Wednesday 19 March 2008

Working with Smaller Groups

I worked with just six Y6 students yesterday. It was in a very rural school deep in Kent. Three of the six had passed the eleven-plus to go to the local Grammar School. The others had tried and failed. But it was very clear that these kids loved reading and loved story. From the conversations we had, they were pretty good at it too.

I really did much the same talk that I’ve done in my other visits. I start off asking them to guess which are the two questions that writers dread getting. This particular group didn’t get there. Then I ask them about their story-telling and ask them where they get stories from. I then go on to talk about how I came to write The Lombardy Grotto and read a passage from it. I either use Chapter Two, and ask them what they think of the characters. So far, it’s been very gratifying: most schools have got the ages of the children right and their characters, and have given a good description of Uncle Sparky. Or I read Chapter Five and ask them to work out why the Lombarders call the wizard Old Fuzzy Locks. I sometimes ask them if they like chocolate, and then we talk a little about how you would describe chocolate to someone who had never tasted it before. Unusually, yesterday, I read a short piece from when the mansion starts to dissolve.

The response was good. They all became enthusiastic about the book and one of them bought it. Three others took home order forms. Working with a smaller group was good. It was easier to engage them. A couple of times I had to remind them of the etiquette of talking in a group, but it was only because they were enthusiastic.

As I left the school, their class teacher popped his head out of the door.

“They’ve come back very motivated,” he said.

Ah well, I guess that was the purpose of the exercise.

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