHOTOCOPY POEMS and put them all over the school, down the corridors  – even in the lo0s!

HAVE A STAFFROOM POETRY READING one lunchtime. Share adult or children’s poems you like.

INVITE A POET IN … why not? A poet will model how to read/perform poems to an twgsc-twitter-imagesv2-1audience, as well as how to run poetry writing workshops in a classroom.

What advice do you have for teachers?

Apart from buying my Bloomsbury teachers’ book Let’s Do Poetry In Primary Schools! as well as multiple class copies of The World’s Greatest Space Cadet (sorry, that was cheeky! ) – and apart from the activities I have recommended earlier, I would say just go for it. And maybe find a teacher in your school that enjoys doing poetry with her/his class. Find out what they do, and what the results have been.

Quite a number of teachers I’ve met in the hundreds of schools I’ve visited over the last few years have said how much poetry has truly revitalised their English teaching, and got the boys in their classes really motivated. What not to like?

And even if you don’t especially like poetry yourself – and you don’t have to – simply try and source some poems and poetry activities that your class could have fun with and be stimulated by. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results. Enjoy!

book-launch-3-002An award-winning children’s poet, James Carter travels all over the cosmos (well, Britain) with his guitar (that’s Keith) to give lively poetry performances and workshops. James once had hair, extremely long hair (honestly), and he played in a really nasty ultra-loud heavy rock band. And, as a lifelong space cadet, James has discovered that poems are the best place to gather all his daydreamy thoughts. What’s more, he believes that daydreaming for ten minutes every day should be compulsory in all schools.

The World’s Greatest Space Cadet by James Carter is available to buy here 

Follow James on Twitter @JamesCarterPoet

www.jamescarterpoet.co.uk

How I became interested in Geography….

Stephen Scoffham, one of the authors of Teaching Primary Geography, reflects on what geography means to him and how he became interested in it.

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What is it that first attracted me to geography?  The simple answer is that I don’t really know. Some people seem to have a clear idea of what they are going to do in life from a very early age.  They want to be doctors, or vets, or to make lots of money in business.  I remember, as an infant, being asked what I wanted to do as a grown up.  I couldn’t really think of an answer but wriggled uncomfortably on my bottom instead.  ‘I want to be a train driver’ I finally blurted out without much conviction.  Fortunately, the teacher, Mrs Brown, seemed convinced.  In those days, when the railway engines were still driven by steam, being a train driver was a glamorous enough job which appealed to young boys.

Thinking back, perhaps it was looking at maps as we went on holiday by car which made me interested in geography.  And planning trips in the countryside must have nurtured my interest in the physical environment.  Also, my father, who was involved in planning in his role with the Local Authority, probably passed on his interest in design and architecture.  I know it sounds a bit naff but I remember enjoying colouring in maps and diagrams in my work at school.  At one point as an adolescent I spent a few weeks making a relief model of India during a spell of illness and forced convalescence.  This was a great hit and the geography teacher was delighted.  My model was proudly displayed on the wall of the geography room for quite a number of years after that.  No doubt it was discretely cleared away some time later when the builders came to redecorate. Anyway I don’t know what happened to it.

I studied geography at ‘A’ level (it wasn’t very well taught and I didn’t enjoy it that much) so I decided to branch out at university.  I opted for a general course which combined a number of subjects.  This was a bit of tricky balancing act as it meant switching from one topic to another and I didn’t have enough background knowledge to make sense of everything I was learning.  However, after three years I ended up with a sound degree and a specialism in philosophy and history.  Not a hint of geography at this stage.  Just a broad grounding in humanities which played to my interest in making links and connections.  I’ve been developing this way of thinking ever since.

On graduating I worked as a primary and secondary school teacher before becoming the Schools’ Officer for an Urban Studies Centre (community study base) in an historic town.  At the same time, I developed a career as a self-employed author of teachers’ and children’s books.  I gradually realised that my interest in the urban environment and outdoor learning was steering me towards geography.  I was also lucky enough to develop a long-term partnership with two local head teachers.  We began by working together on materials to support active learning in the school environment and immediate surroundings.  Then, after banging on many doors, we were appointed as consultants for a new school atlas series just as the National Curriculum was coming on stream. I moved into teacher education soon after that.  It has proved to be a wonderful and supportive professional environment ever since.

This latest book, Teaching Primary Geography, is also the result of a collaboration.  I first met the co-author, Paula Owens when she was a student in initial teacher education and we have both been deeply involved with the Geographical Association ever since.  Sharing ideas with Paula has been a really stimulating and creative process.  I always think that two minds are better than one and we are particularly proud of the way we have found ways to include sustainability and British values in each of the different areas of study.  We are both convinced that the curriculum needs to address contemporary issues.  Hopefully you will be too as you read through our ideas and suggestions.  Do let us know what you think.

pc403rzd_400x400Dr. Stephen Scoffham has published widely for schools and teachers in the field of primary geography. He is the editor for the Geographical  Association’s Primary Geography Handbook (2004, 2010), chief  consultant/author for the Collins Junior Atlas, UK in Maps and World in Maps and joint author of the newly issued Collins Primary  Geography textbook scheme. In 2014 he won an award for his work on  devising and Teaching Geography Creatively (Routledge), a  resource book for teachers.He is currently based at Canterbury Christ  Church University where he is a Visiting Lecturer in Sustainability and Education. You can follow him on twitter @StephenScoffham

tty7hjr7_400x400Dr. Paula Owens is an education consultant and author. Along with Stephen, she is the co-author of Bloomsbury Curriculum Basics Teaching Primary Geography. Her career has spanned teaching and leadership in primary schools and curriculum development lead for the Geographical Association. You can follow her on twitter @Primageographer

Bloomsbury Curriculum Basics: Teaching Primary Geography is available to purchase here 

 

Castles in the Air

Using the past as a springboard for young writer by Paul Mason

The idea for the book came while walking the grounds of Walmer Castle in Kent.  What would it be like, my daughter asked, to sneak in and live there?  I spent the afternoon taking in the thick walls, and deep, grassy moat; the Duke of Wellington’s bedroom with its camping cot, the row of cannons pointing out to sea, the pair of Wellington boots—scribbling down notes, possibilities, real detail.

A Gibbon quote comes to mind: “There is more pleasure to building castles in the air than on the ground.”  I often like to use one to inspire the other. The past can provide young writers with a powerful springboard.

I took a class to visit a scale replica of a steerage deck on an 1840’s immigrant ship. They perched on bunks in the dimly lit deck as it rocked back and forth, listening to the waves crash, the boards creak. They pictured the hard yards of the early settlers, and put down some evocative description.

Here in New Zealand, a trip to a marae can be a source of inspiration. The wharenui or meeting house often symbolises an ancestor–with a beam for the spine, rafters for ribs and the heart represented by a strong post.  Carvings inside usually tell stories of those that have gone before, great leaders and navigators. (Check the local tikanga or rules before visiting.)

Of course, the past can creep into the classroom too.  I once brought in an old travelling chest.  The students could look and touch the worn leather, but weren’t allowed to open the lid.  What hid inside? Who did the trunk belong to? Where were they travelling? What would they themselves pack in the trunk if they were going on a long journey?

An inquiry into family history began with a mini-museum of personal heirlooms. An old hat that belonged to granddad. A medal. A treasured photograph. The young writers made them breathe in poems and stories. Given the chance, castles in the air can begin here on the ground.

Paul Mason is a former primary school teacher. He writes fiction for Bloomsbury Education including the Skate Monkey series which has two new titles, The Cursed Village and Fear Mountain, publishing in January 2017.