‘What amazing energy! What crazy creativity! What intergalactic imaginations!!!’ Rosanna Lowe’s reflections.

‘What amazing energy! What crazy creativity! What intergalactic imaginations!!!’ Rosanna Lowe’s reflections.

I was blown away by the ideas of the Year 4 pupils in the two schools with whom I was lucky enough to work – three classes at Hobbayne in Ealing and two classes at Whitefriars in Harrow.

Hobbayne were studying the beautifully poetic novel The Iron Man by Ted Hughes. They did some fantastic drama work, jointly creating giant robots that fell apart and then reassembled themselves in slow motion.

Whitefriars were studying blues music legends as their topic, so we looked at stories within songs and some classic blues numbers. We talked about the unusual names of some of the most famous blues singers, like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and the classes came up with some fantastic names of their own – like Lone Highway Rider and Big Fishy Mama. They also invented titles for their own blues songs, with some great surprises – Sunshine Blues was about the misery of sunshine, because it was sung by…vampires.

Each of the classes managed to create a really amazing ‘extraordinary world’, and they were all wonderfully different from one another. We also had great fun creating the ‘extraordinary words’ that were spoken on each planet. We laughed A LOT.

Ruby Class created the world of Dragontopia, a planet divided in two by an obsidian wall. On the one side, the evil Burringaw (Lava Dragons) live in volcanoes, cracks and caves, warring with the rest of the world by shooting fire and lava from their jaws.

Picture

On the other side are the Flosharts (Water Dragons), who are ridden by human beings, and who live in a crystal cave with a glass tree and an ice rollercoaster inside. Living nearby are the Icekring (Snowdragons) who are trying to make peace and who can shoot snowballs out of their jaws that overwhelm you with soft snow and a feeling of peacefulness.

Here are some fantastic pictures the class drew. Note that the first one is of a Flakeflopper (a baby dragon) who is a bit floppy because he hasn’t yet grown a tail.

PicturePicture

PicturePicture

 

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Activate their imaginations

Activate their imaginations

Storytelling with children’s ideas

Seat your class in a circle

Start to tell a story- set the scene and introduce the characteristics and background of the protagonist.

Reach a climactic moment and pause ask the students what they think will happen next

Take a couple of answers with lots of encouragement for the students to be as descriptive as possible

Then continue with the story and what does actually happen

Do this three times throughout the story depending on the length.

This could be a book that you are reading as a class or a story you tell

Create your own ending

This leads nicely on from the above. Your students will have already been thinking about applying their imagination and creative endings to stories through the above. Tell a story (this could be a well-known fairy tale) and finish just before the end. Have two key characters or plot lines that are important and they have to remember to include- this helps to give their endings some structure.

Split them into small groups and give them 10 minutes to come up with their ending and performance.

Things to include-

  • narrators- the group will pick one narrator for the presentation
  • students can act out the settings as well eg. They can be trees or animals
  • dialogue- make sure they have a couple of lines of dialogue
  • characterisation- encourage the children to really think about their body language and positioning on stage for their different characters
  • feedback for each thing at the end of their performances- things classmates like, what could be improved on and what they will take away from it

Diary writing

This is a good activity for when you get to a pivotal moment of the story for the main character. This example comes from the Iron Man- but can be adapted.

Iron Man writes in his diary as he is trapped in the hole   15 mins

Write an account of what the Iron Man experienced as he was walking around the village, then getting trapped. 

How did the Iron Man feel? 

Remind the children of writing in first person.

Children must include:

2 emotions and one piece of speech.

It made me feel……   because……

I heard the people saying “       ”   

NEWSPAPER HEADLINES from Fairy tales

Depending on time you could either give out ready made headlines that could have come from a newspaper in the fairy tale land or you could get the students to think of a headline themselves.

Give one to each group

The groups have 10 mins to come up with a sketch around the headline. It could be the actual event or the aftermath. Make sure they have thought of the following,

  • try modernising them or giving it a twist
  • students can act out the settings as well eg. They can be trees, animals or objects
  • dialogue- make sure they have a couple of lines of dialogue
  • characterisation- encourage the children to really think about their body language and positioning on stage for their different characters
  • feedback for each thing at the end of their performances- things classmates like, what could be improved on and what they will take away from it
‘Both the teachers and children I worked with seemed to enjoy the games I shared with them, maybe that’s because the best way to learn anything is to make it fun and interactive?’ Samantha Holdsworth’s reflections.

‘Both the teachers and children I worked with seemed to enjoy the games I shared with them, maybe that’s because the best way to learn anything is to make it fun and interactive?’ Samantha Holdsworth’s reflections.

For the Verses V Verses project I was asked to develop games and drama activities that would inspire and excite children about reading and would also be possible to share with teachers so they could deliver them in their own classrooms.

Working with Rosanna Lowe, we came up with lots of ideas that could work both inside and outside the classroom such as exploring the imaginary world of a story by finding “hidden clues or messages” throughout the school or inventing special languages based on the themes, words or locations of a specific story.  I especially liked the idea of the children creating a ‘National Anthem’ for the extraordinary worlds found in books.

Both the teachers and children I worked with seemed to enjoy the games I shared with them, maybe that’s because the best way to learn anything is to make it fun and interactive?   I have to say however, the year four children I worked with did seem slightly more enthusiastic about sharing their ideas and working in front of a group.

Having developed projects with teachers for over ten years, I know it can be scary or intimidating to get involved in physical activities in front of completely new people and the teacher INSET I lead for Verse v Verses was no exception.  There were certainly a few expressive looks when I asked everyone to take part in the montage exercise.  This is an exercise where one person at a time offers an image from a scene or chapter from a book.   Gradually a montage of that scene is built as one person after another adds more detail.   In this case it was a scene from the forest in Little Red Riding Hood.   Initially, the teachers were reluctant to start however, a few brave souls kicked things off and the good humour of the group meant that everyone got involved.  In front of my very eyes I saw teachers turn into woodland animals, flowers and yes, the ultimate drama cliché, trees!

I tried this exercise with my year four children and they had no hesitation in offering ideas, if anything I had to find ways to hold them back. Our montage was created from the story Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The suggestions and details they came up with were brilliant and often very funny.   My favourite was from one girl who told me she was  “the steam from Daddy Bear’s porridge”.  I asked her to narrate the story from this perspective, it was very interesting indeed, especially the bit when she was eaten by Goldilocks.

In total I spent eight hours with two classes and it never stops surprising me how quickly children can develop and improve their drama and story telling skills.  We were working with the text The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and by the end of the workshop children where creating characters from the story using their bodies in new ways e.g. with different levels, shapes and rhythms.  The children had also become more spatially aware and by the end were much more confident in role-playing as well as inventing scenes that were not in the book.

All this encouraged the children to approach their final task with lots of enthusiasm.  This involved linking non-fiction texts, such as instructions, with the creation of spells inspired by the extraordinary world of Narnia.  It was interesting to see the student’s combine the technical language needed to create instructions with the imagination and creativity they had shown through our practical work.  The class loved coming up with ideas about the spells they should create.  The eventual decisions were spells to turn people into stone, travel through time, become invisible, deflect spells and liberate prisoners.

Part of the Verses V Verses project involved sharing the written work created by the children with another school. The prospect of other children reading my group’s work was really exciting for them and we talked about the specificity of the language needed so that the spells would be easily comprehensible.  The children were very mindful that if the wrong ingredient or quantity was used all kinds of problems could be created for the reader!

All in all, I had a great time working on Verses v Verses, it’s unusual for me to be able to work so intensely with the same group of children and it was a delight to see their creativity and imagination applied to the exercises we had created.  It was also very rewarding to see how the energy and enthusiasm from these sessions was so easily transferred to a classroom setting.

I was very happy to be focussing on ‘The Iron Man’ by Ted Hughes as I had enjoyed reading it so much when I was about the same age as the Verse versus Verse group. Mark Duncan’s reflections.

I was very happy to be focussing on ‘The Iron Man’ by Ted Hughes as I had enjoyed reading it so much when I was about the same age as the Verse versus Verse group. Mark Duncan’s reflections.

Session 1

I was very happy to be focussing on ‘The Iron Man’ by Ted Hughes as I had enjoyed reading it so much when I was about the same age as the Verse versus Verse group at Addison school. Most of the group had not read it before and therefore we had an excellent sense of suspense and expectation as I read the story aloud.

Our story-telling this week went up to ‘They would have to do something’; our farmer’s debate on what’s  to be done with  the Iron man was quite heated with many imaginative suggestions given by group members speaking in role.

Session 2

Our ‘hot seating’ of characters from ‘The Iron Man’ such as Hogarth, farmers, Iron man, family proved very popular with the Addison students. It also led to presentations of alternative sub plots of minor characters and guessing the main narrative in role! The improvisation from the ‘hot seating’ activity also helped a lot with the role play in Hogarth’s Town’s Debate: Should we build the trap?

Session 3

For the final session I chose a Ted Hughes poem, The Harvest Moon to perform for the group This poem is very imaginative with an array of rich vocabulary, alliteration, onomatopoeia and similes.

 The Harvest Moon by Ted Hughes

The flame-red moon, the harvest moon,
Rolls along the hills, gently bouncing,
A vast balloon,
Till it takes off, and sinks upward
To lie on the bottom of the sky, like a gold doubloon.
The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.
And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.

So people can’t sleep,
So they go out where elms and oak trees keep
A kneeling vigil, in a religious hush.
The harvest moon has come!

And all the moonlit cows and all the sheep
Stare up at her petrified, while she swells
Filling heaven, as if red hot, and sailing
Closer and closer like the end of the world.

Till the gold fields of stiff wheat
Cry `We are ripe, reap us!’ and the rivers
Sweat from the melting hills. 

We discussed what we liked about the poem itself and also the performance leading to an analysis of poem: Each smaller group then wrote in their treasure books all the examples they could find of one of the following: metaphor, simile, onomatopoeia, alliteration, verbs. These then served as a plan and a script for each group to do an abstract performance based on the poem.