Martin Galway shares some of the wonderful work carried out by the pupils and staff at Hare Street Primary School, Harlow, inspired by the Take One Book training and approaches offered by the HfL English team.
It starts with a book
One of the earliest resources that we produced in readiness for the seismic shift towards Curriculum 2014 was a revised set of long term plans. These plans were not set out as a cast-in-stone curriculum map, but they were designed to help schools make the transition from one curriculum to another. Part of the rationale was to make clear that wholesale revision was not necessary. Another part was to identify writing genres that would support progression through the various components of the new programmes of study. Eventually, we were also able to offer guidance around how the progressive demands of the grammar curriculum might be mapped across the primary years.
All very helpful, it would seem, if the feedback we have received is anything to go by.
Within these plans. my colleagues slipped in a fresh new aspect – the Take One Book blocks (you can find out more about the Take One Book approach here). The vision here was to allow teachers the opportunity to do one of the most rewarding (and all too often effective) things that we can do in the classroom: take a book that we especially love; share it with the children; fully appreciate its magic; allow ourselves the luxury of exploring (and yes, capitalising on) its points of inspiration. It is fair to say that this has been an immensely well-received aspect of our curricular suggestions. Teachers report heightened enjoyment of these units – not just their own, which is actually really very important (apologies for the adverb overload there) – but the children’s too. Children’s publishing is in such rude health, it would be – well – rude not to make the most of that.
It ends with…
Many schools have really gone to town with the Take One Book approach. They have seized the freedoms offered by this aspect of their curriculum map and used it to create all sorts of wonderful writing. Sometimes children create a number of different texts – reflecting the skills they have acquired in other units. Sometimes the children get to suggest and decide the outcomes that they will produce; greater agency but with some degree of quality control. Some schools – well, they have gone a step further and allowed an especially good text to take over the whole school. Take one book? One book takes over!
One such school is Hare Street Primary in Harlow, Essex, a lovely school that is achieving fantastic results for its children. (Given that this is my home town, I am especially delighted to work with a school of this calibre – and yes, we do not solely work in Herts). It’s fair to say that they have really grabbed the Take One Book approach by the (giraffe) horns. Usually I provide support to this school but when they asked for a January inset looking at a book-based approach to developing writing further, I had to pass the work on to my colleague, Penny Slater, as I had a prior commitment. The school and I are thrilled that Penny took this work on. It’s fair to say it has had quite a legacy.
Penny’s morning session focused on the wonderful Zeraffa Giraffa by Dianne Hofmeyr and Jane Rey [Frances Lincoln, 2014]. This book has it all. Based in fact, it tells the tale of the 1827 journey of Zeraffa the giraffe, from Egypt to Paris, sent as a gift to the king of France. The language and illustrations are a pure treat. I have had the pleasure of seeing Penny deliver this particular session – it forms part of the Shared Writing in Years 3 and 4 course that we co-deliver. I get to sit back and enjoy Penny’s work in the morning; in the afternoon, I bring David Litchfield’s The Bear and the Piano to three-dimensional biographical life.
Following the session, the school decided that they would like to use the book in all year groups. Plans began to hatch. Individual plans, unique to each year group. Then bigger plans: a trip to Whipsnade zoo. Then wider plans: giraffe sculptures in art. Giraffe bakery items (I am not a foodie, so forgive the clumsy phrasing) in DT. It’s fair to say that giraffe fever had taken hold.
Last week, I had a call from one of the school staff urging me to come in and look at the displays of work that reflect the journey since Penny’s session. I am glad I did. I think it is an especially nice way to round off a year of blogging – often on statutory matters – by celebrating the core of what we do: children’s learning; children’s achievements; children’s growing sense of identity and capacity to make their mark; school communities growing together.
What follows is a small selection of the photos that I took. Hare Street have kindly given me permission to share this work. What I would also want to highlight is the buzz that was evident in the classrooms that I visited: genuine, unabashed enthusiasm for the book; pride in the work; motivation to take the inspiration home (several children told me that they have gone on to write their own books at home inspired by Zeraffa). I have said enough. Without further ado, ladies and gentleman, we proudly present Zeraffa Giraffa – Hare Street style…
So there you go – Take one book. Take a good look at what it has to offer. And just as importantly – what we might offer back.
With sincere thanks to Penny for the inspirational session and to the staff and children of Hare Street for showing the power of great books.