Friday, 27 May 2016

Here's one way to stick two fingers up at SPaG

Let me begin by saying I love my local school, love the teachers and love the English language.

Let me continue by saying I am wholeheartedly hacked off with SPaG being used as a means to measure how our primary schools are performing.  One of the stand out things for me about the school my children attend is that they were taught 'free writing' to help them play with, explore and enjoy language.  I am not as well-informed, or articulate as Michael Rosen, so if you want to read the thoughts of someone who really knows what they're talking about, please read his blog.

Tools of the trade - yes I did take in a record player.
Anyway, I'm not going to rant because I've found a way to stick my fingers up at the pressure this then places on primary school children to know what a fronted adverbial is when they still have so many other fascinating, interesting, exciting things they could be doing with words: I ran a performance poetry workshop.

Here's what we did:

1. Discussed poetry as being like a song without words

2. Talked about how hip-hop artists play with words and combine movement and language

does anyone diss Tiny Tempah for the spelling of his name?  No.  Do people care about the role of each word when he states "I've got so many clothes I keep some at my Aunt's house?"  No.

3. I performed a poem I for the class:

Poetry as expression
Not a session
The only time I'm likely to be in the
same picture as Michael Rosen...
In spelling and grammar
Use your words like a hammer

Or a feather
Make them sweet
Bring them out
To a beat

Have fun
Bend the rules
Brain and mouth
Are your tools

Be still
Be physical
Savour words
Make them lyrical

Make it up
Or make it true
Is for you

4. Discussed whether animals feel self-conscious before they make a noise.  

Ever seen a dog think twice before barking because its friends might laugh?  Didn't think so.

5. Did a full 'pack howl' 

I watched The Jungle Book recently - it was always going to happen :)  Luckily it's also a great tool for breaking that whole 'self-conscious' thing that we have.  Sometimes you just need to be more 'wolf'.

6. Asked if anyone spoke any other languages:

The purpose of this was to examine how different languages have different rhythms - we heard Afrikaans, Chinese, Hindi, Italian and Polish.

7. Played the first couple of verses of 'Fight for Your Right (to Party)'

Licensed to Ill was the first album I bought with my own money.  That song blew my mind.  The children marvelled at seeing a record player then rocked out in their chairs.

8. Sent the children out to find baseball hats and sunglasses

Apparently mirrored shades are in.

9. Put the children in teams and gave them a copy of Spike Milligan's 'Ning Nang Nong'

They then had fifteen minutes to rehearse a version of the poem to perform in front of the rest of the class, with emphasis on feeling the words, using facial expressions, body language and any props they fancied - lots of baseball hats went on back to front at this point.

10. By way of repaying their performance, I told them how Jamie Oliver set my kitchen on fire

If you want to read the poem - it's here

What came out of it

By the end of the session, each child had stood up in front of the class and performed poetry.  Some children heard a new language for the first time, some children spoke in their mother tongue in front of their classmates for the first time, some children did something that they'd never tried before.

Not one child refused to take part and everyone received applause for their efforts.  We had possibly the best "Jibber Jabber Joo" that's ever been uttered.  And not once did we talk about the function of any of the words, or how they should be spelled, or which one ought to go where.  We just had fun for a full hour, hooting and shouting and enjoying what no-one can ever take away from us:  our ability to express love for our language and play with words.

No comments:

Post a Comment