Friday, 25 October 2013

School Visit Round Up Part One

I've been off on lots of school visits lately and am very late with posting reports from all of them but will do my best to catch up.
Wishing you all a very happy half term holiday!
First . . . Denfield Park Primary School.
For a while it seemed I might never make it to Denfield Park Primary School. I pointed my car towards Northamptonshire and set off on a sunny September morning only to find myself caught up in the endless roundabout loop of Milton Keynes - like a meteorite sucked into orbit around a distant planet.

Having escaped at last, I then became ensnared in a traffic jam of Truly Colossal Proportions. The good people of Kimbolton were, it seemed, putting up a funfair in the High Street.* Even as I muttered and fumed at being held up I couldn’t help being impressed by a town that closes all its through routes at rush hour to make way for a big wheel, dodgems and candy floss stands.  It may be no coincidence that Kimbolton is also home to one of the biggest firework companies in the universe. This is a town that likes to party!

But I arrived. Only a few minutes late and just in time for what is always one of my favourite parts of any author visit – a whole school assembly, where even the youngest Year 1 children join in, coming up to rummage in Emily’s shoulder bag and pick out  random items from her investigations kit. It might be a packet of plasticine (perfect for silencing creaky floorboards or taking a print of a key) a wig for disguise, a spool of wire, a magnifying glass or some treats for Drift . . . 

What's in Emily's investigations kit?

The rest of the day involved two workshops.  I worked with Year 5, thinking about, and planning, stories with amazing discoveries at their heart.  The pupils came up with all kinds of wonderful ideas. In one discussion, I asked them to describe in one sentence the important discovery at the core of a book they had read to the rest of the group to see if they could guess the book. (Think, “a magical world through the back of a wardrobe”).  My favourite was a description of the discovery at the heart of Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You (there were some very mature readers in this year), which generated the suggestion that it might be Beauty and the Beast. Although the wrong answer, it illustrated perfectly just how all the best stories are re-invented over and over again in new and wonderful ways.
Planning some brilliant discovery-based stories
Year 4 looked at the basic ingredients of story structure; characters, settings, goals and problems.  Each student wrote down some of each and they all went into the 'story hat' to be pulled out to create new crazy stories. This led to some extraordinarily imaginative stories, including a brilliant tale of David Beckham tiptoeing across a mile wide stretch of grass in the middle of a forest to ask the queen how many TV sets she owns.

There was even chance during the day for a quick chat with the Year 6 pupils, who had lots of interesting questions. What a lovely bright classroom full of lovely bright students!
Time for some questions from Year 6
Finally, time to sit down in the library and sign some books.
Note how I picked my outfit to match your school uniform, girls!
Thank you to all the polite, enthusiastic creative pupils and to all the staff for being so welcoming and helpful throughout the day. Special thanks to Mrs Hynes, Year 6 teacher and KS2  Literacy Lead who organised it all and sent me the photos.

* Known as the Statty Fair, it has been held in Kimbolton almost every year since the 1200s, when it was included the town's market charter. It used to be a trade fair, and is traditionally held on the third Wednesday of September. Memo to self; don't try to drive through  Kimbolton on third Wednesday of September!

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