Books, books, books - I love them! Especially children's books... I'll let you into a little secret - I have boxes of them! Maybe for the grandchildren I don't yet have? Or maybe just because I get attached to any book I read... My hubbie isn't best pleased about the boxes - they are heavy and in the loft! - but I do humour him now and again with a "clear-out".
Tucked away are my own children's favourites, you know, those bedtime stories you can still re-tell now without the book! They sit beside the beautiful picture books I couldn't resisit as a teacher and collected to inspire and engage writers and readers of any age. And then there's the 'old' classics - the stories I grew up with and still stand the test of time - The Secret Garden, Tom's Midnight Garden, Stig of the Dump and my all-time favourite, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.
This book handed me the best creative learning lessons as a teacher. I've written before about how children will florish if we let them create, explore and use their hands and minds. So, exploring a book in different ways and re-creating a whole journey through it in 3D just seemed like the perfect way to fully understand and re-tell it, don't you think?!
Where to start? Well, watching the amazing Disney film (quite an upgrade from the BBC drama of my day) is mesmerising and interesting. Children love to watch movies (especially in a classroom!), but to take parts of that story and take proper note of costumes, props, characters, make-up and masks... oh, and then to link it to the book... and when do I read the book? Yes, you heard right - I read the book in class. In today's curriculum it often gets forgotten to read to children, but they get absorbed into a flow that they sometimes can't achieve on their own. It allows them to visualise the story their way, and the bonus is ten (or twenty, if we got carried away...) minutes of silence! Lol!
Have you been to the Harry Potter Studio Tour? If you have, you will know it leads you through the stories, showing you the sets and props from the films. You had 'a-ha' moments, didn't you? You could place an object in the correct film, couldn't you?
Physical objects have such an impact on our visual memory. Yes, film-makers and their teams can cement images on our brains of things that perhaps wouldn't look the same if we only read the book and visualised ourselves what it looked like, and if we want to see it as the author intended, we have to hope that authors like J.K. Rowling are involved so closely so her imagination is re-created, but children will often get their own ideas anyway if you give them the option to recreate something using only junk-modelling and paint.
Our Narnia journey led us to recreate models of parts of the story and lead you on the journey through our own staged wonderland.
We wove the story through the wardrobe, into the snow-ridden forest and past the lampost. We followed our 3D map from the cold darkness into the light. We learnt to make the Queen's turkish delight (without the magic, of course!) and watched her sleigh pass by. We ventured past the palace of ice, saw the stone statues that were once creatures of Narnia and met Aslan in all his glory. We wrote about the battle and presented Peter's sword to the visitors of our very own studio tour!
And all the time, we learnt.
The creative nature of the learning meant that not a day went past with a groan or sigh - the sign that learning isn't fun! It also meant that it didn't fit the "box" it should have sat it - we passed the supposed timetable of 6 weeks and enjoyed it so much it went on for another 2-3 weeks! We had fun!
Isn't this what learning should be? Fun. Creative. Joyful.
And what did the children learn exactly? They learnt to solve problems, they learnt to work co-operatively, they learnt to express themselves, they learnt to write creatively, they gained confidence in speaking, they learnt that learning can be exciting, it can be about moving around - not just sat at tables, it can be about enjoyment, and it can involve watching a movie or being read a book!
My only wish was that I could share the photos of the hall in which we created the 'studio tour' but they were, quite appropriately, on a school camera! But believe me when I say that the whole journey not only developed the children's creative skills, it fed easily into their literacy development - not one child didn't make progress!
Picture Credit: Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth
I'm a big advocate for creative learning, as you will know if you've been reading my blogs lately, and I know there are some great schools out there pushing this boundary every day. There are also some schools who don't, who are trying hard to keep results up and keep Ofsted (our UK inspection agency) off their backs. I don't blame them, I blame the government for their relentless monitoring, pressure and own lack of creativity. I am not the only teacher who feels they can't do what they know would enhance the learning for all children. I am certainly not the only teacher to disagree with teaching to the test (which I'm afriad is going to happen, regardless of what anyone says). I am not the only teacher to walk away from the pressure. But I am a teacher who believes in creative learning and I have a voice.
I also now have a creative business to give children the chance to learn some of the skills I talked about. We will always be online now to reach our lovely followers from all over, but I look forward to a day when we can have in-person workshops too! Bigger and better learning spaces. Creativity is such a great tool (as you can see in Sylvia Duckworth's artwork above) - it gives you skills that feed into all other areas of learning without you realising it. From playing in the dirt as a toddler to learning to sew, all these things develop our brains. Without them we are going to have a robotic society of left brainers, with no creative thinking at all! Who wants that?!
Let me know what you think about creative learning and if you've had any good or bad experiences in school or out. Join the conversation! :)
Oh, and don't forget you can get creative yourself with our Easter freebie! Make antique style silver eggs with our free printable instructions :) They will look fabulous on your Easter table, but watch out for the Nargles or Nifflers ;)
Take care and see you next week!