Archive | March, 2013

Introduction: Aliens Have Feelings Too! (Part One)

18 Mar

In Residence: The School Project

“Aliens Have Feelings Too!”  is a PhotoGiraffe Live Arts project  at Priory Lower School, Bedford, where I am currently working with 10 children aged between 6-8 (Key stage 2 and 3) to help them to express their emotions. The project is four weeks long and is aimed to develop the emotional literacy of ‘vulnerable’ children to help them progress in their learning.  But ‘what are vulnerable’  children?

As an ex-English teacher I have worked with children and teenagers for over two years, having taught English in Spain, Morocco,  Egypt, as well as in various summer schools for foreign students in England. Whilst going through the EFL experience, I raised opportunities for myself to work with young people using drama and story telling to aid their learning.   However, the children I  worked with thus so far had always come from rather privileged backgrounds, whose parents could afford to send their children to cultural/language centers with expensive fees to better invest in their future.

One year later, after having given-up-the-day-job (i.e teaching English) and now as a specialised Arts Practitioner in the field of Photography, I have been commissioned by a school which is located in the most underprivileged region of Bedford.  The primary school where I am currently assigned, have a very high turnover of students.  They all come from a varied ethnic minorities background,  are predominately living in council  housing and due to migrational reasons, their parents cannot speak English (fluently).  The school has a very attractive language board in the main corridor with over 18 languages to signify the number of different mother tongues spoken by the students in their homes.  Consequently, at this early stage of their learning, some of the students themselves are not fluent in the English Language and their parents are mainly (using the term loosely) ‘out of reach’.

Now, going back to my initial question, The DfE define “vulnerable groups” as “disadvantaged groups” and there are safeguarding and child protection connotations to the expression. In Ofsted terms, vulnerable children are amongst those groups that may need additional support or intervention in order to make optimum progress. They cite children “whose needs, dispositions, aptitudes or circumstances require particularly perceptive and expert teaching and, in some cases, additional support“.
Which groups these are will depend on the circumstances of the particular school (See Ofsted’s Good Practice Report on creating an inclusive school community) but a number are mentioned within the schedule, such as boys, girls, looked after children and minority ethnic groups).

Generally speaking, every child has a different pace of learning.  Some learn faster than others, but those from these particular types of backgrounds, who have a slower progress rate in class can be considered to be ‘vulnerable’ and it is with these children that I am currently working. These 10 students have been carefully selected by the teachers, who they feel need particular attention to help them learn to be more expressive and participative in class.  Therefore, I have devised my own scheme of work, approved by the school which incorporates, creative writing, drama and photography to help them develop their emotional literacy.

With only one year of experience as a freelancer, this is the first time I have been commissioned as an Artist to work in a school and so  in this capacity it is all very new to me.  I was  mainly selected, because of my previous background of working with children in education and in photography (please see portraits on http://www.photogiraffe.me).  Hence why, every week for the next four weeks, I will be traveling to Bedford from Birmingham to deliver these sessions.

During these four weeks, I will be documenting my experience revealing to you, the exact structure and schemes of works I delivered at these workshops, alongside detailed accounts of my aims and objectives and whether or not I think I reached them.  By the end of the four weeks I will share samples of the children’s finished art work.  I hope that these particular blog entries will be useful for other arts practitioners working in schools and also for teachers that could adapt some of these activities for their own classrooms to help the children who they feel are harder to reach.  Week by week I will share with you, exactly what I did and the material I used for each session, alongside some snappy snaps of the kids at work (with the kind permission of the school and parents of course).  As well as being educational, I will try my utmost to inject my personality into my writing to make it an entertaining read for those – who may just be curious…

But for the meantime here is a list of points that I have considered, which will be further discussed during the course in this series of blog entries, as the project develops:

Project Title:

Alien’s Have Feelings Too!

Rationale

Some children might develop learning problems in class which can lead to feelings of alienation.  This could potentially lead to further problems as they cannot express how it feels for them to be an outsider.

Their inability to express themselves could further be triggered by their peers disapproval and/isolating treatment of them, if they are perceived to be behaving differently.  This may add to their feelings of alienation and as a defense mechanism, cause them to shut down or misbehave; consequently the child’s learning problem may become worse as the troubled child is unable to express them self and cannot understand or be understood as to why s/he is not able to participate  in class as well as her/his peers.

Aims

Expression:  To give a ‘vulnerable’ child the opportunity to express themselves, from the perspective of being on the inside and of being on the outside.

Discussion:  To enter into open discourse concerning the difference of a variety of emotions we can feel.

Perspective: To help them to distance themselves from their own problems yet give them a voice they can relate to through an imaginary character (i.e Alien dolls).

Outcome

  • Story Telling: to create an animated story through still photography, using various arts and craft props.
  • To use a theme that develops a photo documentary of the Children’s ability to solve their own problems through self expression.
  • To create a photobook documenting the child’s journey, through the child’s eyes.

What’s next?

Next week I will be sharing with you exactly what I did for the first introductory session with the two different groups of children, including supporting material from the workshop, what worked, what didn’t and hopefully some photographs from the session.  So stay tuned!

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