What have you been doing?
At the beginning of the school year, staff at Sanderson’s Wynd were given a talk by Learning Unlimited about the Curriculum For Excellence. Among the ideas shared was one for a storyline project. It was an inspiring presentation and lifted some of the gloom that had been building with regard to the curriculum changes.
Not long after, one of our teachers approached our head-teacher and suggested that our school could embrace the idea of storyline with a project during the five-week block after Christmas.
Accommodating as ever, our head-teacher agreed. From there, the idea was presented to the staff and was accepted with a wave of enthusiasm.
It wasn’t long before the idea took on shape.
For the nursery and Primaries 1 to 3 the idea was to be that Story-land had been destroyed and that the children would need to help by recreating a world of fairytales in their classrooms.
For Primaries 4 to 7 there would be the task set for them by the mysterious Keeper Of The Keys.
A room was set aside to store resources and everyone was sent away with the brief to go with the children’s ideas; staff must have sat down to their Christmas lunch with butterflies in their stomachs, the kind of that tickle with excitement one minute and trepidation the next.
My job was to take on the role of ‘The Keeper Of The Stories’. With my faithful dragon (Dragon) I had to tell the P1 to P3 children that Story-land had disappeared and that I was homeless (don’t worry, folks, it turned out I was soon to be housed at IKEA). Getting the children to suspend their disbelief seemed crucial; I was amazed at how willingly they did so as I talked to them through my false beard. My job had been made easier by the line of fairy-lights, flowers and dragon’s footprints along the corridor to the hall.
Each class was presented with a scroll telling them which story they had to recreate and off they went to decide what they were to do. Our nursery worked on a range of fairytales and the Hub had a castle theme. It was a similar story for the older children who were set a challenge by ‘The Keeper Of The Keys’ in poem form.
In what ways does this practice relate to Curriculum for Excellence?
From the point of the children returning to their classrooms, it was up to them how they used their ideas.
Clearly the teachers needed to have ideas of directions in which they might head, but it was pretty much over to the children to make the decisions. Themes included The Gingerbread Man; Goldilocks and the Three Bears; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; The Selfish Giant; Jack and the Beanstalk; Sleeping Beauty; Castles; Giants; Shrek; and Harry Potter.
Where the projects went next is far too diverse to explain here. A visit to the school blog will help to fill you in if you are interested. I did see giant spectacles, tiny fairies, castle hearths, French chateaux, beautiful collections of stories, a wishing well, sherbet experiments, sculpture, swords, all things Shrek, baking, porridge and a gingerbread man who kept making a break for it.
What were the reasons for doing this?
In P2P I had been involved with supporting some of the children with their work. Their theme was Jack and the Beanstalk and so I counted beans, added with beans, mind-mapped using Kidspiration and worked on character studies. I saw the classroom transformed (as indeed the whole school was) with illustrations based on Joan Eardley, beanstalks growing around pillars, cows popping up from nowhere, compost pots, clouds and castles.
Throughout the project, the class worked on recreating the story of Jack in one big story looking at punctuation and the use of ‘interesting words’.
I came to hear about the story in one of those moments in the coffee queue one morning break. I was also full of beans of myself having just released a collection of stories at Amazon entitled Dirty Old Town.
Somehow the two pieces of life fused and the idea was born – we could turn the story into an ebook, sell it to the parents and anyone who was interested, connect with the world, show the children a new range of skills, give them a real sense of achievement and raise money for charity at the same time.
It took about 30 seconds for the idea to become solid and Karla, being an enthusiast, consummate professional who has the ability to take on anything new with an easy grace, was immediately thinking ahead. Along with her teaching partner, Fiona-Wilson Beales, we were about to go where not many school children have been before.
We had a lesson about creating the book. Children had to decide on a title and think about how the cover was going to look. We considered the size, positioning and colour of letters and asked them how they felt about the idea. They felt great.
What has happened as a result?
The children now have an understanding of just how well-connected the world is when technology is used. Reviews and comments have already come in from unexpected places.
The children have a sense of the purpose of writing.
Families in the area will be able to share the work and heap praise onto the book’s creators.
For those who haven’t seen an ebook before, they’ve hopefully gone out of their way to download the Kindle App and now have access to a new world of stories and communities.
For some families it may be one of the few times a book has been truly shared and celebrated.
We can link with the eco-committee (no paper) and the global-citizenship committee (it’s all over the world).
The children feel very proud of themselves.
This is what the children said in their own words:
We have learned
…that we can make model castles out of cardboard. Kira
….about plants at the Botanic Gardens. Nathan D
…that beans grow with soil, water and light. Ross
…how to make a bean graph. Sam M.
…how trees grow at the Botanic Gardens. Arron
…how to write a story and you have to put in full stops at the end of the sentence and capital letters at the beginning of a sentence. Alex
…that Jack and the Beanstalk is a great topic! Sam W.
…to make an ebook and it’s for sale on Amazon. Connie
…about Jack and the Beanstalk. We built a castle and Jack’s cottage. Molly
….how to plant beans. Zoe
…how to plant magic beans. My bean was the first to germinate. Jason
…about growing magic beans and measuring them with a ruler. Adam
…that Jack and the Beanstalk was missing from Fairyland and we had to recreate it. Emma
….about the characters from Jack and the Beanstalk. Aimee
…about creating the characters of Jack and the Beanstalk with interesting words. Nathan G.
….about Jack and the Beanstalk. Curtis
…about how to create an even better Jack and the Beanstalk because I put in more wow words. Callum
….to use more connecting words in my story. Aidan
…how to make cakes with real vanilla beans. Scarlett
…what a vanilla plant looks like and that rainsticks are made from cacti. Mrs Pearce
The children in P2P have decided to donate any funds raised to charity. The charity Save The Children was chosen as a response to hearing about Jack’s life in poverty. This dove-tails nicely with work the class will be doing soon in relation to Article 27 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.
If you’d like to help, you can shell out your 71p on Jack And The Giant by visiting here.
Leave a review if you can – it will only boost the class even further.
And if you don’t have a Kindle, fear not. You can download the App – it’s free and easy to download by looking to the right hand side of the screen and following the ‘Read books on your computer or other mobile devices’ when you get to our book.
What would you do differently next time?
Give the topic more time. It had five weeks because it was an experiment. The themes were so rich that they could have gone on for longer.
A questionnaire has gone out to staff to feedback – any major issues will be posted with the article.