Thursday, 3 June 2010

East 1 Writing Project

Last week, along with the writers from the seven schools in the East 1 Partnership, I went to Kensington Gardens and spent the day exploring. For some of the time we were intrepid writers hunting for things to write about, other times we were daydreamers waiting for inspiration to settle like dust. Some of us saw a heron catch a fish, most of us marvelled at the out-of-focus softness of the cygnets. We got up close to Peter Pan and wondered what those fairies were whispering about. We stared at the bareback rider of the Physical Energy Statue looking as if he were trapped and would be forever galloping away from us.

The following day we met to write. We shared some of the phrases and vocabulary we had written, creating Poet Trees on the wall that were surrounded by Eimar Daly's photographs. For some of the time students worked together and wrote poems personifying the point of view of an object or creature in the gardens. For most of the day though, students from Years 2 to 8 worked on their own writing.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Story Inspiration

I am hoping that Kate will use this tiny character she made from plasticine in a story. Then make the story into a book.

And Maybe Eileen will write a story set in a circus big top.

Looking forward to some creative afternoons this week.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

A Closer look at Emille's Book

Emille's book shows that we should teach a skill then give young people the time and encouragement to be creative and do what they want to do. You never know what they might come up with - I hadn't thought of this.
It's wonderful - well done Emille.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Serena's Book

Just a quick post because I am thrilled that Serena is not only making books for herself but for her little sister too. (I'm hoping she might make one for me!)

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Template for the Matchbox Books

Several of you have asked for the matchbox book template and here it is. Many thanks to Robyn Wells for designing it and sending it to me and saying that I could pass it on. You can look back through this blog to see what Y6 students have done with this design and for more inspiration you should see Robyn's mini zine Grass and Stars which is what got us all going in the first place.

The template needs a little explaining best given by Robyn;-

The (template) I'm sending you is called a work and turn, and it just means that you print half of what you want, and then take the stack of printed papers, turn them and then print the exact same thing on the other side. This means that the 8.5x11 pdf I sent you, actually has two templates on each letterhead 8.5x11. Once you are done copying/printing them out, you can just cut them down the middle.

I needed to play around with it a bit to make it work and suggest you print draft copies on scrap until you get one that you can hold up to the light and see the pages sitting neatly on top of each other. The pages are numbered 1-16 with 1 being the front cover (1-FC) page 2 is inside front cover (2-IFC)and so on.

Matchbox Book

For the matchbox itself I think you should use a real matchbox and cover it. You can buy matchboxes from craft suppliers but they tend to be flimsy.

If you email me a pic of your matchbox books I'll post it up. valatvalruttdotcom

Happy book making!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Young Writers 5

I took my A'levels in the baking hot summer of 1977 and I remember feeling really miserable that I was having to revise when the sun was shining and the neighbours were out dancing in the street. Oh yes, they were literally dancing in the street because it was the Queen's Silver Jubilee and everyone went slightly crazy. Well, they did where I lived - for example, Mr.Broadhams and his son painted the kerb stones red white and blue. It was still there ten years later.

There seems to me to be something mean spirited about the timing of exams. Enter the evil fairy "Are you enjoying the sunshine? The blossom and the birdsong? Lovely isn't it? Well, now you have to do a test. Mwa-ha-ha-ha!"

SATs are coming up for Year 6 and I'm always on the lookout for ways to make the task of revision more interesting. Just before the Easter break we made folding books with tips and mnemonics to help with editing. True to form they took the idea and ran with it.

Examples shown are by Kate, Ruby, Hugo, Emille, Sofia, Eileen, Margaux and Syd

Saturday, 3 April 2010

East 1 Writing Project - Thames River Walk

Photograph: Eimear Daly ©2010

I am working with the East 1 Schools Partnership on an exciting writing project. Involving ten schools and sixty pupils, the project aims to inspire students to write by first immersing them in the rich cultural diversity that the city has to offer. Last week we met for the second of three experience days which found us walking by the Thames from Tower Bridge to the London Eye and coming back to the Tower of London by boat.

Students used post-it notes to record their observations, thoughts and feelings through the day and these were added to a frieze of the river made the following day using a giant roll of blue paper, pupils' drawings and photographer, Eimear Daly's wonderful photographs.

This is an ambitious project and, it seems to me, a unique one - yet from it a very useful model for creative writing is emerging. As a teacher and a writer I'm keen to nurture the desire to imagine and create as well as help young people develop the skills they need to communicate effectively.

There never seems enough time in class lessons to inspire the writing AND teach the nuts and bolts stuff of good grammar and punctuation. Could this kind of rich experience with a follow-up day of shared writing be transferred to a weekly or fortnightly experience in every primary classroom? I think it could and should. With a third day being devoted to editing skills where work is prepared for sharing with a wider audience.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Young Writers 4

Inspired by Robyn Ayres delightful Grass and Stars - a tiny book in a matchbox - I asked her advice on how to go about making one. Robyn sent me a template for the sixteen-page mini book so that I could share it with school students aged 9-11 yrs for book-making fun on World Book Day. Thank you Robyn for your generous help. Here are some of the books made by Year 6 students.

Matchbox books shown above made by Hugo, Kian, Eileen, Sofia, Joe, Ruby and Aidan.

Friday, 19 February 2010

A Few Special Books

I'm preparing a school event about why books are special. Here's a preview of some of the books I've chosen.

First up is this beautiful catalogue of The Albertina Exhibition of Hundertwasser's Complete Graphic Work 1951-1976. I've treasured this since 1985.

And nearly twenty years later it inspired my daughter to make this.

Next, my most recently acquired special book and current favourite. The Margaret Rudkin Pepperidge Farm Cookbook beautifully illustrated by Erik Blegvad. I've wanted this book for ages and have often looked for it on Abe Books It's big and heavy and most likely to be found in the States and sellers don't want to ship to UK. But I found this one in England and now it's mine and I love it!

Lots of things make this book special - the quality of the illustrations, the years of wanting it and finally owning it to name but two. But there's more. The dustjacket was damaged and consequently I noticed that the hardcover beneath it had a different illustration. Imagine someone owning this book for years, cooking from it, loving the pictures and getting it down from the shelf for a child to enjoy without knowing it had a secret.

The care, outstanding quality and sheer generosity of the design takes my breath away. Erik Blegvad is one of the finest illustrators there is and deserves world recognition. Read more about him here.

And this copy is special to me because last week Erik signed it for me.

Next, a book that is simple, clever and utterly brilliant. Perhaps the most honest and the most accessible Don't Do Drugs message there is. If you don't know this book and you know a teenager buy it for them.

The House That Crack Built - written by Clark Taylor illustrated by Jan Thompson Dicks. Get it from a bookshop near you.

And now for the handmade books and a whole other level of special.

This beautiful book, The Firewood poem bound in wood is from Harrington and Squires All I want to say about this exquisite book is you have to hold it in your hands to believe it.

Here is another I treasure from Harrington and Squires - The Golden Key

Better pictures on their website

As I'm doing this I keep thinking of more books on my shelf that I want to include here. This is the last one for now though.

Last but not least but oh so very tiny.

It's small, but yes, you can read it.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Writing Away from Home

I seem to write more when I'm not at home.

I write more, I think more clearly and I sleep like I've been switched off. And I'm not talking about a going-off-by-myself-and-severing-contact-with-the-world-writing-retreat kind of experience. (Though I'd like to give that a whirl sometime.)

I've just spent three nights with friends and family and even though it was fun and busy I had some great writing sessions and made significant progress with my current story.

Despite the thrills and spills of the Winter Olympics, that got my heart going like the clapper on a cowbell, some committed movie watching, walks with the dog, long suppers, having a crossword on the go - despite all this, I was able to write. I wrote early in the morning, in the afternoons, in the evenings and had a couple of four am writes after which I went back to bed and slept like someone hit with a mallet.

It's been an extraordinary few days starting with torrential rain the day we arrived (the field opposite the house would have made a good location set for a film about Paschendale) followed by a blue-sky day where the sun felt warm and my son swam in the river. Then, this morning we woke up to a world whitened by frost.

It is, nonetheless, good to be home and I'll be back to my usual writing routine tomorrow - hopefully it'll go just as well as at the start of the week.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Pay and Display

We'd been driving for a few minutes, me in the passenger seat, my friend A behind the wheel, her little boy singing in the back, when I saw the ticket.

"WHAT???!!!! NOOOOOO!!"

How can this be? A has a residents' permit to park so she's mighty surprised and not a little annoyed. I get out to have a look.

Well now, that is very on earth did that happen?

And that folks is what you get for telling your kids not to throw rubbish on the floor.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Apology to the Retford Book Club

My lovely friend Sarah and her friends read Out of the Blue for their Retford Book Club read last week. And I've been looking forward to seeing the comments Sarah tells me they posted on my blog. But so far no comments...where can they be? Have they got stuck in the snow? It's not fair I want to see your comments!