Thursday, 27 February 2020

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - Through the Portal

Marcia Cunningham (LCC), Rebecca Pettman (Head)
 and Corrie Blackstone (Year 5 teacher)
Quarry Mount poetry assembly, 
Thursday 27 February

In the light of the weather forecast for more light snow, I had expected to start this with the famous quote from the book, 'It was always winter but never Christmas.'   However, we were treated to bright sunlight streaming through the school hall windows on to the beaming faces of class 5.  Ms Blackstone's pupils were well rehearsed and up to the challenge of performing individual lines, or the whole thing, to a large room full of supportive and enthusiastic classes, parents, school staff and visitors.  No mean feat when you're only nine or ten.

Year 5 were studying the classic book by C S Lewis from the Chronicles of Narnia; local published author and poet James Nash took the theme of travelling through a wardrobe but instead through a portal to somewhere unexpected.  What would you find? Sense? Expect?  What could happen? From writing a myriad of ideas down, the young people shaped their ideas and words, learning new ones along the way.  (Who knew 'stanza' at that age?  They do now). They then set to writing their own accounts of their imaginary experiences, some frightening, some delightful, all  vivid.

As headteacher Rebecca Pettman said, “Having a Distinguished Visitor, a Proper Published Author, work with us is such a fantastic opportunity to encourage our youngsters to write and perform their own work.  I'm flabbergasted by the vocabulary they have used, and the confidence with which they stand in front of the packed hall to perform their work.”  As Corrie Blackstone, Year 5 class teacher, added, “ this gives individuals the freedom to express themselves in a context of their own choosing.  It builds on 'I Can!', not 'I Can't.”

For one young man this was the first time he had attempted to write a whole piece without help in all his time in the class.  And for another young lady with the disturbed background and English as a Second Language that many refugees have, her writing had developed by two years to stun and delight her teacher. 

Thanks again to the funding from Inner North West area management committee for supporting this work.  Thanks, too, to Headingley LitFest volunteer Rachel Harkess, who had assisted with the workshops in the classroom.

Report by Sally Bavage

Some of the lines the children wrote:
I'm running, running and running

The leaves felt cold, just like ice cream

I hear squeaky noises in the distance, my blood runs cold

There is no sky or sun, where am I?

I s[un around on the chair
Thinking what to do for work,
As soon as I blinked I was teleported to a fair.

I see a lamp-post which is rainbow-coloured
Next to it is an unfamiliar sweet shop

I travelled through a window and saw a treasure chest

I see stones around me, cut grass

I hear my frieds sniggering in the distance
They get fainter and fainter

All I can do is cry and panic

I was frightened by myself, without my brothers and sisters

I want to go home

And what had the children thought of the opportunity to write poetry in this way?
Poems don't have to rhyme!
How to get your ideas down first
How to edit and redraft
It helps your conscience grow
It's inspiring for other pupils
Reading your poem out


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