Here Be Dragons!

October 6, 2021
By
Miles Openshaw
Sara Nguyen

Here Be Dragons!

School: Camboon Primary School

Creative Practitioner: Miles Openshaw

Creative Practice: Theatre and storytelling

Teacher: Sara Nguyen

Year Group: 2

Main Curriculum Focus: Biological Sciences - Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves

Science Inquiry Skills - questioning & predicting, planning & conducting, processing & analysing data and information; evaluating, communicating 

Cross-curricular Links: English (Literacy) - Understand the use of vocabulary about familiar and new topics and experiment with and begin to make conscious choices of vocabulary to suit audience and purpose.

Use of software - construct texts that incorporate supporting images using software, including word processing programs

English (Language) - Use interaction skills including initiating topics, making positive statements and voicing disagreement in an appropriate manner, speaking clearly and varying tone, volume and pace appropriately.

WHAT WE DID 

Here Be Dragons! supported students to fully understand the different life cycle stages of living things, how they change within those stages and that they have offspring that are similar to themselves. 

We asked students to disseminate this learning through creative approaches of their choice, working as teams and as individuals.

How did we make the curriculum come alive?

We chose a topic from the curriculum that lent itself to being taught in a variety of creative approaches and made it come alive by taking it outside, using the school grounds and the resources that we found within it to spark our creativity and inspire our work.

How did we make the Creative Habits of Mind come alive?

At the start of the project we spent time unpacking the meaning of each of the Creative Habits of Mind by renaming them ‘superpowers’. We created posters for each with an agreed definition and illustrated the posters with drawings of some of the things that these ‘superpowers’ meant to us. For example, the idea of being ‘persistent’ was illustrated with musical instruments to show that to master these required time and dedication.

All our sessions started with warm-ups designed to reinforce the Creative Habits of Mind; from an imaginative game of tag to the more complex Knot Game where teams have to untangle themselves without speaking or breaking the link of hands. At the end of the term we devised a Nature Scavenger Hunt where pairs of students were given a list of items to collect from the school grounds and then create something out of them. The scavenger hunt was specifically designed to focus the students on using all of the Creative Habits of Mind.     

How did we activate student voice and learner agency?

We activated learner agency and student in a number of ways during this term:

i) We strove to make the lessons stimulating and interesting by combining creative and storytelling approaches.  Providing students with key jumping off points and giving them permission to explore their own ways of doing things both as individuals or working with others. Sometimes those approaches proved too vivid; following our introduction of the Rainbow Dragon one student got very excited and found it difficult to let go of the idea that a mysterious dragon had been sighted around the school.  He started collecting food for the Rainbow Dragon around the school grounds and at home in the hope of tempting it out of its hiding spot. He found it hard to come back to other classroom learning after our Creative Schools.  At that point we had to come clean and tell the class that the Rainbow Dragon was made up and explain that we’d need to put our make-believe hats on when discussing it and at other times we do our learning in other ways.   

ii) We agreed to give students instructive feedback in ways that enabled them to solve their own problems, correct their own work and build their own understandings of the work they were preparing. As teachers and Creative Practitioners it’s important we curb our natural instincts to get involved, to advise or give too many instructions and allow ourselves the time to observe.

iii) We made room to regularly reflect and discuss the work that we had done as a way of not only reminding students of what they have learned but also to offer a regular platform for students to voice their point of view.  

iv) Finding ways to challenge students to succeed when the work is difficult, particularly those who struggle with an open learning approach.  Asking lots of questions, as the teacher or Creative Practitioner, really helps to press students to think a little deeper about what they are doing. 

WHAT WAS THE IMPACT?

In general, the open learning aspect of Creative Schools has really worked for this class and these students. The agency afforded them has had the biggest impact; they love the hands-on aspect of the work, choosing how they approach the work and it helps students understand the concepts being taught. Through our regular summarisation students are giving good in-depth reflections and contributing to discussions.

Inquisitive is that you are happy to learn and that you want to learn like this every day. - Student

We found that the ‘average’ students excelled within the Creative Schools program as it allows them the freedom to take control of their own learning. It challenged the ‘top’ students who, as rote learners, struggled because they are not being given explicit instructions for the activities.  In group tasks they found the lack of instructions confusing and we’re more inclined to follow than come forward with suggestions or opinions. In general it has taken this group longer to adapt to the Creative School program.

The Creative Schools program has helped the students with learning difficulties a lot, it has connected with things that they are excited about and made them feel a part of the group and to contribute in a meaningful way. 

Creative Schools has made me rethink the way I teach. I have realised the importance of child agency and allowing students to make choices and decisions when initiating their learning. The open-endedness of our activities has allowed students to take ownership of learning and promote the 5 learning habits at the same time. My class looks forward to Thursday afternoon and will constantly ask if they have Creative Schools that day. They are engaged in the activities without realising that they are learning. They love the fact that we are not using worksheets and they get to ‘create’ things. I have loved watching each student use their strengths during these sessions. For some, it’s writing, for others it’s taking on the leadership responsibilities or coming up with the ideas for their group. I am beginning to transfer what I learn as a teacher through my Creative Schools sessions and use this across other learning areas as part of my planning and have seen wonderful progress and results from my students. - Sarah Nguyen (Teacher)

Creative Schools has made me focus more as a practitioner.  I have enjoyed the challenge of devising activities that promote open learning and creativity within the curriculum structure and adapting those to give students of all levels the chance to fully benefit from the program. The bulk of my experience has been working with teenagers so working with a Year 2 class has been interesting in terms of adapting my facilitation approach to work with a younger group. - Miles Openshaw (Creative Practitioner)