Tag Archives: Creative Learning

Poetography Exhibition – Najma Hush

13 Nov

So your first ever exhibition as a Visual Literary Artist was a complete and utter disaster and here’s why….

Walsall Arts Fest '14, Wheatsheaf Pub, Walsall.

Walsall Arts Fest ’14, Wheatsheaf Pub, Walsall.

Where was this exhibition?

Organised and curated by Carolyn Bayliss, as part of the Walsall Arts Fest 2014, I was given two slots over, ‘3 days in November’ at an artistic venture held at The Wheatsheaf Pub in Walsall, which I completed last weekend just gone (7th, 8th,9th’ November),  representing a novel  form of art that I have been experimenting with for around  two and a half years to date; a genre termed, ‘Poetography’, as this is the  word that I use to describe the process of creating an audio/visual experience , when combining poetry with photography and/or videography.

What on earth were you exhibiting?

Please note that the form of art that I am referring to as Poetography, is by no means new or unique solely to myself, as the first ever photographically illustrated book with prose was called, ‘The Pencil of Nature’  by William Henry Fox Talbot, which was published in six instalments, dating as far back as 1844 to 1846.  To name countless others photographic books published with text, Firths, Egypt and the Holy Land (1857) Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War (1856), Annan’s, The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow, (1872).  Though specific to this particular topic, these historical works might not be deemed as Poetography as they do not combine Poetry with Photography.

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More specific and closest to the term ‘Poetography‘, are latest poetry books such as Thom Gunn’s Poems in Positives, accompanied by photographs by his brother Andres Gunn, as well as the highly avant garde, Distance and Proximity with poems by Thomas A Clarke, photographs by Owlen Shone, which are presently the only poetry and photography art books available online or in leading bookstores – the most prominent being, Paul MuldoonPlan-B.  In great contrast to these literary works stands the first ever self proclaimed Poetographer, Ron L Zheng, who combines Tanka poetry with Monochrome photography of nature and with such aesthetic perfection that, as well as having toured exhibitions internationally, he has had a printed publication of his entire collection called ‘Leaving my found Eden’.   Furthermore, although there appears to be only a few self published ‘Poetography’ books available online, various other experimental forms of poetry (particularly as visual literature) are being thoroughly researched by the school of humanities at Dundee University; the programme led by Professor Andrew Michael Roberts, is called ‘Poetry Beyond Text: Vision, Text and Cognition‘ and has been funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council since 2009.

With a fair few facts and brief outline of some history into what I refer to as being Poetography, when touching upon its avant garde status up till the present date, one would have some profound cheek to proclaim oneself as the first ever Poetographer, however ‘Poetography’ is still not a term that is widely used, which is probably why it also sounds odd.  However, I insist and without any pretentions that ‘Poetography’ is the natural phenomenal result occurring when poetry is combined with photography or videography to create a narrative.

During the past couple of years, I @YouTubehave been practicing how best to combine my poems with photographs I have acquired working as a photographer.  What I intend to achieve by combining poetry with photography, is to create subliminal narratives between poetic verse and symbolic imagery which is understood by its audience through a cognitive process that is unquantifiable – but which, as a creator, I am able to experience in the works produced.

Now that might sound rather illusive, however if  put it into simple terms, you would understand that my primary goal, when creating Poetography, is to use psychology to induce mind altering states and hit home the narrative on a subconscious level.  To describe some of the ways I attempt to do this is through the use of symbolic imagery, preferring to create videos in which I can animate and flash the imagery along with the words, then fuse the two together with ambient music by underground artists. I have also dubbed a few even further with subliminal voiceovers.  I am particularly interested in combining the Poetographs with Binaural Beats which are scientifically known to induce alternate brainwave activity depending on the varying right and left hemisphere frequency pitch that the beat omits (i.e Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta, Gamma brainwaves are induced when listening with headphones).  Some of these videos must come with a warning as they could induce not only brainwaves but also seizures, if the participant was epileptic or labour if the participant was pregnant.

So what the hell happened?

The works thus produced has been created to cause a deep cognitive impact and I believe that these video’s have the potential to be rather powerful.   Having used my own research, I have created a visual literary art form to be experienced at a sensory level, including audio.   Regardless of this, it is sufficient to say that my first exhibition as a Visual Literary Artist failed miserably.  There are several colliding factors for this, which I have mainly put down to my own deficiency of experience exhibiting such works, the location and the event’s setting.

Wheatsheaf PubAlthough The Wheatsheaf Walsall is a lovely pub, which has apparently been home to a whole host of celebrity musicians, in terms of my own work, the videos were played at the end of the bar on a television screen, despite there having been an isolated room allocated kindly by the manager of the pub, this room had not been utilised during the festival by the curator, upon the grounds of poor audience participation at the overall event. Initially given three, thirty minute slots across three days in an isolated room, I was instead permitted play the videos in the pub, within a 10 minute slot and give a short presentation, filmed for the Walsall Arts Fest youtube channel explaining my work, whilst it played behind me on a 36” TV screen at the end of the bar.   By the day two, it became evident to me that my work was not appropriate in this setting and environment and very obvious that it was neither appreciated under these circumstances.  However the best thing about this festival was learning about about the other participatory artist  work as well as realising through the experience, exactly what type of setting would be more appropriate.

Where will you go from here with Poetography?

What I have also learnt is that the work I am producing  is distinctly sensory, with it’s audio and visual properties and therefore requires its showcasing to be in a solitary area where it can be projected on either a small screen in a booth with headphones or upon a large wall in a blacked out room whilst playing at full volume in order for the viewer to have a totally immersive experience.  Had it not been for this event I might not have learnt how important this was and this is how I intend to have my work screened in the future.

How has this experience helped you evolve your concept?

The mere experience of how disengaged this exhibition was and the lack of support I gained at this festival has made me realise how important finding the right  audience is.   No matter how old this art form may seem, it is still relatively very new.  Poetry Beyond Text is an area still under development and with an intention to push an arts movement in the direction of Poetography, it is not to say that Poetography is the future of poetry but that such Visual Literary Art is still under negotiation with its experimenting creators and with the marginal few who are closely examining its development.   This opportunity however disastrous on the outset gave me great motivation to revisit my entire videographic collection which has up till now been shared on and through my youtube channel (@Najma Hush)  taking on board all the constructive criticism I had obtained from various viewers and improve upon any future endeavours.  This experience has given me much clearer ideas of how the work should be displayed and of its primary function; therefore, I would say that being part of the Walsall Arts Fest has contributed towards the improvement of an art form, I am passionately working towards establishing.

What else did you learn?

Najma HushI learned that the most important trait for any emerging artist is to develop such a strong internal point of reference that there is not any kind of criticism, good nor bad that will detract you from your goals.  If you are clear upon your goals but detached from the outcome, you will learn more from each and every experience that will help you to develop not only your work, but also your primary asset, which is yourself!

Furthermore I would stress that the most interesting people are always the ones with most varied interests and the people with most varied interests are the ones who listen more to others, with an open mind, than they do talk about themselves.  Therefore it is important to meet as many other artists, who are working in a variety of mediums albeit different from yourself and listen to them about what they do, with an open mind.

Upon that note, why not check out the brief photo documentary about the people I met during my short  journey at the Walsall Arts Fest 2014 and what I learned about them?

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Aliens Have Feelings Too (Part Five)

5 May

A Photography Project aimed to develop the Emotional Literacy of vulnerable school children.

Work Hard - Play Hard

Work Hard – Play Hard

Working with:

Group A – Year 2 (6-7 year olds)

Morning session 2.5 hrs

Group B – Year 3 (7-8 year olds)

Afternoon session 2.5 hrs

1. Project Review:   To organize the material of all the previous sessions into an inter-connected whole.  To fix ideas learned in the mind through repetition.   To recall old ideas with new connections.

2. Story Boarding:   For the groups to review all their edited photographs and derive meaning from each picture, paying particular attention to feelings.

3. Brain Storming a Cohesive Narrative:  To create one cohesive narrative per group using the best photographs they took over the course of three sessions.  

Week four:  Using Photography to Storyboard 

As discussed in the previous article (Aliens Have Feelings Too! (Part Three)), when working with the two groups to develop a narrative, I soon found that they needed to be helped greatly if they were to achieve this and therefore I decided that we would create one story per group working with the photographs that they had already taken, dedicating these efforts to team work rather than having ten short stories in one book.

Here follows a brief description of the processes taken to complete the final book which has now been produced for Priory Lower School Bedford.  It consists of two stories one from each group and I have also made a audio visual story to accompany hardback book, so that each child can have a copy of their work within budget.

Working Hard - Playing Hard

Working Hard – Playing Hard

 1. Project Review: 

a.) Vocabulary:   From week one session reviewing six primary emotions and 5 different synonyms for each.  This is not a drilling lesson for repetition, but rather to see how the children have evolved.   When they recall vocabulary, I ask them if they can put that word in a little story (scenario).  In this way you can assess how they the students have progressed with what they have learned as apposed to just simply remembering what was taught.

b.)  Role-Play:    This time I filmed it for them so that they could watch themselves back and see how they had improved. The children from year 3 showed an increase of improvement than year 2, who showed little signs of having improved their role play skills.  I assessed this through their coordination and how they reacted to the lines and ques of their ‘co-stars’.  The children in year three showed such a dramatic improvement in their performance, keeping in time, ques for coming in, off ‘stage’, I was actually shocked.  What was even more surprising was the children reaction to watching themselves on video.  Year 3’s were very amused, but yet very critical of their own performance.  A few of them even commented that they “sucked” which in truth compared to other children of their age they probably did, but I was just amazed and very proud at how far they had come.  Because the purpose of a drama activity is not just to rouse children imaginations, but  also to gain focus on a task and learn to work together as a team.  Drama needs constant discipline and attention  if the overall production is to be of a higher standard.  If I did something different I would have filmed them practicing on every session so that they could see how they had improved and why – which could be attributed to their concentration.  I realize now what an important skill this is for vulnerable children to learn. These things need to be spelled out for children so that they can see the benefits in each and every activity.  Play is fun but it should teach you something too.

2.  Story Boarding:

This activity was not conducted in the conventional way story boarding is known to be carried out, (i,e with the story coming before the pictures).  We had the pictures first, but we did the story until the end.   Needless to say, this activity fulfilled the criterion for most story board session, giving the children visuals to think and plan, as a group of people brainstorming their ideas together.  Placing their ideas on a board and then arranging the storyboard on the wall. This fosters more ideas and generates consensus inside the group.

Conventional Story Board Layout.

Conventional Story Board Layout.

a.) Objectives:

*   There are 20 pictures on the board.  We need to make a story using the photographs we took to create a book for Priory Lower School.  We don’t have to use all the pictures, we only need enough to make one story.  All the pictures have numbers from 1-20, but this does not mean the story has to be in this order, we can jumble up all the numbers and I will give them new numbers so I know what happens at the beginning, the middle the end for when I make our book.

* Concept check:  How many pictures do we have?  How many stories are we going to make?

b.) Rules:

*   We are as working as a team and there is no ‘I’ in ‘We’.  So what ‘we’ need to remember is, that these are our photographs and this will be our story, which we will give as a gift to our school. (To encourage team spirit.)

 *    Nobody can touch the board except the person who writes on it (in this case me – because they will all want to touch the board).

c.) Generating ideas:

This activity requires a great deal of thought from the children.   If the children are silent for 5 minutes, then you know you’re on to a winner!  The aim is to encourage that thought process.  When doing this the children actually told me that they ‘We’re quiet because they we’re thinking’, I was well chuffed because they had problems generally focusing on most activities – so I knew that this meant that they had made progress.

* Look at the photographs and think of some words we can use to describe what’s happening in each picture.  Don’t worry if you can’t think of something to say straight away, you can take your time, think carefully and then when you want to speak put your hand up.

* Write down the words the children give to describe each pictures underneath each picture.  I deliberately edited the photographs making some brighter, darker etc to create a  stronger mood for each picture to help them imagine.

3. Brainstorming

The Next step was brainstorming the ideas which the children were already familiar with from week 3.  With all the pictures laid out  the Mind Map Tree for Brain Storming is in a place where everyone can see, I asked the children to think about:

* Your favorite story?  (Students example, Goldie Locks and the Three Bears.)

*How many people are there in the story?

* Are they all people or are some animals ?

* What we call the different creatures in one story? (characters)

*  How many characters does this story have?  (Use the pictures to count.  We used other toy props and in some photographs there were more than one alien in some pictures).

* I list the number of characters they see, then ask the children to give them all names.  I write all the ideas down.  No one idea is better than another.  I write everything down to encourage them all to give me more ideas.

* Then we vote on the best ideas.  If you have a tie you can throw your tuppence in there, or better yet,  flip a coin.

* Start with, what happens first.  As the story unravels take down each picture from the board and place it on the storyboard, giving each picture a caption.

Practitioners Process:

Thereafter I took the pictures from the storyboard with the captions and the mind map and wrote a story with their  ideas.  I produced a hard back book for the school and an audio visual story for the children to take home and play on their computer or dvd players as the children expressed there disappointment at not receiving a book to take home.  Unfortunately the budget would not stretch that far, so I decided to make a video for them to take home.

Here is the audio visual book of the story we created:

Conclusion:

During the final stages of production, Year 2 found it harder to create cohesion with there ideas for their final story.  On the other hand, Year 3’s story was remarkable imaginative and detailed.  They did not struggle with the concept of chronology and therefore writing up their ideas into a narrative was far less challenging than writing up the narrative for year 2; whilst the ideas year 2 produced were more fragmented and more challenging for me to make sense of when producing the final story,  I noticed that year 2 were more clear about how the Alien was feeling in each picture and were using more of the vocabulary previously taught and with more confidence, which to me indicated an improvement in their emotional literacy.

Both groups focus of attention had improved,  for when it came to creating the story, they were quieter and more thoughtful during the storyboard activity, assuring me that they were quieter because they were ‘thinking’.   This compared to when they had started was remarkable, as I had found it very challenging to get them to focus on most of the activities in the beginning of the project.  They had become more comfortable with the idea of using their imagination and could talk about how they were using it with much more fluency than when we had began.

From assessing their performance in the workshops by the end of the course, I can confidently say that their ability to talk about feelings had improved, as well as their ability to focus on activities using the imagination, which I link back to Emotional Literacy.  For if children are encouraged to talk about things that they cannot physically use their 5 senses for, then they will be more able  to express and share notions related to their internal world.

It was only when I completed the storybook that I realized that they had improved so much in terms of being able to access and express their internal world,  for the stories they created with me.  Their teachers also commented on an improvement in the children’s self-esteem and enthusiasm to participate in class.   Furthermore, I was delighted that they had told their teachers that they had enjoyed the sessions very much and wished that I could come back to work with them again.

Other Useful Links:

http://www.ehow.co.uk/how_7921634_do-storyboard-childrens-books.html

http://www.mightyartdemos.com/mightyartdemos-shulevitz.html

Aliens Have Feelings Too (Part Four)

30 Apr

A Photography Project aimed to develop the Emotional Literacy of vulnerable school children.

Working with:

Group A – Year 2 (6-7 year olds)

Morning session 2.5 hrs

Group B – Year 3 (7-8 year olds)

Afternoon session 2.5 hrs

Objectives:

1. Homework Review:    To view children’s photographs taken over their weekend.  Listen, discuss and gain insight into the children’s home environment for a better understanding on how they can be helped.

2.  Story Building with Props:   To use props to photograph alongside Alien dolls to create a cohesive narrative.

3. Outdoor Expedition:   For the children to take photographs of their Aliens,  in an environment outside of the school, creating a cohesive narrative about their Aliens adventures.

Week Three:  Outdoor  Photography Expedition.

As discussed in the previous article (Aliens Have Feelings Too! (Part Three)), over the course of working with the two different groups for past two weeks, it had become increasingly apparent, that imagination for these kids, was not a gift, but rather something that had to be conquered.  This now meant that I had to make some changes to my original scheme of work for week three if I was to help them access and exercise the part of their mind that I believed was most inactive ( i.e. their imagination).  I believed that these children would need more help to access their imagination if they were to develop their Emotional Literacy because, as it had become apparent, they didn’t appear to have any personal issues that were hindering the development of their Emotional Literacy nor were they particularly badly behaved (as far as cheeky little monsters are concerned),  but what I noted from both groups, is that the children lacked focus of attention, which was affecting the development of their creativity, imagination and similarly – I came to the conclusion – that maybe that was what was impacting their overall learning in school.

Albert Einstein, once commented that ‘imagination is more important than knowledge…Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.‘   I wish I could reference more sources that could support the logic and reason behind my conclusion, but I cannot, except – that is to say – refer to an excerpt from an article examining studies, ‘into the brain and intelligence and in particular into the ingconnections between emotions, cognitive development, attention-span, memory and learning…”   which also comments that Researchers still have   “…much to say to inform educators. This area is new and the implications of the findings as yet inconclusive so we would do well to heed the warning from Wolfe and Brandt  (1998:10) that educators should be cautious about neuro-scientific findings. That having been said, the following points are pertinent to our discussion…We know that our feelings affect our motivation, our curiosity, and our concentration, our memory – both in laying learning down and in recall, and our staying power as well as our willingness to defer gratification.”  This article then goes on to reference findings that could support the former evaluation above (Lynne Gerlach and Julia Bird, Feel the Difference: Learning in an Emotionally Literate School, SOWELU ASSOCIATES, (2006)).

In any case, according to my own assumptions and based upon what I had learnt about the children so far, as well as what I knew about their less privileged backgrounds, it was safe to assume that their extra curricular activities outside of school would be spent in front of a screen. This was also pertinent in the pictures they had taken over the weekend, which were mainly of their family members at home or photo’s taken of the cartoons that they had watched on TV.  With their focus of attention on a screen whether it be TV, DVD, video, computer, playstation, etc, their learning or entertainment outside the school, was very passive. Instead of using their own imaginations to learn about the world and create something, these children were passive recipients of visual and auditory stimulation. Sufficient to say that this is a very artificial way of learning about the world and does not engage children kinesthetically.  The purpose of this project was of-course, to engage the children to learn more about themselves and their own internal world.  To do this, I had to think about utilising techniques of creative thinking to stimulate their imagination and teaching them a ‘model’  to follow so that they too, could think creatively about a story for their doll when they were capturing images on their outdoor expedition.

1. Homework Review

Students Homework

Students Homework: ‘Lamp in my Bedroom’.

Student's Homework:  'My Mum'.

Student’s Homework: ‘My Mum’.

Some children had forgotten their camera’s at home, which meant we were down a couple for the photography session outdoors.  Some children complained that the camera batteries had run out before they had even started shooting.     They hadn’t used the frames as I had taught them to the previous week, but that was understandable, because we hadn’t chance to practice with the mini-digital camera’s that they had taken home (as I had mentioned in the previous article, the school had forgotten to charge the batteries for them, so we had used the Macbooks instead).   Due to this, I had not had a chance to show the children how to operate these cameras, in terms of lighting, flash, etc and therefore a lot of the images were quite poor.  But the photographs that were presented were mainly of themselves, their family and the TV.   If anything, setting this exercise did give me a short glimpse into the children’s lives outside of school.  Presented in this section, are two of the best photographs which I found to be the most ‘Avaunt Guard’.

2. Story Building with Props

children photograph Alien with Props to create a story.

Children taking photograph of props to create a story.

Here are a list of steps taken with both groups to help them generate ideas about creating a cohesive narrative about their Alien (Persona Dolls – as covered in the previous article).   This exercise was intended to “model” what was required of them, in order that they too could create a story with their Alien Dolls when out photographing on our expedition.

Tree Mind Map:  Brain Storming

Click here for Brain Storming PDF

a). Brainstorming:     Mind mapping and brain storming are techniques employed by writers, entrepreneurs, consultants and any individual or a team of people who wish to generate creative thought by letting their mind run wild with ideas to a particular cause. By recording all the ideas where they can be seen, it provides a visual picture of how all their ideas are connected and displays them in one place as more are added.  This prevents the same ideas being repeated and gives everybody a chance to work off others’ ideas.    Depending on how much time you have and the size of your group, you can do this individually, in pairs, in small groups or as one big team.  We did it as a class and ideas were written on the smart board.   You can download this Mind Map Tree for Brain Storming (click – PDF) to use with your class.

b). Establishing an Objective:  The purpose of establishing objectives is to set clear goals for what is expected to be achieved from the activity by all those involved.  Here, the children’s objectives are:

  • To create a story using props gathered from around the school, that we will set up as  scenes to photograph.
  • To first, work together as a team, but when we go outside on the expedition, they must do the same activity individually.
  • To give the children’s Alien Doll his/her own story, so that I can use their work to create a book that will be presented to the school to show what we did when we worked together.
  • To work hard and take really good photographs at all times, because only the best photographs will be included in our finished book.
  • To pay attention to what we learned about framing and angels last week, so that we can take the best photographs for our finished book.

d). Laying Out the Ground Rules:  In order to avoid as many distractions during the process of generating ideas, the ground rules should be established first, so that all participants know what will be expected during the course of this activity.

  • One person must write all the ideas down (in this case it is the teacher, as we will do this activity as a class)
  • Nobody must touch the objects or the doll except the teacher, children can only look – but not touch (this will prevent objects being misplaced,children fidgeting and/or fighting and any other unnecessary distractions).
  • Hands must be raised and we must wait until one idea has been completely written on the board before we listen and list another.
  • No one will laugh or criticise anyone else’s idea, because we can be as crazy as we want.
  • At the end, only the best ideas will be selected to create one story.
  • We will all take turns to photograph the scenes when all the props have been set-up to create our display.

e). Generating ideas:  With all the props laid out along side one Alien Doll and the Mind Map Tree for Brain Storming in a place where everyone can see the ideas when written, a story is generated by asking the children 6 Wh-questions (who, what, where, when, why, and how?) for example:

  • Who is in this story?
  • What are their names?
  • Where are they at the start?
  • Where do they want to go?
  • Why do they want to go there?
  • How will they get there?
  • What do they need to take with them?
  • Who will they meet there?
  • What will they all do together?
  • Why do they want to do that?
  • Where will they all go to do that?
  • How will they get there? (etc…)

f). Select Ideas: By this stage there will be a number of ideas that have been generated.  Most likely, more ideas than can be dealt with. Therefore, we must select ideas with which the most linear and cohesive narrative can be formed.  As group leader, I influenced the selection of some of the final ideas to get the ball rolling quicker and help them collaboratively create a story that made sense.  Depending on your groups ability to create a consecutive story, you may wish to refrain from this process and give your group a vote for the elimination and retaining of ideas.

The Story from our Brain Storming Session:

3. Outdoor Expedition

Props for kids to use t build their story

Props the kids used to build their story

The second half of the lesson is spent outdoors (for us it was at a small park right next to the school).  During this activity, children take their Alien, named in last weeks session and the same camera they had used over the weekend. They are again informed that this time they will do the same story building activity, only outdoors in the park, but still using different props to create different scenes.

  • Make sure the area that you choose for this activity is not very big,  as you do not want to loose sight of where the children go.  Set strict boundaries for where you will all work, so that within this vicinity, you can move around between the pupils, see what they are doing  and give them some useful tips and suggestions to help.
    • Lay out all of the props in one place where the children can see them.
    • Tell them that they can only take one item from the bench to work with alongside their Alien.
    • When called them back to the bench, they must put their item down, then go and sit down.
    • Once all seated, the children can then come and collect another item from the bench to work with.
    • Call them together to switch items every 10 minutes before they get bored and always encourage them to move around in the area from place to place so that they have variety in their photographs.

    Conclusion:

  • The Outdoor Expedition

    The Outdoor Expedition

  • 1. Homework Review

    The Homework set was a very good way for me to find out about the children’s lives at homes to reach fair conclusions about how much exposure they get to being mentally and physically stimulated.  It gave me an idea as to what kind of activities they typically get up to.  But, because of the nature of how these sessions are run, there was a one day gap between the previous session and when the cameras were given out to them, which meant that they had by that time forgotten what I had asked them to do which was use the frames and take pictures of things that they wanted to show their Alien.  The lesson learnt here, is that children need repetition and continuity, which is why I didn’t get the results I had expected from setting this assignment, but I did gain some insight into their world, so it was worth doing.  The fact that the children had the cameras for almost a week, I was surprised about the amount of photographs they had taken, which was not very many.  Naturally, this points to the fact that these children need to be encouraged and coaxed into being creative and that they cannot do this without being supervised.

    2. Story Building with Props

    Doing the story building activity with the children was fun but also challenging.  I felt as though I was pushing them beyond their comfort zone to think creatively.  Although it must be noted that the children from both groups are very lively, energetic and quite bright, but it is their imagination that is a very weak trait   The story was created from a great many prompts from myself using question after question.  They also found it difficult to select ideas that made up a story with a clear linear pattern and a great deal of questions had to be asked of them to challenge them to think critically about how the story would make sense  Contrary to these comments, there were times the children really did surprise and impressed me with some of their imaginative ideas.

    3. Outdoor Expedition

    The Outdoor Expedition

    The Outdoor Expedition

    At some points, the outdoor expedition was wild!  The children would at times loose focus from what they were there to achieve – more interested instead, in running around to play.  It was a little bit of challenge to get them to focus on the task at hand.  Although the swapping of items did help them keep their focus, but during the expedition I realised, that they were not applying the story boarding techniques modeled in class.  When I walked around and asked them what they were photographing and what was happening in their story, they would go very silent and just..smile…shyly, which meant that they hadn’t really thought about any why, who, when, what or where?   And, this applies to every single student I worked with.  There were no exceptions to this rule.  At this point, I thought it was hopeless for me to do anything but just let them carry on as they were because I hadn’t anticipated this happening.  It was frustrating for me, because I had expected them to apply what we had done in class to what the activity they were doing outdoors, but somewhere it just didn’t register or as the results from the homework activity indicate, they are unable to loose themselves in their own internal world without supervision or a great deal of guidance and coaxing.  However,  they looked like they were having a lot of fun doing the activity so I just let them be, all the while thinking…what I could possibly do to get through to them.

    Success:

    That day, I spoke to the head mistress about the children and told her that I didn’t think I was getting through to the children.  Mrs Hemsley told me that she had heard the children talking to many others about what they had been doing with me and were very happy about the exclusive time they spent within these sessions.  She also told me that it had done a wonder for their self-esteem and that I shouldn’t worry about the captions for the story coming from the children, as long as they were cooperating with me and that they had taken some great photographs as I had told her they had.

  • I suppose when creative practitioners work on projects like this, they have their own expectations.  It is important to remember  that in such cases, one cannot move mountains in just four weeks.  In addition, measuring  results in Emotional Literacy, is quite un-quantifiable and in such, can only be measured qualitatively through the creative product (in this case, the finished photography book).  Maybe the impact on their self esteem will, somewhere down the line help them in relation to how they learn and perhaps in some way, contribute towards how they think, feel and behave outside of school.  But maybe this type of change will be almost too small for an artist in residence –  such as myself  – to fully comprehend within the short time frame of four weeks.

    What’s Next:

    Next week is the final week with the children, before I begin working on the book for the school.   I feel that I may once again have to make changes to the original scheme of work I had devised.  The children have also had two weeks break for Easter and so they might have forgotten a great deal of things from the previous sessions.  So stay tuned and find out what I did with my final week with these kids…

    Other Useful Links:  

  • PhotoGiraffe Ming Map Tree For Brain Storming:  https://photogiraffelive.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/tree-mind-map.pdf
  • Think Article: http://blog.case.edu/think/2012/05/30/despite_less_play_childrenas_use_of_imagination_increases_over_two_decades

    Encouraging Your Child to Play Creatively and Imaginatively:  http://www.kathyeugster.com/articles/article007.htm

    Child Psychology: Anxiety and Imagination:  http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/920983/psychologist-discovers-the-link-between-anxiety-and-imagination

    Shaping an Emotionally Literate Environment: http://www.teachingexpertise.com/articles/shaping-emotionally-literate-environment-4091

    Feel The Difference, Learning in an Emotionally Literate School:  http://www.thriveftc.com/resources/documents/Feel%20The%20Diff%20Extract.pdf

Alien’s Have Feelings Too! (Part Three)

16 Apr

A Photography project aimed to develop the Emotional Literacy of vulnerable school children.

Week 2: Aliens and Frames

Week 2: Aliens and Frames

 Working with:

Group A – Year 2 (6-7 year olds)

Morning session 2.5 hrs

                              Group B – Year 3 (7-8 year olds)

                                    Afternoon session 2.5 hrs

Objectives:

1. Story Telling with Persona Dolls:  Using dolls as realia to create a fictional character the children can relate to, thereby allowing them the freedom to express and share a problem openly and furthermore search for possible resolutions.

2. Framing and Composition:  Introduction to using camera’s, implementing framing techniques to capture  the ‘Persona Doll’ under varying light, at different angles, whilst using various props from the environment familiar to the children.

  

 Week Two:

Introducing the ‘Alien’ Doll Family

No - Not frogs - Aliens!

Alien Doll Family

When researching methods to utilise to developing the Emotional Literacy of students at Priory Lower School (Bedford), I was not aware of exactly what was currently hindering each child’s ability to succeed in class and possibly even in their future life.  Although it was quite clear that the children selected did not know how to identify, label and talk about their feelings; which is why it was my job to help them to be able to express this.  However, how could I do that without getting them to expose themselves openly; which could quite possibly be threatening for anyone at any age? And then – to do this, precisely using photography?  Within four, 2.5 hour sessions?

Here, might I add, that by no means have I come to invent any of the ideas presented herewith on my own, but rather, I have discovered and manipulated carefully researched theories and practices,  to create one thematic unified, cohesive scheme of work that can be delivered logically, over four different periods.

The idea of creating the ‘Alien’ theme was initiated by the theories and practices, discovered regarding the use of ‘Persona Dolls’ in the classroom to help children develop their Emotional Literacy.  These theories suggest, that Dolls, in ‘telling their own stories‘ to the children, encourage children to tell their own.   I had anticipated that this would help the children, who were perceived to be different, to develop stories that would support and validate them.  When selecting the dolls I felt it was important that the dolls themselves were not representative of any gender, race or age, but rather they would (on a subconscious level) be symbolic, as a ‘universal’ icon for being different.  Based upon these notions, it was integral that the chosen ‘Persona Dolls’ were ones that the children had never seen or played with before.

As in the previous article Aliens have feelings too! – (Part 2), I will maintain the details to the session in brief, providing only the lesson plan material, including some pictures from the session and ending the article will be a short conclusion, detailing problems I had not foreseen   All references to works sited will appear at the end of the article as ‘Other Useful Links’.

Classroom Warm-up

  1. Review:  Vocabulary of Emotion, using the smiley face pictures from week one to elicit what the learners can remember.
  2. Class Warm-Up:  A practice run through of the Drama activity from last week.
  3. Analysing Photography:  Students view photographs from my portfolio consisting of Landscapes, Abstracts and Stills  to discuss what kind of emotions they feel when they look at these photographs.  We discussed  several emotions, they felt were conveyed by these photographs.  This demonstrated to them how photographs can tell stories about feelings and it was a nice way to illustrate, introduce and explain to them what they would be doing in the following sessions with me.

 1. Story Telling with Persona Dolls

Activating Schemata:

a.  Lay out all the dolls at the front of the classroom where the children can see them.  They must not – at this stage  – touch the dolls (this can be quite challenging as the children will very much want to touch and feel them immediately).

b.  Introduce the Dolls as ‘Our Alien Doll Family’.  Tell the children that these are an Alien family that they will be working with to take photographs.

c. Tell the children that each doll has a name, a problem and a story, but we don’t know what these names, problems and stories are yet,  because each of them will have to create this themselves.

d. Take one doll and place it in your lap.  Tell the children that this is your Doll. Your dolls name is (e.g.) Coo-coo.  Coo-Coo has a problem. (e.g.) He is really friendly and wants to make friends with some children, but the children are all afraid of him because, he is so different and so they always run away from him and hide.  They never play with him.

e. Ask the children ‘how do you think Coo-Coo feels?’

f.  Draw an empty circle on the board and ask which child can draw Coo-coo’s face which will show us all how he feels.

g.  Draw a thought bubble and ask which child can tell you what they think Coo-Coo is thinking.

h.  Draw a speech bubble and ask which child can tell you what they think Coo-Coo is thinking.  (*Depending on how much time you can assign to this task, it may be best to write on the board yourself, as some children might have problems with spelling).

exercise 5 - PDF worksheet

click here for the PDF worksheet – exercise 5

exercise 5.

  1. Give your Alien a name:
  2. Give your Alien a face to show how s/he is feeling.

  3.  In the speech bubble write down what the alien wants to say.

  4. In the thought bubble, write down what your alien is thinking.

 

Child doing Exersice 5

Creating a Persona for the Doll

i. Separate the children to sit further apart from one another (so they do not copy each other as the work must come from themselves).

j.  Before you handout  the worksheet for exercise 5., make it clear that they must not write anything down on the sheets until you tell them to (or else some will write all sorts of things before they understand what they need to do).

k. When they have the sheets, give them step by step instructions on how to complete each section. Explain to them that when they are asked to write something down they must not shout out or else someone else in the room might copy their idea and we wouldn’t want that.

l.  Make sure to go around and help each child individually and to also check that they are doing the exercise correctly.

m. Once finished the children share their ideas from their worksheet with the rest of the group.

2. Framing and Composition

Here is an exercise to teach children something about how we take photographs that are aesthetically pleasing so that they too can think about the artistic arrangement of different parts of a photograph. When teaching them about composition, it’s important for the children to learn about angles (i.e when they turn their camera or move their body, they can capture different types of photographs).

The primary prop used for this activity is a set of rectangular frames (8” x 10”), which I cut out of an abundance of cardboard boxes with a craft knife.    I did this about 16 times so that I could have one frame for each child, plus one for myself and some spares if the children tore or lost their frames.  The reason for the frame being rectangular is because that is the shape of most camera viewfinders, as well as most photographic prints and it can allow you to teach the children how to compose both landscape and portrait photographs.  Had I had more times with the children, I would have got them to decorate their individual frames, so that it would then possess more value to them.  However, since my time was limited it was not really an option, though I would highly recommend doing so.  Together, you could have all sorts of fun using colour pens, glitter, paper shapes, glue etc. to make the frames look really gorgeous.

Frame it

Framing it

a) Framing It

I. Before giving the children the frames, ask them to join together the thumbs and index fingers from both hands to make a rectangular shape and look through it.  Tell them to imagine that this is their camera and this is what they will use to practice taking photographs until they get really good and then we can all move onto using the real cameras.

II.  Show children the 2 different angles they can hold the camera to create a portrait (vertical) and landscape (horizontal) composition.  Test them by playing, “Simon Says, (e.g.take a picture in the room of something beginning with …X… in…), portrait” –  or – “landscape” to see if they have got it.

III.  Line up the children in single file in front of an empty chair.  Now with yourself sitting on the chair,  the first child in-line takes a picture of you posing as the model and then goes to the back of the queue.  In this way, get them to take pictures on their wee-little-thumb-and- index- finger-cameras, instructing them to take pictures of different parts of your face and body (e.g. “take a landscape picture of the side of my face – or my face with my eyes cut out of the frame – take a portrait picture of just my foot without my leg – take a landscape picture of my hand on my knee”).

5l

IV.  Take the children around the school with the cardboard frame and ask them to take photographs with the frame of things they like (e.g.  I took them outside in the nursery garden and nursery play-area and instructed them which objects to take pictures of).

V.  Take out the Dolls and place them in view of the children.  Handout the cameras and when they have them all switched on give them the cardboard frame.  Ask them the name of their doll and then select a doll to give to them.  Now they take photographs of their Aliens in awkward positions all around the garden and nursery play area.  Children are reminded to think about their Aliens name and how the Alien is feeling at all times.

VI.  Return back to the class room.  Sit in a circle or in way where everyone can see the photographs.  Go through each students photographs editing them by keeping the best ones and deleting the not so good ones.  In total each child should have  5 of their best photographs from the session.  Whilst doing this, talk about each photograph.  What makes it so good? How does it make us feel? How does the Alien feel in each picture?  Point out things about angles and composition to encourage them to note this.

VII.  Homework is set for the children to take the frames and cameras home to take pictures of objects that they think their Alien would like to see, using the the pieces of equipment as we had practiced in this session.

Conclusion:

2.  Framing and Composition:

The reason I am beginning the conclusion with Activity 2 from the session is because with hindsight,  I realise now that I should have done it in this order in the first instance –  leaving out steps V & VI (i.e taking photographs around the school) – to move on to exercise 5. (i.e. creating ‘Persona Dolls’)  – and then returning to steps V & VI thereafter.   This would have given the activity more momentum, as I found that the children could not connect the writing they had done in Activity 1, to taking photographs in Activity 2.  Had I conducted the session this way round, they might have been able to make a better connection. Though it must be said that the photographs they have taken are magnificent.  They paid attention to the framing and angling in their compositions and with the use of other props achieved some very creative results.

On the flip-side,  I was very disappointed that the school had forgotten to charge the batteries for the camera’s, the day before my session.  So instead of using the digital camera’s, we had to use Macbooks instead.  This was a bit tricky and annoying, as I could not teach the children how to use the frames with the small digital-cameras as I had planned, which would have assisted them with their assigned homework.  I suppose the Macbook with it’s own frame did function as a built on rectangular frame, but the cases they were in, kept flapping over the view finder, which hindered their abilities slightly and gave them a great cause for complaint.  Also, the Macbooks are quite heavy when you are just 6 years old and the younger children struggled with this as well as having to move around with the doll, putting it in different places around the garden and nursery.  What also ended up happening with the year 2’s, is that unknowingly they made a lot more videos than having taken photographs because of the way the MacBooks operate, it was hard for them to tell when they were taking pictures and when they were making video.  As ancient as I may sound, I have never used a Macbook before so I did not predict this issue.

With all that said and done, we got through it in the end.  The children enjoyed themselves and we all loved the photographs taken from the sessions, which will be revealed here, on PhotoGiraffe Live Art after the end of week four when the project ends.

1. Story Telling with Persona Dolls: 

Going through this exercise with the children was quite challenging for both of us.  Putting the theories into practice was not as easy as I had anticipated.   I expected  the children to reveal something about themselves to me through this set of activities, but most of them told me that their Alien was quite happy.  This came as a bit of a surprise to me as I had thought they had been selected for this project because they had some problems that they felt they could not talk about.  However, one girl did tell me that her Alien was lonely.  This should not have thrilled me as much as it did, as I felt I had made some sort of break through.  All in all, I learnt that most of the children I was working with were very happy, bubbly children with no real personal issues that I could help them resolve.  This is of course exactly how a child should be, but for the purpose of story building and problem solving, well I felt I had kind of missed the point somewhere.  By the end of the session I had a great many happy Aliens, with no problems to solve…where had I gone wrong?  I suppose the activity for most had succeeded at expressing their internal joy but they had forgotten their Alien had a character and how each picture they were taking related to the Aliens story.    Maybe they never really had  had an opportunity to ever access their feelings enough to be able to express them?   Maybe they are just very normal happy children, the way they should be? Or perhaps they were just too young for the exercises I had devised?

One thing I learnt first hand, (as I had been warned by the senior teacher at the start) was that these children although quite pleasant and happy, really did lack a great deal of imagination.  What I hadn’t realised was exactly how much and that for them to be able to access that part of themselves, I would have to spoon feed them with many different imaginative ideas, instead of expecting the playful ideas to come from them.  I suppose, this is what makes them so different from most of the kids I’ve ever known.

What’s Next:

1. Sharing Personal photographs:  Homework reviewing photographs taken by children unsupervised at home etc.

2. Story Building with Props:   Using props to photograph alongside Alien dolls to create a cohesive narrative.

3. Outdoor Expedition: Children take photographs of their aliens to document how the Alien feels in an environment outside of the school.

Other Useful Links:

PhotoGiraffe Worksheet Exercise 5. PDFhttps://photogiraffelive.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/4-intro-to-alien.pdf

Story Telling with Persona Dolls:  http://www.teachingforchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/ec_personadolls_english.pdf

Emotional Literacy 101:  http://www.examiner.com/article/emotional-literacy-101-how-can-we-use-dolls-to-help-children-talk-about-their-emotions

Let’s Ask the Dolls Tutorial:  https://plus.google.com/photos/117052915866560521594/albums/5372812705499284737/5372813578364009986?banner=pwa

Teaching Kids Photography: http://www.artfulparent.com/2012/01/guest-post-frame-it-teaching-kids-the-art-behind-photography.html

Teaching your child about Emotions:  http://connectability.ca/2010/09/23/teaching-your-child-about-emotions/

Children Expressing Emotions Through Photography: http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr&id=pTXJFG9J7pQC&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=expressing++emotion+through+photography+children&ots=ZdjZrv9QSn&sig=oDp059l_6pog7RBZdUV6mQ7MWps#v=onepage&q&f=false

Aliens Have Feelings Too! (Part 2)

3 Apr

Aliens have feelings too – (Part 2): 

A Photography Project aimed to develop the Emotional Literacy of vulnerable school children.

Working with:

Group A – Year 2 (6-7 year olds)

Morning session 2.5 hrs

Group B – Year 3 (7-8 year olds)

Afternoon session 2.5 hrs

Objectives:

  1. Vocabulary Building:  Using pictures to help children talk about the variety of emotions and also to help them develop (an already) devised play that they will later act out.
  2. Creative Writing:  Group work.  Creating a written story using pictures and the vocabulary they learnt earlier.
  3. Drama:  Enacting a short role play based on six primary emotions, based upon a short play about some children who become stranded in the forest.  They stumble across a spaceship and are frightened by aliens.  Finally they call for help and are rescued by police.

Week One:  Story Building and Role Play

Presented herewith will be material from the scheme of works developed and used by myself to help cultivate the emotional literacy of 10 “vulnerable” children at Priory Lower School, Bedford.   The scheme had been planned weeks before I began the workshops, however I only received feedback on this scheme a day prior to my start date, when I went into Priory Lower School for the second time to meet the senior teacher, to discuss the schedule of work and it’s suitability for the students I was going to be working with.

As my previous article relates, (Introduction:  Aliens Have Feelings Too! (Part One), 18th March’13) most of the children selected in this project possess a level of English lower than the average standard for their age group.  Mrs Wakefield, the senior teacher told me that when she asks her students how they are feeling, they often tell her, “happy” or “sad”, without fully being able to express or elaborate.  Furthermore, she informed me that imagination was not a particularly strong trait possessed amongst the selected pupils.   Having been giving this information a day before I commenced working with the two groups, I realised that I may have to do some improvisation as I went along.  However, I will present the material as it was initially created, with PDF’s (at the end of this article) of all of the worksheets from week one for fellow practitioners or school teachers wishing to utilise material as they deem fit. Please note, that as an ex-English teacher, I have used some of this material already with foreign students whilst working at British Council so it is also adaptable for EFL classes with young learners.

Below follow pictures used for this project alongside anticipated questions and answers for both sessions.  Naturally the older students from year 3 (aged 7-8) have a stronger vocabulary than the students from the year below, who need more prompts. However, I will keep the details as brief as possible in order to keep the article’s pace swift and engaging for readers who may be interested in using the same or similar material, providing only the lesson plan material henceforth.   Finally, I will end the article with a short conclusion, detailing problems I did not anticipate.

1.    Vocabulary Building Using Pictures

Introduction informing pupils they have been selected by their teacher to take part in a photography project, at the end of which they will have a complete book displaying their photographs.  “The title of our photography project is ‘Aliens Have Feelings Too’, because for the next 4 weeks we will be exploring different feelings we and others can feel.”

But, were they going to take any photographs today?  No, because today was a story building day and we were going to make a story based on different feelings and then we would act them out.

 

a.)  Activating Schemata

Fig I). Aliens

Fig I). Aliens

               Q. Look at the picture what do you see?

A. Aliens

Q. Has anyone here ever met an alien?

A. varied one child claimed she had.

Q.  How would you feel if you saw an alien?

A. Scared, frightened

Q. How do you think the alien would feel if they met you?

A.  Varied answers from scared to assertions that they would want to eat them up.

Fig.II). Planets

Fig.II). Planets

Q. What is this picture of?

A. Space

Q. Which planet do we live in?

A. Earth

Q. Can you name any more planets in outer space?

A.  Mars (was predominately the planet most of them were familiar with.  There was some confusion between the sun and planets but I prompted the names quickly and asked them which planet was nearest  to earth followed by suggesting that if aliens did come to earth they would come from mars (for imaginations sake)).

b.)  Feelings.

This activity consists of a collection of 6 different pictures of ‘smiley emotions’ which were each presented to the students on 6 separate worksheets. The numbers 1-5 listed beneath so that they could think of 5 different synonyms to describe the emotions conveyed.  The object being that in order to develop their emotional literacy, they must first be equipped with sufficient vocabulary to express their basic emotions.  The ‘smileys’ used are based upon the 6 primary emotions that caption each of the scenes in the devised play which the children act out later.  They appear in this exact order because they are connected to the chronology of the story.  These primary emotions are:

  1. 1.    Happy,  2.  Evil,  3.  Lost   4.  Surprised, 5.  Afraid and  6. Brave.

 

“Can you think of 5 more words to describe the emotions each of these 6 faces are feeling?”

  • 2. evil

  

  

c.)  The Storyboard:

As seen here, ‘The Storyboard’ is a set of 6 images connected to the creative writing which I anticipated would help them to conjure the scenes from the final act in step3.

Storyboard

Storyboard

 

The 6 key words that need to be elicited for the development of the story from each of the different pictures are:

1.    Picnic   2.  Forest    3.  Children    4.  Spaceship   5.  Aliens   6. Police

 

 

 

 

 2.    Creative Writing

Use these words
Happy

Evil

Lost

Surprised

Afraid

Brave

Creative Writing: Students working together

Creative Writing: Students working together

Due to the small number of students in each group (4-5) I grouped them in pairs or a group of three.  Team names were appointed and points were given as an incentive to work together and write up the best story using the pictures, the words from the pictures above and the primary words used from the ‘smiley emotions’.  The purpose of this activity is so that the students are already familiar with the story before they practice acting it out.  The pictures are used to elicit the pre-devised story and help them to visualize and imagine.  It is also an activity aimed to aid their writing skills and it can also be used to develop their team working skills as well as assisting them to practice the vocabulary of emotions that they have used in the previous ‘smiley emotions’ (1b. Feelings) activity. The stories are read out at the end from each group to share with all and points are added up in the end of the activity to announce the winning group.

 

 3.    Drama

Due to the number of students in the class the drama the script from the play that I gained inspiration from was not used in it’s entirety as I guessed that the students would struggle with the number of character in the play.  Instead we had 2 children, 2 aliens and in one group I played the authoritative role of the brave police officer.  I guided the children holding up the picture of each emotion picture to indicate the scene.  This on my part was an improvisation which was a little hit and miss on where I wanted the play to go.

Conclusion:  What worked? What could have been done better?

 

1.    Vocabulary Building:

  • When using pictures to help children talk about the variety of words describing emotions, I should have done a list of 5 words for each smiley face.  I had not considered carefully, the possibility of a limited vocabulary possessed by the students and had to revert to a thesaurus online.
  • Often when shown the pictures if the smiley emotions the kids went off on tangents screaming, ‘happy’, ‘sad’, and ‘angry’ which they were right to suggest as I had  taken for granted that some synonyms could be interchangeable from one picture to another when I had prepared the material.
  •  I soon learnt that to elicit the words I desired I had to give them scenarios.  Luckily, I was quick enough on my feet to do this, but in hindsight, I would prepare all this beforehand.
  • Spelling was a problem for the children so, extra time should be considered to help them with them writing the words correctly, because in order for them to see the whiteboard properly, I needed the lights off, which meant they couldn’t see what they were writing.  It would be helpful to consider this for any future endeavours.  Have two boards and white board pen if you are using an electronic whiteboard.

2.    Creative Writing:

  • Unfortunately,   the written stories produced were not all the same as I had anticipated.  Though we went through the pictures on the board together, and made the story together before they began the writing exercise, the children didn’t make the connection and still all wrote completely different stories.
  • They found it hard to work together and some students were faster and more dominant than others, which led to a lot of work being dictated and copied.  Having done this activity with EFL students before, I had not predicted this problem as the class I’d worked with before all produced near enough the same story.  To tackle this problem what I can do next time, is select 6 different pictures for the storyboard with a precise correlation with the ‘smiley emotions’.  Giving each student (or group) a number from 1 – 6.  They each get a picture from the 6 pictures from the storyboard and the correlating ‘smiley emotions’ to describe the emotion of that part of the story.   They then write an extract from that part of the story with the words they need. (e.g. 1. Picnic 1. Happy face:  One day there were some children who were very happy because they went on a picnic).

3.    Drama:

  • I had not known how many students I was going to have in each session until an evening before I commenced work.  By that time I did not have enough time to change the script.  Having realised a bit too late that the play had too many characters in it, the play had to be performed without the script.  As I began working with the children, I soon realised at their age they would struggle greatly if I had used that particular script.  The acting part started off very slowly and although a lot of fun for the children, quite frustrating for me as they would get awfully excited about chasing and being chased and would rush all the other scenes to get to that point, after which they would become deranged little monsters hard to calm down.
  • Had there been an organised script for them to follow this might not have been the case as they would have had to concentrate on their lines.  The mistake I made was that I kept holding up the pictures of emotions not understanding that they had not made that connection in the first instance because, they had written completely different stories anyway.  Although it must be noted, that I had briefly read and acted the story out for them showing them the pictures, but it took longer than I thought for them to get it precisely right.  My advice would be to edit the script well,  preferably with the students names worked in if you can (particularly with students as young as 6-8) or spend make better visual ques for them if you wish for them your students to have the freedom to improvise.

Success:

Despite all the criticism of my own methods, I will say that the children thoroughly enjoyed themselves throughout the sessions.  Most of them dipped when sharing their stories, but I feel that was my own fault for not having devised the activity better.  Expressing themselves and learning about emotions is not something they have been given a chance to do before and being small groups meant that they got a buzz from the special attention I could give to them.  The drama session really bought them out of their shells and there were some very good actors in the class even the ones who were a little shy at the start got into character.  They still remember the activity and we use it as a warm up at the start of each session or a reward for good behaviour at the end.

 

What’s next?   Week Two:

1. Introduction to the alien Doll family

2. Creating unique alien characters

3. Photographing objects with consideration to framing compositions.

 

Links:

Mini-Drama Sketches: http://efltheatreclub.co.uk/index.php?p=1_9

PDF’s from week one: 1. Feeling Faces  2. Picture the Story  3. Story of Emotion

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!

Siana Bangura

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