Tag Archives: Writing

‘IF’ For Teachers by Joshua Seigal

“I was inspired to write this poem during a workshop I ran for students, in which we looked at Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem ‘If’. I asked them to have a go at writing their own versions of the poem, based on their ideas about what constitutes an effective leader. I decided to give it a go too, and this is the result. Enjoy!”

If you can keep your voice when all about you
Are using theirs to bellow over you;
If you can dish out rules when all kids flout you
But see the humour in their flouting too;
If you can care and not get tired of caring
Or, being dissed, maintain a steady poise,
Or, being sworn at, not give way to swearing,
And see the stillness in amongst the noise;

If you can plan but not make plans your mistress;
If you can chill and have a nice weekend;
If you can still take care of all your business
And not let children drive you round the bend;
If you can bare to see the gifts you’ve given
Received by ingrates with a sullen grunt,
Or feel the fuel diminish, but stay driven
And smile when the Head is being a…difficult person to work with;

If you can make an ally of a parent
And both look out for what you think is best
For Little Johnny when he has been errant
And hasn’t done his work or passed his test;
If you can force your brain and heart and sinew
To teach the things that Ofsted says you should,
And so make sure the governors don’t bin you
And that the school maintains its place as ‘Good’;

If you can talk with yobs and keep composure
Or plug away when they don’t give a damn;
If you can act when there’s been ‘a disclosure’
And not display the news on Instagram;
If you can keep calm while you have to wing it
With sixty minutes worth of ‘drama games’,
Yours is the class, and everything that’s in it
And – which is more – you might not go insane.

Lollies Logo_basic_small.jpgI Don’t Like Poetry by Joshua Seigal has been shortlisted in the 9-13 years category for the 2017 Lollies! Head to www.scholastic.co.uk/lollies to vote now!capture-2

For more content from Joshua, follow him on Twitter or visit his website 

 

Andrew Brodie’s Top Ten Summer Holiday Tips!

Andrew Brodie is a popular and trusted name amongst teachers and parents. He has been producing best-selling educational books since 1992, is still very much involved in education and has a wealth of experience as a head teacher and in coaching children to pass the national tests.

Parents frequently ask me how they can help their child during the long summer holidays.  Here are my ten top tips.

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  • Enjoy the great outdoors. Talk about what you see: trees, flowers, birds – if you’re not sure what they are look them up together in books or using the internet.  Give points for different species: 10 points for a blackbird, 20 points for a swan, a thousand points for a golden eagle!  Who can gain most points in a day?
  • Plan your days out together. This gives another opportunity for researching information.  Where would you like to go? What would you like to do?  The National Trust for example has plenty of wide, open spaces to explore, houses packed with history and, quite often, exciting play areas.
  • Work out costs. What price is entrance to a park for adults and for children?  What is the total cost for your family?  How much will be left over out of your bbrodie2udget of £20, £50 or £100?
  • Go to places that cost nothing! Beaches, woods, hills are nearly all free!
  • Plan your journeys using public transport. Where can you catch a train or bus?  Where will the train or bus take you? How far will you have to walk?  What will be the total cost of the journey?
  • Plan your journeys by car. Look at maps, road atlases or the internet.  Which route will you take?  Which towns will you pass through or go near?  Which counties will you travel through?  How long should the journey take?
  • Encourage your child to read for a short while every day. This should NEVER be a chore!  Enjoy reading stories together or finding out new facts from non-fiction materials.
  • Suggest that your brodie3child writes something every day. Again, try to avoid this being a chore by only expecting a very small amount: for example, suggest one sentence to summarise the day or one sentence to describe the best bit!  Without pressure, your child may decide to write more.
  • Prepare meals together, taking the opportunity to measure out ingredients using grams for weights and millilitres for liquids.
  • Keep up the multiplication tables practice but keep the activity short. Your child may enjoy the challenge of reciting a particular table in less than brodie5one minute, or thirty seconds, or even faster.

 

Of course, you will have lots of other ideas for activities that
suit your own family life.  Above all, make sure that you all enjoy the summer.

Check out the Andrew Brodie book series here

More information on Andrew Brodie’s Apps can be found here 

For even more summer holiday ideas see our Pinterest Board

 

Bye Bye Billy – Creating Characters in Poetry

By Roger Stevens, poet and co-author of ‘It’s Not My Fault’

The summer holidays are here at last. And I expect you will all be outside enjoying the sunshine, running about in the fields chasing cows or investigating rocky pools at the seaside and hiding crabs in Grandpa’s shoes. Anyway, they are all the things I loved doing when I was at school. The only problem in the long summer school holiday was when my friends went away, to Spain or somewhere exotic like Bognor, and I was still at home. Then I had no one to play with. So I invented an imaginary friend. My imaginary friend was called Billy. He was very different from me. I was very good when I was a child and I never did ANYTHING naughty and I NEVER got in to trouble. But Billy was always getting up to mischief.

Bye Bye Billy

Roger Stevens

Billy left my bedroom in a mess
Billy hid the front door key
Billy posted Mum’s credit cards through the floorboards in the hall
Billy ate the last jam doughnut
Billy broke the window with his ball
Billy forgot to turn off the hot tap
Billy put the marbles in Grandpa’s shoe
Billy broke Dad’s ruler seeing how far it would bend
But now I’m twelve and Billy’s gone
I’ll miss my imaginary friend

The poem’s from our new book, It’s Not My Fault. It makes a good model poem. You could try it with your own children, nephews, nieces, grandchildren or neighbour’s children (when they get bored playing on their i-devices) – or with your class, back at school.

First, start with a few character details. When I do this in a class, often as a prelude to writing a story, I ask a series of questions and encourage the children to write the answers quickly, without thinking about them too much. Is your friend a he or a she? How old is your friend? Is your friend big, small, short or tall? Is your friend blond or dark? What hobbies does your friend have? Is your friend a human? What is his/her name?

Next, I ask the children to make a list of all the things that they would LIKE to do – but are not allowed. This works well either as a class activity, or in small groups, as one idea can spin off another idea. Encourage the children to be as naughty and outrageous as possible; although you will probably need to discourage violent or rude ideas. Tell them you are looking for “clever” ideas rather than simply introducing the word “poo” into the list whenever possible for cheap laughs. They could talk about things that actually happened in their own families.

Now choose the best of the ideas and write them in a list. Look at the list and rearrange the events in the best order. It might end with the most outrageous thing, for example.

My poem ends with the narrator growing up, and Billy leaving. And so you might discuss ways for them to end their poem. Finally, check for spelling and read the poem out loud. It should have a nice flow and sound to it.

And in the meantime, enjoy the sunshine, and chasing the cows. Have a great summer.

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Peter Worley | Why use stories for doing philosophy with children?

First of all stories engage. When a teller tells a story well the audience visualize the story so that it seems to happen before them. If you want children to think, first of all they must be engaged.

Secondly, stories enable children to grasp complex ideas very naturally, where in the abstract, they would be lost. Tell the story of ‘Scylla and Charybdis’ from The Odyssey and children can follow the complexities of ethical dilemmas that would be nigh on impossible for them in the abstract.9781441118141 Once Upon an If

Thirdly, stories can be used to activate the children as moral agents. You can stop the story at the crisis point, the difficult decision or the conflict, and instead of simply reading on, you could ask the class questions: ‘What do you think [the character] should do?’, ‘What do you think [the character] will do?’, ‘What would you do?’ and ‘What do you think you should do?’, or ‘What would you do if you were she?’ and so on. All of these questions are importantly different.

But best of all, stories can be used as rehearsal for life. Here’s an approach to using stories that I call ‘the Hokey Kokey’ approach (‘Hokey Pokey’ outside the UK). In other words, ‘it goes in, out and in again’. By ‘in’ I mean ‘concrete’ or ‘in the story’, and by ‘out’ I mean ‘abstract’ or ‘out of the story’. It is taken from Once Upon an If (pages 65-68) and is inspired by ‘Socratic method’, the techniques used by Socrates – and documented by Plato – in the marketplace of Athens two and a half thousand years ago.

The Hokey Kokey approach:

  1. Take a key concept suitable for philosophical enquiry, such as bravery (a favourite of Socrates) or heroism.
  2. Take a story where the concept features centrally, such as the Odyssey (for both bravery and heroism).
  3. Find an appropriate section or passage that tests the concepts in question. Or you might want to consider the story as a whole.
  4. Ask a simple but conceptually appropriate question using the following structure ‘Is X F?, for example, ‘Is Odysseus a hero?’ (This question is concrete or ‘in the story’.)
  5. Run an enquiry around this question.
  6. Then ask what is sometimes known as a ‘Socratic question’ to do with the central concept under consideration following this structure ‘What is F?’ In this case: ‘What is heroism?’ or ‘What is a hero?’ for younger children. (This question is abstract or ‘out of the story’.)
  7. Run an enquiry around this question.
  8. Now for the key bit! Make sure that, once you have explored the abstract Socratic Question, you return to the concrete question to ‘test’ what has been said in the abstract (at steps 6 and 7). This uses a strategy I call ‘iffing’ and it follows this structure: ‘If F is p, q, r… then is X F?’ In this case: ‘If a hero is someone who is never frightened then is Odysseus a hero?’ (This question returns to the concrete in order to test what has been said in the abstract.)
  9. Explore and examine the implications that follow from step 8. The class will need to examine whether there are any instances in the passage or story where Odysseus was frightened and then consider whether this means he’s a hero or not. Sometimes the class will revise whether the character is in fact F (in this case, whether Odysseus is in fact ‘a hero’), on other occasions, they will revise what F is: for example, someone might say during this part, ‘Odysseus is a hero but sometimes even heroes are frightened, so I don’t think a hero is never frightened. Perhaps it’s acting bravely while he’s frightened that makes him a hero.’

For younger children, try using this method – also around the concept of heroism – with Max Velthuijs’ Frog Is a Hero (published by Andersen Press).

The If Odyssey

National Storytelling Week:

For using the Odyssey to do philosophy, see the award-winning book, The If Odyssey, especially ‘Appendix 1: The Hero’ for a list of specific passages in the Odyssey to test Odysseus’ heroism where you could use the Hokey Kokey method.

Though not all, many of the sessions in my books lend themselves to the Hokey Kokey method. As it is National Storytelling Week, the following stories in the ERA-nominated Once Upon an If all have task questions that will work with the Hokey Kokey method:

  • The Patience of Trees (key concept: freedom)
  • The Promise Slippers (key concept: promise-keeping)
  • The Six Wise Men (key concept: thing)
  • The Fair Well (key concept: fairness)
  • The Water People (key concept: death)
  • Honest Said (key concept: knowledge)
  • The Fire Stick (key concepts: magic and science)
  • The Island (key concept: knowledge)
  • The Valley of The Diamonds (key concept: wealth)

What is it like to have dyslexia? An interview.

This week it is Dyslexia Awareness Week and the theme this year is ‘Making Sense of Dyslexia’. I’m a commissioning editor in the education team here at Bloomsbury and part of my job is creating books for children who struggle with reading. I spend quite a lot of time talking and thinking about what children and teenagers with dyslexia or other reading difficulties might like, what might grab their attention, what makes reading hard for them and what could encourage them to keep trying even though they find it hard.

But I (and I suspect most people who work in publishing) wasn’t one of those children who struggle with reading so I thought that in Dyslexia Awareness Week it might be good to hear from one of those people (instead of me)!

My nephew, Sam, is a typical 10-year-old boy. He has been better than me at all sports since he was about 4, he’ll be taller than I am in a frighteningly short time, and he is one of the kindest people I know. He is also quite severely dyslexic so I asked him some questions about what that’s like for him.

What can you remember when you first found out you were dyslexic?
I struggled at school and so I had a test to see if I was dyslexic. I felt stressed and didn’t know what to think of myself.

What did it make you think or feel?
I was scared that people would notice that I was different, but I got used to it. People don’t worry about it, so neither do I.

Do you think there are some good things about being dyslexic?
It’s hard for me to tell what I get from dyslexia and what is just me. My dyslexia is part of who I am.

Are there things that you find particularly hard at school?
If I’m set a long piece of writing I struggle with my spellings and I struggle when I am under pressure.

What do you think you might like to do when you are a grown up?
When I grow up I would like to be an engineer because I like maths and science or I would also like to play sports professionally.

What are your favourite books and stories?
The Harry Potter series, Diana Wynne Jones’s series about Chrestomanci, and the Percy Jackson books. (Sam’s mum and dad would have read these to him – they are too long and hard for him to manage without support)

My sister (Sam’s mum) told me that it is impossible to tell which of Sam’s many excellent qualities are because of his dyslexia and I think that’s right. As Sam says, “My dyslexia is part of who I am.”

This Dyslexia Awareness Week it is important that we keep in mind the needs of people who have dyslexia. I hope that we can work together to make amazing stories accessible (in whatever form that may need to be) for children and teenagers with dyslexia, as well as making sure teachers have the right training and resources in place to support them. Ultimately, I hope that all young people with dyslexia can grow up to become engineers or sportsmen or whatever else they want to be!

Visit our website to see some of our High/Low fiction for struggling or reluctant readers.

Early Mark Making. Alistair Bryce-Clegg

Author photo Alistair Bryce-CleggThere is so much more to writing than a pencil or a pen, but often we feel under pressure to make sure that children have a mark-making implement entwined between their chubby fingers at all times – just in case we miss an opportunity to mark make or write!

Mark making is something that comes naturally to us as human beings. Even young children, from the first, most humble squiggle love to leave a mark! They might be mark making with their finger in leftover bean juice on a highchair tray or picking up a stick and trailing it through sand or mud. Either way they are not on a self-initiated mission to correctly complete the cursive alphabet – they are just enjoying the process of mark making. (In my case I really did enjoy the process of mark making on all of the skirting boards in my parent’s bedroom with a variety of my mother’s lipsticks! Needless to say they weren’t pleased – I was only expressing myself through the medium of mark making for goodness sake!)

13. PVA in a builder's tray

There is so much more that children need to experience before they even think about turning their marks into writing.

The first and most important skill that children need to be equipped with to be successful writers is the ability to talk. All that writing is, is talk that comes out of the end of their pencil rather than their mouth. So, if you cannot talk it, you cannot write it (unless you are copying!). Often too much time is spent on the ‘how’ of writing and not nearly enough time on the ‘what’. Children need lots and lots of opportunities to talk and to experience that talk in a variety of ways. The more talk that they can engage in then the more language they will come across. The more familiar language that they have in their heads then the more diverse their writing will be.

Deconstructed role play

You can have the most beautifully formed handwriting in the world, but if you have nothing to write about then that is where you will get stuck. This brings us on nicely to another important element of early mark making and writing – the ‘physical’ bit. You are not born being able to write – it is a skill that you have to practise and develop over time.

Different children develop their ability to manipulate their mark-making tools at different times. It is REALLY important that we don’t push children too hard, too soon and in the wrong direction as that can put them off for good (especially boys, who tend to develop their physical dexterity a little later).

Soil tray

Of course, when we crawled out of the primeval ooze many millions of years ago, we didn’t have an immediate need to write a ‘to do’ list. We were too busy evolving. So, writing is not an innate basic human instinct. To enable us to evolve we developed our ability to gather food and create and manipulate tools. It is these physical developments that we now use to manipulate our ‘writing’ tools. As our muscles grow and develop, so does our level of dexterity. We start off as very young children with lots of gross motor physical movement and gradually, with practise, refinement and growth, that gross motor movement becomes fine motor movement. We are then able to use the joints within our arms and fingers and the muscles and tendons within our hands to allow us to grip and move with far greater dexterity.

As adults supporting early mark makers it is vital that we recognise each stage of a child’s physical development and make sure that not only have they got lots of opportunities to make the appropriate type of marks, but also that the environment that we create is full of other resources that will help them to consolidate their skills and develop them further.

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Most children start their mark-making journey by using a palm grip (nice and tight) and they tend to have a large range of movement that comes from their shoulder. I would refer to these children as ‘shoulder pivoters’. If you know that you have got some children that are pivoting from the shoulder and making large scale gross motor movements, then you need to put in place lots of large mark-making spaces where children can really consolidate their pivot before moving on.

If we can give our children lots to talk about and plenty of opportunities to talk, combined with lots of activities and appropriate spaces to help them to develop their pivot and grip – we will have a recipe for lots of successful and happy writers. We might save a few lipsticks and skirting boards while we are at it!

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More information about mark making and writing development is available in Alistair’s book Getting Ready to Write and for some more practical ideas for your mark makers try 50 Fantastic ideas for Mark Making.

Alistair is a popular Early Years consultant and ex-headteacher dedicated to helping settings enhance their EYFS practice. He works with individuals, settings and local authorities both nationally and internationally. His latest books in the 50 Fantastic Ideas series are designed to inspire children on the road to writing.

Follow Alistair @ABCDoes
Read Alistair’s blog, ABC Does

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