Archive for February, 2017

Let Them “Shine”

24 Feb

This year at Northampton High School, as part of our outreach programme, we have run the SHINE- ‘serious fun on a Saturday’ project. SHINE is an education charity that gives children the opportunity to acquire the skills and confidence they need to turn their potential into success at school and beyond. The charity assisted us in providing ten workshops to twenty-four Year 5 girls from local primary schools.

 

The workshops cover a variety of subjects including geocaching, drama, forensic science, water works challenges, Atomic Science and engineering to name but a few.
These sessions have either been presented by external experts or school staff have volunteered their time and the project has been coordinated at the School by Claire Tilley, Physics Technician.

 

 

Below is an account of one of the sessions which was run by Anne Buxton, Librarian and Leona Heimfeld, English/Film Teacher.

 

Anne Buxton, Librarian

 

When I volunteered to run a SHINE session in Spring 2016 I hadn’t any idea what sort of session I would deliver. However, after a very successful summer term shadowing both the Carnegie and Greenaway book awards (the latter with girls in the Junior and Senior School) it seemed an obvious activity to try with the girls during my session with them in November.

 

The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal was established in 1955, for distinguished illustration in a book for children. It is named after the popular and highly influential nineteenth century artist known for her fine children’s illustrations and designs. Awarded annually, the Medal is the only prize in the UK to solely reward outstanding illustration in a children’s book. Previous winners include Levi Pinfold, Raymond Briggs, Shirley Hughes, former Children’s Laureates, Quentin Blake and Anthony Brown, and current Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell. In school we shadow the award in real time over a number of weeks trying to work out who we think the overall winner should be and then waiting to find out if the judges agree with us at the awards ceremony in June! Marks are awarded out of ten for artistic style, format, the synergy of illustration and text and overall visual experience.

 

As I would have just over an hour with the girls it seemed sensible to make this a timed activity, in effect, speed dating with picture books! Ms Tilley divided the girls into groups and each group had an attached member of staff or sixth former. One of the Sixth Form became our time keeper, each book being allocated six minutes to be read and swiftly judged. The girls rose to the occasion, quickly understanding what was expected and making very perceptive comments about the books.

 

The girls’ overall favourite was There’s a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins which “Reminds us to share. Shows us not to hold a grudge” –   Eleanor.

The actual winner, The Sleeper and the Spindle written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell, was also popular but did divide opinion. The girls weren’t always sure about a Queen going on an adventure and leaving the Prince behind!

 

Mrs Heimfeld – English/Film Teacher

 

The second part of the session aimed to develop engagement with the books into a creative act. Equipped with their evaluations, the girls set out to make a film trailer for an imagined movie of the books. First, each group decided what genre the film would encompass (romance, adventure, fairy tale or comedy) and chose a suitable background and music. Next ideas were story boarded, considering how to best convey the plot and the spirit of the illustrations. The production was cast, a director chosen, and locations were scouted. Then they took the iPads and with just half an hour to complete the projects, began filming. The results were imaginative and faithful to the books, with the girls translating the often subtle and particular nuances of the illustrations into moving pictures.

 

 

Sources:

https://northamptonhigh.fireflycloud.net/film/shine-greenaway-prize-films

http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/

https://www.shinetrust.org.uk/what-we-do/shine-saturday-programmes/serious-fun-on-saturday/

 

 

On not having the time to read…

10 Feb

The arrival in the White House of a man who, by his own account, ‘doesn’t have time to read’ (or, if he does, ‘reads chapters’) in place of a President well known for his love of reading has prompted me to consider the place of book-reading in our changing world.

 

Does it matter if you don’t have (or perhaps we should say ‘make’) time to read books?

 

Our annual Book Week in school last week invited us to consider the importance to us of reading books.  This, in the context of rising evidence of reading culture being under pressure.  For example, Kevin Stannard, in a recent blog for TES about book culture, drew upon recent research which found that 10% of the UK population do not own a single book, even as the average household was found to have eight devices connected to the internet, suggesting that reading is in decline and book culture is on the retreat nationally.  The drastic decline in public libraries in recent years is surely both a cause and a symptom of the same trend.

 

To look around me in school, however, suggests a very different story and evidence of the continuing vibrancy of a book culture is writ large all around us.  Witness just a few examples from the last fortnight; Mrs Farrar’s Class Assembly with Reception focused on the power of story-telling as a threshold into reading, moving from pictures to words, while Miss Buxton’s Assembly to Senior School shared with us the life and work of a favourite author of the seniors, the late Siobhan Dowd, as a launchpad for our annual Book Week.  Jodie Welton’s contribution to the latter, reading aloud an extract from Dowd’s ‘The London Eye Mystery’, conjured up for us the pleasure, probably now experienced only as a memory for most, of being read to.

 

Reading is all-too-easy to characterise as an unsociable activity, in contrast to more collective endeavours, such as team sports or social networking.  But this is not really the case.  As C S Lewis is heard to say in ‘Shadowlands’ – ‘We read to know that we are not alone.’ In reading what someone else has written, we enter into the mind of another, forging powerful connections with the writer – even if that writer is long dead or far distant from us and our lives.  Our favourite authors become like companions to us on life’s journey –  and how often have we read a passage describing the thoughts, feelings and experiences of a book’s character and been struck by the feeling that ‘ah – that is exactly how it is for me too’?

 

Or else, reading, by connecting us with the unfamiliar, nourishes our powers of empathy.  Barack Obama has said, recalling his own experience, ‘When I think about how I understand my role as citizen, setting aside being president…the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels.  It has to do with empathy.  It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of grays, but there’s still truth there to be found, and that you have to strive for that and work for that. And the notion that it’s possible to connect with someone even though they’re very different from you.’
Identifying with characters from books is surely a universal experience.  So, the annual Harry Potter party for Y5-U3 on 2 February gave girls the chance to take on the identity of their favourite HP character while Nursery girls (and their teachers) had plenty of fun earlier in the week dressing up as their favourite story-book characters –  from Cinderella to Wally.

 

Reading also connects us with other readers.  When I think of the great array of human pursuits that revolve around the shared enjoyment of reading – book groups, literary festivals, reviews, blogs, book prizes, recommendations, literary quizzes – it is clear that, even as we have witnessed theexponential growth of digital networks, book culture remains as durable as ever and part of the very bedrock of our society.   Only consider the appeal and success of Emma Watson’s feminist book club and media platform ‘Our Shared Shelf.

 

Robert Macfarlane’s excellent essay ‘The Gifts of Reading’, published just before Christmas, is a moving meditation on the ability of book-giving and -exchange to bring us closer to each other, as well as enriching our minds along with our bookshelves.  Junior School pupils sampled this pleasure last week when Year 3 shared their favourite stories with Year 1 while Year 5, in turn, offered their book recommendations to Year 3.

 

    

 

Access to reading is not, alas, a birth right – UNESCO estimates that nearly 17% of the adult population globally is illiterate, with 493 million women and 122 million young people being unable to read.  Inevitably, illiteracy is both a symptom of inequality – with non-readers concentrated among the poorest and most underprivileged segments of the population – and also a cause of its perpetuation, being a major barrier to employment and social mobility.

 

Mark Twain, an author who has stood high on many a list of favourite authors among past generations, observed, ‘the man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.’  I pause to consider how this observation will strike the millions of our world’s citizens in the developed world, including the current President of the United States (POTUS), who believe that they don’t have time to read.

 

Dr Helen Stringer, Headmistress

 

Sources:

R Macfarlane ‘The Gifts of Reading’ https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/294596/the-gifts-of-reading/

http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/education-building-blocks/literacy/resources/statistics

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/will-e-reading-spell-extinction-bulky-perishable-non-interactive

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/10-of-people-do-not-own-a-single-book-b0bl35qbj

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jan/07/emma-watson-to-start-feminist-book-group-on-twitter-our-shared-shelf

Resilient Minds

3 Feb

“If you can keep your head when all about are losing theirs” ……. Joseph Rudyard Kipling

As part of our ongoing commitment to develop resilient minds in our pupils here at Northampton High School we are about to launch a programme based on the research of the Positive group. http://www.positivegroup.org/

 

Positive are a specialist learning provider working across the corporate, public and educational sectors. Their work is informed by research in psychology, neuroscience and the medical sciences. They use the relevant principles of psychology and human behaviour to develop practical, versatile tools and techniques that enable individuals and teams to manage pressure and adapt to change and uncertainty in our ever evolving world. A group of our staff are at present receiving training in the delivery of this programme and the science behind it, using a number of app based tools. These will range from an Emotional Barometer, self-talk, an inner coach, a positive data log and a virtual pinboard. These will also be underpinned by a series of Mindfulness sessions.

 

 

Advances in neuroscience have shown how emotions override the brain’s operating systems, constantly influencing how we think and behave; often without us even knowing. By improving emotional literacy, we can improve both psychological health and performance. We change our minds all the time but we can also change the way our brains work by making new connections. If we focus purely on the negatives we get very good at it!

 

 

The first tool the pupils will be introduced to is the Emotional Barometer, which is a visual metaphor tool, designed to track and display your mood state over time and how we cope with stress and pressure, (see the Yerkes-Dodson model above). It will give students an insight into their emotions, how they affect their thoughts, feelings and behaviour and provide them with a basis for developing emotional literacy.

 

We all talk to ourselves and it can have a significant impact on our psychological health and quality of life. The tone and context of this inner dialogue impacts how we think, feel and behave. The self-talk tool and inner coach will enable the students to become aware of their own inner dialogue and supports anyone in a challenging situation to seek solutions and opportunities and to let go of negative cognitive patterns quicker. By improving emotional literacy, you can reduce psychological problems.

I have already attended the teacher training sessions and found it to be one of the most engaging I have ever experienced. The combination of science, knowledge and practical application was expertly done and it will help build resilience and improve the health and wellbeing of all our pupils.

 

Michele Langhorn

Assistant Head (Staff Development and Wellbeing)