Are you prepared to be embarrassed in front of your class for the sake of literature and your able students?
Many children have a real ability for writing. Not only are their technical skills well developed, but they also have a flair for taking risks with their writing. They are capable of stretching their imaginations, making connections and looking at things in different ways. At times, all they need is a topic to start them off. Why not try the following exercise and see what results you get?
• Total mega embarrassment!
Embarrassing moments can be turned to good use in poetry and prose. Ask the children if they can remember a time when they were really embarrassed. Tell them you mean not just red-faced, shuffle-your-feet, change-the subject embarrassed but more I-can’t-go-on-existing-after-what-has happened embarrassed. It’s that moment when you’re swimming and you think there’s seaweed caught round your ankles and you flick it free. Then you realise that what you thought was seaweed was actually your swimming trunks and now you’ve kicked them away you can’t find them. There is a very crowded beach between you and your towel. Or it’s the time you’re sitting on the bus going on about how stupid and ugly and pointless your mate is, only to turn round and find that mate’s mother sitting behind you. That is total mega embarrassment!
Children can focus on one particular embarrassing moment and describe it or perhaps list a series of such moments in a poem:
If my whole life flashed before me
I wouldn’t want to remember
The day my dad took his trousers off in public
because a wasp had got inside them
The moment I took hold of someone’s hand in the supermarket
and it wasn’t Mum’s
The journey when we found ourselves driving along
an airport runway
The meal when I spilt gravy all over dad’s important business guest
And worst of all
Being made to hold my teacher’s hand because I’d misbehaved on the way to
This idea is taken from Able Writers in Your School a book designed for teachers who want to develop the potential of their gifted pupils. It passes on ideas and practical advice, including lesson plans and examples of children’s work.
The ideas in the book were developed by Brian Moses and Roger Stevens as part of the Able Writers Scheme, where professional writers visit groups of schools to work with gifted and talented writers. Schools participating in the Able Writers Scheme have found that not only have children come back from Able Writers days inspired and full of enthusiasm for developing their writing further, the activities also play a big part in shifting SAT results from level 4 to level 5. Ofsted have also praised the Able Writers Scheme in a number of school reports.
Brian Moses is one of Britain’s best-loved children’s poets and has published over 160 books and performed in over 2000 schools across the UK and Europe.
Roger Stevens is a children’s author, poet and performer who visits schools, libraries, festivals and museums all over the UK. His poems for children appear in more than 200 anthologies.
The Able Writers’ Scheme is co-ordinated by Trevor Wilson at Authors Abroad/Caboodle Books. If you are interested in becoming a host school for an able writers’ group in your area, please contact Trevor on 01535 656015 or email him.