In defense of messiness

Children are messy. Their work is messy. Their handwriting is messy. Their thinking is messy.

But their enthusiasm, their joyfulness, their energy is wonderful, and so I am ok with a little messiness if it is produced in a rush of eager creativity.

For instance, I have been reading Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa to one of my Y3 classes, and we finished it this morning. It is utterly charming, and worlds away from anything else we have read recently – the simple language and imaginative story remind me a bit of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, while being totally different in setting and characters!

Anyway, we finished reading it this morning, and everyone enjoyed it, so when I discovered that my other planned activity wouldn’t work I threw in something else I’d been thinking about – writing letters like Giraffe and Penguin! I wrote an example on the board, and invited everyone to write a simple letter, using their own name and giving a clue as to what animal (currently proven to be living on the Earth, so no dinosaurs, Bigfoot or dragons) they were. Letters were hastily written, folded up in a variety of ways, then randomly distributed around the room, to be opened upon the count of three. The most fun part happened next, as students read out the clues and made their guesses, some perfectly accurate and others hilariously off the mark. We ran out of time to read out every single letter, but the boys had so much fun, and so loved the little puzzle and the connection to the book, that I have to say it was one of the best things I’ve done with them this year.

Getting back into the swing of things

2010 is here, and tomorrow we welcome the students back to school. We staff had a Professional Development week last week, full of meetings, policy updates, planning sessions, first aid training, excellent food, and lots of slightly befuddled expressions as people tried to remember where they put those books/files/illicit chocolate supplies last year.
For me there were some valuable discussions about technology directions, ways to coordinate library classes so as to support classroom projects, and lots of colleagues dropping in to grab boxes of resources as they set up their classrooms.
This year will see some more tweaking of library classes; Year 5 and 6 classes will again be a team-taught, integrated approach, Year 3 are looking for research skills lessons to support a class unit, and Year 2 will be coming to the Big Library for a full 50 minute lesson, so as to give them a better start on book and information skills. To give me the time to do that, Kinder library will be taken by the JS head, so I will put together a “Beginner’s Guide to Teaching Library for Littlies” to support that. The Deputy head will also be taking Preps for 25 minutes, mostly for sharing stories, while I do a separate information skills lesson – this will be an interesting arrangement, needing some coordination to keep things relevant.
I see some big benefits in these arrangements for spreading the understanding of what library time can add to children’s education.
* Firstly, everyone knows how very busy the head and deputy head are, so having them teach library lessons may increase the perceived value beyond that of relief time for classroom teachers.
* Secondly it will provide more opportunities for collaboration between executive and I, and hopefully class teachers too, around the topic of information skills.
* Thirdly I hope that through reading with the small ones every week, these teachers will recognise the importance of helping children discover the riches to be found in reading for pleasure, so that this valuable facet of education is not neglected in favour of more assessable skills. Boys often struggle to see the point of reading, but my hope is that those who have warm memories of sharing great stories as children will rediscover reading later on, even if they get a little distracted (eg by adolescence) along the way.
Right now I have a certain amount of planning to do, so enough of the chitchat.

Nearest Book meme

Master Jack smiled his reassuring-customers grin, the one that showed his four remaining teeth.

Tom Appleby, convict boy by Jackie French 2004.

* Get the book nearest to you. Right now.
* Go to page 56.
* Find the 5th sentence.
* Write this sentence – either here or on your blog.
* Copy these instructions as commentary of your sentence.
* Don’t look for your favorite book or your coolest but really the nearest.

from Stephen’s Lighthouse