Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NO problem...

I have realised today how self-directed my class have become. It was 'one of those days' today with me on release in the middle block and the class doing a huge writing session with the reliever. It was a tricky concept - interviewing Amelia Earhart - and they did struggle with it for a while.
Fast forward to this afternoon. For the first time this year we had reading in the afternoon, as we were hosting a visit from a local principal and a special needs support teacher. I gave the class no warning, primed them in no way, didn't even explain that I would come and go from my teaching groups...

The groups and individuals who were working on devices were able to explain their learning and the purpose of their activities such as WebQuest on the laptops, Wiki Wandering on the iPads and the group who were collaborating on the carpet with me, working on fact and fiction. I was pleasantly surprised by how the visitors commented on them being so purposefully engaged and 'on-task'. This is one of the huge positives with the time invested in getting these eLearning routines well-embedded early on, and that really took some time.

A few of my children were working in my office on the LexiaLearning programme, which was also watched by our visitors. We are incredibly lucky to have such excellent extra programmes to support our learners. It was cool to see how the children involved were so comfortable talking about what they do and why.

All in all, a wonderful afternoon of visits and adaptable children! Suffice it to say, when we did our reflection circle at the end of the day, there were lots of comments about this time and also a lot of talk about our next learning steps.

It was NO problem to my class!

What Defines "BEST"?


My photography group finished off presenting their 3-5 photos today for submission in a competition. They have worked really hard, trying out lots of cool ways to take photos, investigating how to create depth, how to use lighting to our advantage, how to stage shadow photos and so on. We have looked at angles, perspective and how to use the different settings on the camera (at a very basic level).

It was fascinating today to watch the children select their 'best' photos. In most cases, the images that the children liked 'best' were not the ones that caught my eye. I discovered that children have a completely different eye for images than adults. What they liked were the photos that were relevant to them. For example, one of the boys chose a series of 3 photos of cars. They weren't exciting (to me), they didn't have any interesting angles or light, but these were HIS 'best' photos.

Another one of the boys had taken the most incredible photo of a bottle-brush in full red bloom, with crisp, deep blue sky behind it and a bee settled in the centre of one of the flowers. When I asked him why he HADN'T selected the image as a 'best' photo for the competition, he told me he doesn't like flowers so he didn't choose it. As easy as that.

The children presented their photos to one another and talked about why they chose the series that they had. Every child had a different idea and perspective about the own choices and they were able to feedback to one another why they did/didn't like each other's photos. They were a very diplomatic bunch, lots of positive reinforcement!

So when we submit these images this week, I know 2 things for sure...the work is 100% their own and the decision for what they submit is also 100% their own - their personal BEST.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Art Of The 'Fairy' Tale


One of my class lost a tooth over the weekend - right in front of her mouth no less! I received an e-mail from her mum warning me that, due to poor weather conditions (rain in Auckland), the Tooth Fairy had been grounded and unable to do her usual late-night pick up.

Fast forward to my little lovely arriving at school and she is met by a magical tag-team of clowns (myself and another 'primed' staff member) who spent 5 minutes pretending to 'guess what's missing'..."Is it your nose? Oh no - there it is!" "Must be her nostrils...oh! No! There are 2 of those..." (Child) "It's in my mouth that has something missing, silly!" to which the 2 adults shriek in unison - "Good lord! She's lost her tongue!" Small child rolls her eyes and points out the tooth-hole, which then receives the appropriate amount of fussing and oooh-ing and ahhhh-ing necessary to a front tooth extraction in a 7 year old.

We are then shown a beautiful velvet ring box which is popped open, revealing aforementioned tooth. I, of course, still on the ball REGARDLESS of this being Monday morning, pop out with the very subtle, "Well, I see the Tooth Fairy didn't make it last night due to the rain...I read in the paper that there were some delays and cancellations due to bad weather..."

My little lovely then smiles the biggest, gappiest smile of all time and says, "Well, she'd better not use that excuse tonight or I'm gonna have to send my brother out there to get me some money instead!"

It just shows you that a little bit of role play, especially on a Monday, makes the funniest things happen!


Friday, May 27, 2011

The Top Ten


A blog post that I read recently by Tony Ryan really got me thinking about what my fave things would be that I have read, experienced, viewed, seen, learnt and lived.

So, it wouldn't be ok to just 'think' on these things if I didn't share them. Perhaps it will make others do the same...rather a cool way to reflect on life thus far!

MOVIES
Steel Magnolias
The Blind Side
Schindler's List
The Lion King
The Shawshank Redemption
Lord of the Rings (The Trilogy)
Avatar
The Sound Of Music

BOOKS
The Bible
Pride and Prejudice
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
Change Of Heart
The Boy In Striped Pajamas
The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn
Red Dragon
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Halfmen Of O
The Harry Potter series (sorry, loved these...)

MUSIC
Broken Strings (James Morrison)
Ave Maria (Sarah Brightman)
Imagine (John Lennon)
Somewhere Over The Rainbow (Eva Cassidy)
Who Painted The Moon Black? (Hayley Westenra)
Billie Jean (Michael Jackson)
Do They Know It's Christmas? (BandAid)
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper)
Beautiful (Christina Aguilera)
Breathe (Faith Hill)

PEOPLE I HAVE MET (not counting family, of course!)
Gaile and Michael Stallsmith, from Michigan (USA) - at the Olympics (Spain), 1992
Barbara Ellner-Lehrmann - from Bamburg (Germany) - in Greece, 1992
Sarah O'Mahoney - England, teaching in 1997
Selma Halsall - teaching in England, 1997
Helen Millar - teaching her children (!) met in 1996
Kelsey Scott - student teacher, 2010 from Georgia, (USA)
Debbie and Graham Davel, 1996, South Africans in the UK!
All of my other friends...of course... :)

PLACES
Turkey, all of it
Egypt, all of it
Carcassonne, France
Bamburg, Germany
Krakow, Poland
Barbados, USA
Puerto Rico, USA
Windsor, UK
Queenstown, NZ
Bay Of Islands, NZ

EXPERIENCES
Balloon ride over Cappadocia, Turkey, 1996
1992 Olympics, Barcelona, Spain
Greek Islands, 1992
Mud baths, Dalyan, Turkey, 1996
Tomb of the Pharoahs, Egypt, 1995
Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt, 1994
Gulet (boat) trip from Marmaris to Bodrum, Turkey, 1996
White terraces (sulphur) of Pamakkale, Turkey, 1996
Scuba diving in Carribean, USA, 1994
Skiing in Norway, 1998

LIFE LESSONS
Friends make their own families
Family are the people who walk in when everyone else walks out
Life is too short to worry. About anything.
The only thing that worrying achieves is wrinkles
My mother really did know EVERYTHING
As a mother, I really DO have eyes in the back of my head
Children don't come with a manual but they should
As soon as I learn something new, it becomes old
We must learn to fail or we fail to learn
That which takes the most effort and energy is NOT always the most rewarding experience...but it can be the thing we learn most from!

And finally, my top ten of many things may have changed a lot throughout each decade of my life but the reality is this: friends and jobs, travel and experiences may come and go, but one thing remains - life changes all the time!













Thursday, May 26, 2011

Celebrate!


You know, it doesn't matter how many running records I take in my career, they never fail to make me smile.

I work with my groups every week, I hear my children in the class reading in different settings all the time and yet, when I hear them read with expression and excitement with an unseen text that has no image with it (PROBE), using smooth sound analysis, phrasing well, self-correcting naturally and monitoring confidently, then there has to be cause for celebration. The hard work is working!

My years of Reading Recovery mean that the recording and analysis process is pretty quick for me. But the celebration takes up the rest of the time! There is just such a wonderful feeling to see progress - real, measurable, tangible progress, the kind of success that makes the child smile and the teacher's heart jump for joy!

Over the past few days I have taken some running records of my class - the children are all so positive about the experience and the feel-good factor for them is wonderful. I love to celebrate their achievements with them so we had a big class yahoo over the whole thing.

Sometimes it is just worth stopping everything and cheering for the smallest changes in learning that have required our children to make the biggest efforts! Oh - and they enjoyed it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Working Together

















So today's challenge involved some real old-fashioned collaboration!

Our big idea for the term is around flight and I have to be honest, this is one fun topic! Apart from the history of flight, the science behind flight and the obvious reasons for flight, my class are a curious bunch who are loving the inquiry side of this topic.

We have managed to write biographies about Amelia Earhart. Well, I say 'write' loosely since the class ended up choosing to present posters about her achievements and challenges. We are hoping to make our own short film about her...watch this space...

So today, while one group worked on their posters on Pages, another group worked on the Learning Centre and the last group had the challenge of working together to create an airport out of Lego and Duplo.

It is always fascinating to sit back and watch leaders emerge, strong personalities take over and the less confident happy to let others do the work. Well, ordinarily that is. But when you throw in the 3 elements of (a) Lego (b) a time frame and (c) a competition for the best airport, and you end up with quite a different outcome altogether!

What was funny was the fact that during the rotation (each group had 15 minutes then had to take a photo) each group split automatically into girls and boys. The girls went to the Duplo and almost immediately started to create a runway and airport building.

In every group, the boys went to the Lego and began to create planes. Now, remember the brief - create an airport - NOT create a plane. But in every case, the boys knew that there couldn't be an airport without planes!

The results were all quite similar in the photos and also the way that the groups worked together. When we had our reflective time at the end of the day, the children commented on the fact that they found it hard to listen to each other and also they found it quite tricky to agree on the final result - they ALL found a deadline very difficult.

But, when we talked about what worked well, the children reflected on how easy they found it to work with others who thought the same way as them (the boys and the girls worked separately on different things) and they also commented on how they found it important to have have longer - they would have liked more time to feel that they had completed the task, not rushed it through.

So now I have added it to the Learning Centre as an activity and will monitor how this affects the final product also. Interesting stuff!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What's It Worth...?


I had an e-mail tonight from a parent in my class. Her child, she wrote, upon bouncing into bed, squealed, "Yay! It's Monday tomorrow and I get to see my teacher...I have missed her!"

What's it worth?

It's worth a smile from a happy child who is delighted to be at school.

It's worth a thousand hours of struggle just to see a child succeed at something they found hard.

It's worth a sticker or a certificate when they make a real effort to overcome a challenge.

It's worth every minute of every day that we devote to helping children realise their dreams.

It's worth long meetings, no lunchtimes, weekends of marking, hours of planning, months of worrying...

It's all worth it.

When you get an e-mail like that, it's ALL worth it.

And by the way, I can't wait to see my class tomorrow too. Because they are all worth it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

iCamp


Well, camp is over for another year and what a fantastic time it was, yet again!

If I had to say what the highlights are, it would be a difficult thing to describe...

Perhaps my highlight was the children who were challenged to step outside their comfort zone to overcome a personal challenge...

Or was it superseded by the adults who also had to do things that they had never done before?

What about the moments where children were working together to achieve a goal?

Or when they were racing full speed around a track, taking safe risks and screaming with delight...

Camp is one of the few places where kids experience things that challenge them and dare them to take risks, with adults around who are encouraging them all the way. It is a place where everyone, adults and children alike, embrace their inner child and run with it! Nowhere else can adults feel like children and behave like them too! Camp is the place where you fend for yourself, pack your own gear, look after your own things, try stuff (including some food groups!) that you have never tried before...

Camp is the place where collaboration is essential (dishes, cleaning, problem-solving, cabin tidying...); where managing self is necessary at all times (self-control, organising your own gear, getting to the right place at the right time) and communication is paramount (listening to others, being strong team leaders, encouraging others, asking questions). Every aspect of our day was tailored towards some part of the Key Competencies but with the best element of all...learning is fun!

Camp has to be the highlight of the year - when we ask the Year 6 children what they loved the most about their year, it will always be either camp or Waterwise or both!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Adult Learners


Had a fascinating convo with several friends over dinner tonight around learning and teaching styles from the past - THEIR past - the way 'school and life used to be'!

It all started when some of my friends were talking about their son who has started school last term, aged 5, and, after the parent/teacher interviews, my friends wanted my 'professional' advice about his learning and the fact that he is memorising words instead of 'sounding out'. Well, I could have started in on a cold sell of the whole language approach, but given that the audience were highly likely to glaze over, I decided instead to ask them about how they learn.

Well, 6 of us were able to describe 6 totally different ways of learning and remembering things. One friend described how he would spend the time in class doodling - but not for fun, this was how he remembered things that he had learnt. Another friend talked about how he looked through magazines and books to find images that impressed themselves upon him and then he would read whatever he could find about it. Yet another was a reader, she would read anything that she could find to read and she remembered the details. Another didn't enjoy reading but loved listening to others read to her and would learn from anything she heard.

Imagine their surprise when they heard all of those different learning styles coming out of the woodwork! One comment was along the lines of "...how on earth did our teachers ever manage with all of our different learning styles?" and the response was a lot of laughter and mutterings about the fact that the teachers didn't actually cope at all!

So it's yet another big YAY for change. YAY that we no longer put kids in boxes and tell them that there is only one idea (my idea) one way (my way) and one outcome (my expectation). I say YAY for us, as teachers, as we have the challenge of helping children to discover their own learning style and then help them to work out how best to apply it so that it helps them in life.

If we can do this now, then let's hope that there will never be a conversation like tonight's one with my friends, in the future of our own children. Or if there is this conversation, it will have a very different outcome when they are asked how their teachers coped with all of their differences as learners!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Change - whether you like it or not!


We had the most fantastic tour of our eLearning group's classrooms and schools today. Talk about 'educational'!

I think my 'take-aways' are pretty simple actually...we are all different teachers in different schools, classes, with different management, on different parts and paths of a lifelong learning journey but we are all on the same path! No matter what our rooms had in them, no matter what we have on our blogs, wikis or walls, no matter what the content of our books, we are all committed to changes in the way we deliver information and we are all embracing new ideas in learning.

It is incredibly inspiring and always an immense privilege to have someone's classroom opened up to you. It is almost as invasive as probing around someone's underwear drawer! We all laughed about how tidy some spaces were compared to normal, we had clearly all thought a lot about wanting to present our 'material' in the best way possible and the amazing thing was that there were as many differences in the way our rooms and schools looked as well as in the methods that the eLearning is delivered, proving that there is no ONE way but many, many different ways.

For all of the similarities in our pedagogy and embracing of 21st Century learning, we simply proved that there are million fantastic means of delivering such ideas. I came away confident in the future of our schools and students. Even if the children are only with a teacher for one year, they are still given a piece of the puzzle that they need for the whole life-skills picture. Regardless of people's willingness to embrace change, change will happen regardless. I am sure that plenty of people happily continued to ride their horse when cars were available, until cars eventually superceded them anyway. Change is an unstoppable train and one that we can either get on first and be a part of the decision-making around where it is headed, or you can be left at the station or dragged on last (where the worst seats are...)

I am excited to see where this journey will take us all and what more we can learn. It proves once and for all that education is a vibrant and exciting profession to be a part of and that the best (as always) is yet to come!




Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Little Miss/Mr Independent


We had some visitors onsite yesterday who were looking at the eLearning in our school and where we are at with technology etc. I had a fantastic visit from many of the groups and the funniest part was watching some of my (seemingly less confident) children take the lead to talk about their learning.

One of the children managed to pull off her headphones so that she could discuss her 'self-directed learning'! She proceeded to tell the visitors (and show) all about her personal wiki which has her learning tasks for the day on it as well as the choices that she is able to make around her learning during reading and maths. She showed several documents that she has worked on using brainstorming and mind-mapping, as well as explaining the reason why these are important for her learning steps.

Well! This was fantastic to see and hear! Here is a child for whom 'conventional' learning does not come easily. Yet here is a confident, competent eLearner who is clearly quite the Little Miss Organised One and also extremely aware of her own needs and where she is going to next!

My other child who has his iPad to support his learning needs was busily finishing 'writing' his retell of the story 'The Gruffalo'. What is most fascinating is that he wrote (with pencil) a fantastic recount for assessment yesterday and also wrote (typed) his whole gruffalo story on the iPad, published it and created a mini-book with the text. This is a student who, only a few weeks ago, struggled to organise himself for the simplest of tasks as well as struggling to pen 10 words, such is the level of difficulty for him when communicating on paper. But now? What wonderful success he is having! Little Mr Organised and Happy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Can't teach an old dog new tricks...?


I had to share a wonderfully funny 'out-of-school' experience from yesterday...

I attended a funeral with my dad and sister of a very old family friend who passed away aged 76 last week. It was a fantastic celebration of a wonderful life which culminated in an 'after-match' at a local rugby club (ex-player, old coach etc.!)

Well, there I was standing among several All Greys (retired All Blacks) who were whittering on about their children and grandchildren. Gone are the days of carrying a 'granny brag book' around. Oh no! The conversations were centred around the amount of text messages they pay for each month and which deals they have managed to utilise like txt2000 and best mate...hilarious!

Then...out came all of their iPhones!!! They were sharing their status on Facebook with one another and showing movie clips of their grandkids playing rugby, soccer (!!!) and netball - I scarcely could believe my eyes! Here was a bunch of more mature gentlemen who were surely rather 'stuck in their ways' by now, yet they had realised the potential of technology and had embraced it fully! WOW!

It just proves that you are certainly NEVER too old to learn...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Self-management 2


I really hadn't thought about how 'enabled' several of my students have become since they got their iPads until I had a few visitors in my room today.

I watched these children talking about their learning journeys, discussing their self-management strategies and organisation, the choices they have about their learning and much, much, more. I ended up discussing how well they manage themselves when I thought I would be showing the visiting teachers how we use the iPads! Isn't it a fantastic thing when you realise (lightbulb moment!) that all the hours and days setting up wikis for them and developing individualised programmes for these wonderful learners is really, really working!

It made me look back to only 6 weeks ago when I was wondering if I was getting something wrong! I felt like I was just ploughing uphill and getting nowhere with self-management in the classroom. But now, I see the exact children who concerned me organised and purposeful in their learning. They are on task more often than off task which is a huge change that has happened only in the past 3-4 weeks of school.

It makes me want to celebrate this even more! I awarded the same 2 children a special award today because I was so impressed with their independence. They came with smiles this morning, they left this afternoon beaming.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Excellence in Teacher Training vs. Excellence in P.D


I read a comment on twitter this week that really got my head going and I have spent a lot of the week asking different peers who are both in and around education circles what they think of this challenging debate...do we strive to improve and create excellence in our institutions for trainee teachers, ensuring that only the best candidates are taken into training or do we ensure that the professional development provided for schools is excellent instead?

Let me create a scenario or two for you and see where this takes our thinking...

Scenario 1 - young post-high school student, a bit lost as to which career choice to make, ends up applying (half-heartedly) for teaching. Passes (just) the degree course, has no ambitions of doing a Masters or aiming for the top job at the end of it all.

Scenario 2 - person who has been at Uni for the 4 years, completed a Masters and wants to go into teaching with a mind to making a substantial career out of it (aiming for the top). Is largely driven to achieve as much as possible, filled with dreams and drive as well as plenty of 'smarts' on paper along with it!

Which of these teachers do we think will make the 'best' teacher?

And how would we measure that???

And what would we do with the one that we thought WOULDN'T make the 'best' teacher?

When I was training, I enjoyed what I did but I didn't strive to complete a degree let alone a Masters. My diploma was all I needed, and school (up until then) had actually got in the way of my education! I was tired of conventional study methods - I am certainly a 'learn as you do it' type of person (still am) but because of this, I am also a problem-solver and lateral thinker, because conventional thinking did not impress me. These 2 skills have meant that as I aged and gained experience, I also grew immensely in my knowledge of how children learn. I have never been bogged down by what I believed to be concrete and true, instead I have always examined learning as if it were a fluid and ever-changing thing. It means that although I have kept up with research and professional reading I have never been constrained by one way of thinking.

So, if this way of deciding on who is BEST qualified begins prior to teacher training and then feeds through to some people failing to qualify because of it, perhaps we need to examine what makes a good teacher.

1. Time - time to work with children in a room of our own, time to develop strategies for behaviour management, time to grow as a learner ourselves.

2. Attitude - as a young/inexperienced teacher there is often an attitude of knowing much and needing little but as experience grows we tend to grow into our own attitudes of the need to continue learning as educators.

3. Modeling - we have to see excellent practice and be immersed in it to change how we do things, to develop a broader skills base for ourselves.

4. Experience - every experience we have as teachers broadens our thinking and develops our skills.

5. Change - this is always a part of teaching - from changing thinking to changing curriculum to changing practice!

6. Further education - professional development and higher education lead to changes in practice and an evolution to pedagogy (often). But they must be high quality and relevant to where a teacher is at with their own journey.

Some of the smartest people I have met in teaching are not necessarily the best classroom practitioners (although many of them are) and some of the least qualified teachers on paper are incredible classroom practitioners (although not all of them are!)

So, in answer to the original question...perhaps they both have merit and equal weighting. If we have excellence in teacher training and then excellence in professional development then we are sending highly qualified teachers into a highly supportive and forward-thinking profession! Isn't that the BEST answer?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

e-Portfolios continued...


“Effective reporting systems will be those where student voice is an integral part of the reporting process as will educating young people to take more control of their learning. However, he cautions that this must also include developing students' capability to assess what it is they are learning, and generating feedback so students can see where they are going, how they are getting on, and where they will go next. This process also includes: ensuring that parents and the wider community have a good understanding of what assessment is about, and be able to interpret this information in ways that will support students.” Nick Rate, 2011 (CORE Education seminar)
I had some great professional discussions around blogs and wikis today, their functionality with junior classes and the benefits of teaching the beginnings of recording reflections. One of the teachers was talking with me about how her wiki is going and the links that she has created to her class blog. We ended up discussing the reasons for each - what do her children use the wiki for MOST? What is the 'purpose' of her class blog? There were some awesome reasons cited by her class for each of these - we talked about why it is critical for children to have a way to respond to their own learning but also the fact that this should be part of the learning process and not a chore.
Fast forward to the second half of the day where my Year 3&4 class got to be the models and mentors for a very young Year 1 class. Picture this...50 children in a room space made for 30 (max), book-making, colouring, cutting, guiding, sequencing, discussing, and teaching each other! It was fantastic! My young year 3's just came alive and were thrilled to be the role models for once. There was so much learning dialogue going on all afternoon and the other teacher and I discussed the merits of children teaching children - we took photos and then she and I planned how we will add these to our blogs - in different ways. The year 1 teacher was saying how hard she is finding it to get her children blogging - how time consuming it is and how much input the children need at the moment. So I suggested that she take a step back and let them just take a photo of their learning and she can either post this as it is, plain and simple, or she can type for them (annotate). It is not important how an e-Portfolio looks or even begins, it is more important that it has content which richly reflects the learning in the child's life.
So I am now booked in to stay after school one day next week and guide her through the process. It is always a privilege to be part of a learning journey - child and adult alike - there is no difference in the excitement of the lightbulb moments!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Snapshots


I had an awesome photography session with my group of children today who are working on photography/ICT skills with me - the object is to produce a series of 3-5 photos that depict the theme of 'Colour My World' in a relevant way to them. We are then entering the photos into a Gifted Children Competition which is then judged with the chance for the children to have their work published.

We investigated the concept of colour photos and how we view the world with a powerpoint that I had created first to get the discussion and thinking activated. There was some amazing and insightful conversations that went on during the viewing of that as we discussed how we can take photos to show different aspects, viewpoints, colours, shades, tones, comparisons and much more.

Then it was time to take to the cameras and explore the colours in the room - we were working in our staffroom which has a fantastic montage of teachers' work from our staff which we created last year. Each team of teachers had a black canvas and one colour tone to use - we created using shapes and different textures as well as a range of blended techniques. The children in my group photographed small parts of these as the background and also moved around the room exploring reflective surfaces such as the TV screen, the fridge door, the projector shadows, and the tin bin! They took some basic pictures using the general 'auto' setting.

For our activities next week, we are (weather permitting) going to walk to the local park which is currently filled with a ton of fallen autumn leaves so that we can look at perspective - photos from below/under. We are then going to take photos at school from the other perspectives of above and along (camera at ground level).

There is much to achieve, learn and do but the children are enthused and snapping happily! They are excited about what they are going to be able to do and I was thrilled when one of the girls commented to me that her dad is going to buy her a camera of her own if she enjoys this project - yay!

What a wonderful world these children will see through the lens! I look forward to being able to post some of their cool pix sometime soon...

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Power of the Spoken Word



First day back at school and we were immediately thrown into it! It is 'Book Week' at our school this week - one of the most delightful times ever as far as I am concerned! From visiting authors, illustrators and storytellers to character parades, teachers' fave story sessions, 'guess my fave book' to Clifford the Big Red Dog! It is always a wonderfully anticipated week and the children arrived this morning eager to make the most it!

We started off the week by reminding me of the power of the spoken word. Apparently, statistics show that an image is 10,000 times more powerful in how we retain information as children compared to the details of the written word. What about the power of the spoken word?

Stu Duval, artist/illustrator/storyteller, came into school and blew our classes away (as always!) with his humour and wonderful command of the most delicious language sequences ever strung together in a story! Couple this with great vocal play, funky scene-setting music and the ability to take chalk and create a masterpiece and you have...well, you actually have your own little piece of magic in a morning!

I asked my class to recount the tale of 'Rat Island' and most of them were able to recount fantastic amounts of detail. But...when I asked them to DRAW the story it became even more interesting! Many of them talked and talked about the story but were unable to draw the details that they longed to add!

My own daughter reminded me today though that we could actually remove all of the pomp and ceremony around the story as she was able to retell the entire 45 minute tale from Stu back to our family with no problem at all! She is accustomed to listening to me tell stories and read stories - every time I go to a movie I am forced to recount EVERY detail to my kids so they are very used to forming their own visual imagery around a story.

Let's remember that the longest remembered tales from 1,000's of years ago were originally told from generation to generation and this is how they survived. Perhaps among all of the amazing technologies and devices that we possess and utilise, we need to remember the wonderful power of the spoken word - we can use VoiceThread, iMovie and other cloud based applications to allow our less able writers and more reluctant artists to communicate a story in a very powerful way - the way of the word. We can give a voice to many of our students for whom the written word is a real challenge if only we use the technologies and the power of the spoken word.