Like most schools around the country we have been looking at Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers during the first two weeks back. Having the chance to talk about lots of important issues was vital and for some children it was the first time they have had the opportunity to discuss some of the big issues in the world.
After working on human rights and thinking about the protests over the past few months it made me think of some work I’d seen online (http://cbldf.org/2014/09/using-graphic-novels-in-education-amulet/) about using Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi to discuss what you would do if you could turn back time. In Amulet the character Silas says “the power of the Amulet can give power to turn back time…the power to shape your world.” Which led to me posing the question what might you go back in time for and what might you change? This linked well with Here We Are as the book talks about savouring life and trying to appreciate it before it flies by.
With everything we had discussed during that second week it seemed like every child had at least one big thing they would like to change or redo but it gave us a chance to actually look at some smaller events as well. Some of the things we could probably change now if we thought more about them, like not hitting our brother every day or being more polite. I raised the point that we often leave things too late or ignore them completely and only realise much later that we should have dealt with them differently. The prior week my dad had been in and out of hospital with heart trouble which had led to me reflecting on our years of wasted time arguing over the most petulant matters. I explained to the class that if I could turn back time I’d learn to leave the little things alone instead of going out of my way to argue about why Metallica needed to come out of my speakers at full volume in order to be appreciated properly (hopefully with hindsight he has realised I was right.)
After sharing this real life example the class discussed ideas together and some were very honest in recalling times they shouldn’t have been afraid or times they had been stubborn and regretted wasting their time sulking. Eventually we had to start turning down anecdotes otherwise we could have sat there all day hearing about the time they only went on the zip slide with five minutes left at the park!
After sharing lots of examples we constructed a brief list poem together on the board using some of their experiences. I started the poem and they were given advice on structure with most choosing to start every other line with the phrase “If I could turn back time” some chose to just write this at the start and surprisingly none of them chose the easy option of just using it as a title and then writing the bare minimum below it.
Using Amulet on the visualiser and comparing it with some of the imagery and themes we had been discussing in Here We are really helped to create some emotive writing and prevented the usual ‘I can’t think of anything to say’ approach. Having the contrasting images of a quiet countryside and then the business of New York in Here We Are really helped to get across the point that life moves fast. Every child was able to complete the task and some were desperate to write as much as possible. Using the format of a list poem took away the fear some children feel when writing poetry, proved that poetry really doesn’t have to rhyme like some claimed and meant those that are less confident writers didn’t have to worry about filling pages of A4 with their memories. A few ideas and the handy trick of repeating the same line allowed them to create powerful work that they could be proud of.