REAL LIFE LEARNING
Whenever we think of getting a fantastic piece of writing from our children, we work backwards and always ask ourselves how can we get the best? I think it is really important to give, wherever possible, a real life context to any learning, whether it is learning about push and pull from toy cars, practising cursive handwriting by writing out the lyrics to Gangham style or teaching money by taking a trip to a local supermarket!
At my school, we wanted a piece of truly excellent writing but weren’t sure how we were going to get there. In our staff meeting, we brainstormed a variety of ideas and decided to recreate something landing in the playground. It was important not to plant ideas into the children’s heads as we wanted them to do the work. We built a gazebo on the playground and collected a variety of metal items: ripped up disco balls, metal parts found in the local allotment and placed them inside the tent. One of our TA’s brought in some disco lights so that there would be flashing lights inside the gazebo and another taped engine noises onto a CD which would play at intervals all day. Finally, our amazing premises officer (who has already role played as Thomas Farriner when we did the Great Fire of London and who is making a comeback as Blackbeard next week! set about making goo out of wallpaper paste and paint!
THE SCENE IS SET…
Our scene was now set ready for the children to come in. We were conscious that the children couldn’t examine the tent for themselves to keep the illusion going so we shut off the playground to parents with a sign explaining that there was an incident on the playground but children were completely safe to be in school.
There was a buzz around school and the children had already started speculating what had happened. All of the children were taken straight down to a special assembly where the Headteacher explained minimum facts: there had been a crash in the playground, no one was hurt, there was nothing live but special scientific investigators were coming in.
TIME to WRITE
Our premises officer dressed as the scientific investigator and the children watched as he dragged out pieces of metal covered in orange goo. Meanwhile the lights were flashing, engine noises were playing in the background and a smoke machine was pumping out smoke. The children were enthralled and we soon got what we wanted. Some of the older children felt compelled to write to the local newspapers to explain what was happening and interviewing each other using the iPad. Reception children were busily drawing what they thought was inside the tent. Younger children wrote what had happened during the day. The children led the learning that day. Lots of activities took place: children building rockets, drawing art work, creating their own versions of what were inside, drawing comic strips and writing blog posts.
The work that we had was outstanding. The headteacher pulled everybody back at the end and explained that all of the items were real but the children’s thoughts were imaginary and very powerful.
Described as ‘the best day we’ve ever had at school’, I would recommend any teacher to create a real life context for children to write about!