Tag Archives: Feelings

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

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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

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