It’s all about the people

Disclaimer – this post contains mild banter and soppiness

After taking a few days to digest and recover from the day (and the evening after) I am jumping on the post #PrimaryRocks LIVE blog bandwagon. Many of the amazing recounts of the day I have seen talked about the CPD that was on offer from a host of wonderful speakers. However, this post won’t do that. So if you want to know what Paul Dix said about fantastic walking or what Michael Tidd said about marking or why the Primary Heads had a carrier bag filled with post it notes you are reading the wrong post.

For me the biggest and best thing about #PrimaryRocks LIVE, both this year and last year is the people. It’s that sense of community that it brings. Something that I haven’t felt to the same extent at other teachmeets or education conferences I have been to. Yes similar faces are there and it’s great to catch up but it is simply not the same.

I have thought about this long and hard: What makes #Primaryrocks different? Is it because I am lucky to be a member of the #PrimaryRocks team (how this happened I have no idea! I am still waiting for them all to realise they were mad to let me get involved) or is it something else? There is no denying the fact that speaking to someone on a daily basis will bring people together as it has with the #PrimaryRocks team. Those of us in Manchester get to catch up during holidays but the LIVE event is really the only time the ten of us are together in one room.

I have come to the conclusion it is the weekly chats that really make #PrimaryRocks a community. The fact that people come together via their laptops, phones and ipads in order to become better teachers. That week in week out teachers leave their endless to do lists (that one is in there for you Brynla!) in order to share good practice and encourage others to question and think about their own pedagogy.

The LIVE event enables those who join the chat to meet face to face. For us to know that @mrlockyer  really  is that funny and does look like Archie from Balamory, that @WatsEd really does love a tweed cap and that even though its March @TeacherStarr will still wear his Christmas jumper. The fact we get to do this with an ice cream, even in not so sunny Manchester is a bonus! Negativity was left at the door and only warmth, the sharing of a common goal and more laughter than you can imagine prevailed throughout the day.

Being part of #PrimaryRocks first through the chat and then as one of the organisers has changed my life. It has reignited my passion for teaching, given me some confidence back, has made me question my practice and showed me ways to make it better. I have made some great friendships. Some of the people I have met through #PrimaryRocks have become some of my best friends: they have been there in good times and in bad and for that I can’t thank them enough. (Gaz, Ang, Bryn, Rich, Jenna, Leah, Rob, Tim and Graham)

Much love, chat Monday and see you next year x

#Paintingstalk – What the Water Gave Me by Frida Kahlo

I found choosing a painting this week incredibly difficult for a number of reasons. The paintings we have had so far have been so rich in possibilities and so varied. Each painting has had its own story for us to unpick so what would be my choice this week? I went backwards and forwards between works by the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, stunning works like Autumn Leaves, The Hireling Shepherd and Ophelia. I also considered the monochrome works on MC Escher, the surreal and melancholic paintings by Edvard Munch and one of my favourite paintings Wheatfield with Crows by Vincent Van Gogh.

None of these seemed quite right though. I love them all but they didn’t fit for #paintingstalk , well for me anyway. Then it hit me; Frida Kahlo. Her work tells her amazing story. A story of tragedy, strength and passion. I love her work. It’s so vibrant yet at times melancholy and macabre. I shared her work and her story with some year 6 children recently linked to work on portraits and they were enthralled. Her work captivates and draws you in totally. They are like windows into her life.
In 1925 Kahlo was travelling on a bus which collided with another vehicle. She suffered serious injuries which included a broken spine, a broken collarbone, a broken pelvis, fractures to her legs and a dislocated foot and shoulder. A handrail also pierced though her abdomen leaving her unable to have children. She was 18 years old. These injuries would plague her for the rest of her life and are reflected in many of her paintings.

I love a bath. Baths are healing. They are restorative. A place to lie and relax and feel the water heel whatever aches and pains you have, whether they are physical or mental. Sylvia Plath once said “There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.” I get it, totally. I think Frida did too.

What the Water Gave Me
In this painting I like to think of her healing herself in the water. Thinking about the her life and the journey she has been on. Each symbol in the painting reflects a chapter of her life and has its own story to tell. Let’s try to read it…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=am6rArVPip8 – Florance and the Machine – What the water Gave Me

What makes a good primary sketchbook?

Sketchbooks are amazing things. They offer so many opportunities. They are places to think, research and collect, experiment, reflect, explore and most importantly be free! Sketchbooks offer our children opportunities to express themselves in ways that no other book or piece of paper can. I have a number of sketchbooks. I love working in sketchbooks. I often find that I love the work an artist has done in their sketchbook. It’s far more interesting than the final piece as it documents a journey. They are fascinating things and I could look at them for hours.

However, for the work in these spaces to be successful it must be meaningful. Have provenance, if you like, where the children feel safe and are invested in trying something new, pushing the boundaries of what they think they are capable of. This is where it is important to set up expectations as to what the children are to do in their sketchbooks.

Now before you shout ‘hang on that’s not letting them express themselves freely’ let me explain. It’s setting out opportunities, it’s setting our expectations of what they will achieve not how they will achieve it. Also it acts as a safety net for those who need it. This is where success criteria come in. For example mark making using paint linked to a theme on water would be:

  1. Use each tool at least 3 times.
  2. annotate each experiment to explain what you have done.
  3. Organise your work neatly in rows or columns.
  4. Try to keep your experiments the same size.

So what makes a good sketchbook?

  1. A good primary sketchbook shows a range of materials and processes.

This is all about opportunity. It’s the opportunities you give to your children in order to express themselves and develop skills. Thinking about the process and artist goes though here is key. A good sketchbook will show that the children have had access to a range of materials not just pencil crayon or paint. It will include collage, mixed media, colour mixing, mark making, drawing and designing etc.

  1. A good primary sketchbook shows that some of the work is linked or themed.

This is all about provenance. Making the children invested in what they are going to do in their sketchbook. If you are asking the children to do something that doesn’t link to their experiences or what they are learning the work will reflect that. In my experience linking art to the learning in other subjects to create a holistic curriculum results in the children being enthusiastic, invested, brave and ensures that the work is of a higher standard. If the children see links and are encouraged to make these themselves they are also more likely to take risks. I find that preparing sketchbook pages with pictures and words linked to the topic helps with this too. Especially when the children come to look through their work at a later date.

  1. A good primary sketchbook shows the thinking process.

This is all about the journey. How do we show what we are thinking? Well often this will be the experiments that the children make or the drawings they produce but I think this should be pushed further. It’s encouraging the children to make notes. Explain everything. Explain what they have done, their likes and dislikes, their achievements, their reflections on how to improve their work. These notes and annotations also will greatly support their creation of a final piece of work as they will have a bank of resources to select from.

  1. A good primary sketchbook will show research

This is all about context. This is where you show the children the work of other artists. For them to see the way others have responded to a particular theme. It is imperative that children have opportunities to explore the work of a range of other artists, craftspeople and designers, not to copy their work but to learn how they applied paint, how they mixed colours to create mood etc. This research might include extracts of text or poetry, photographs the children have taken or pieces of material.

  1. A good primary sketchbook is organised.

This is all about whether the children can access the information in their book and use it to inform later work. Creating a theme for pages by preparing them as mentioned earlier will help here, as will dates and titles. I never write LOs in sketchbooks. Waste of time. I would rather the children wrote a quick title to explain what they are doing and then get started. For younger children you might print these out and stick them in. Older children might start to think about the way they write the title. Whether they write it on masking tape or select the font they might use. Presentation expectations come in here too. Handwriting is to be at a high standard and the work well organised. This might be columns, rows, dividing the page in to sections or creating frames to work on with masking tape or different coloured papers. This is NOT about children working on a piece of paper and sticking in their ‘best and neatest’ piece. There should be things that have gone wrong, there should be accidental splashes of paint or water, these are all part of the process.

Sketchbooks are special. They are a safe space to reflect upon the world around you. They are personal. They are fascinating and beautiful things. They offer so many rich opportunities. Go for it – Get your sketchbooks out!

As featured in the first issue of Primed Magazine : https://primedmagazine.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/issue-1-september-2015/

A visual classroom

A new school year beckons and teachers across the land are heading into school in order to set up exciting, engaging learning environments for the young fresh faces that will pour though the doors next week. I love displays. I love planning them, sourcing things to go on them and creating them. I find it therapeutic and also exciting. I also know that I sometimes put unrealistic expectations on myself when it comes to doing displays. It is at this point that this blog is not me saying you should…it is me sharing my approach to display and if you take something from it, great!

For me displays are very personal things, like your classroom. I believe they should reflect you, your professional ethos, the young people that spend their days in that space and the learning that goes on. I want my classroom to make an impact. I want the children to walk in a go ‘wow!’ I want to create excitement and awe about what they are going to learn before a word has been spoken. I want someone to walk in my classroom and know without any shadow of a doubt that the children are learning about Macbeth or Titanic or Ancient Greece.  I also want my classroom to look like my classroom, not like every other primary school classroom across the country; there are those unrealistic expectations again!

But how do I do this? What does my classroom look like?

  1. Working walls

I am a big fan of a working wall. They are useful, immediate, easy to maintain and very flexible. I would only have working walls for Maths and English as my other displays would be more permanent but I will come on to this later. A literacy display might include a copy of the cover of the text, pictures of the setting, characters, key vocabulary, text features and post it notes with comments from the children. In addition I might included story maps, annotated bits of text, shared, guided or modelled writing and character maps to name but a few that I have done in guided sessions or direct teaching.  Working walls should be fluid and changed/updated regularly. I know  displays are time consuming but if these are done with the children it saves a job. Why not occasionally use big pieces of newsprint instead of the interactive whiteboard?  Works just as well and you have a display at the end of it. This also gives you opportunity to model handwriting  and presentation expectations.

  1. Other subject areas

I believe in a holistic approach to the curriculum. I feel that if subjects are linked and tied together within a theme the learning will have greater impact. This also helps when setting up your classroom as your classroom then gives itself over to that theme. My main theme display usually fills an entire wall. It will contain key vocabulary, lots of pictures and key questions. I have often also created a large painting to form part of the display too, but I will discuss that more later. This display also works like a working wall as things are added to the display as the learning develops. Timelines, new questions, photographs of drama, samples of writing, art etc might be added to the display to document the journey that the children have been on. This display is the one that always has the most impact as it is what the subjects feed into, whether it is English, science, history, geography or art. I know that not all subjects will necessarily fit together but I have always kept a separate display area free for this or used my windows.

Backing paper

What’s the big deal about backing paper I hear you say? Well display paper I find can be very garish. The colours are often intensely bright and can give you a headache when you look at them for too long. I am a big fan of black backing paper but this can make for a very dark and dingy classroom. So whats the alternative? Well, I love brown paper (kraft paper YPO) this comes in very large sheets that can cover a whole board. Its neutral and works well for pretty much any theme. Its also a great surface to work into, in the past I have painted on to this to form the background to the display. I have painted lions as part of a theme on Africa, a skull, dagger and crown linked to work on Macbeth, a galleon as work on discovers and explorers and an industrial landscape as part of work on the Victorians. Now I know not everyone thinks they are a ‘skilled’ painter, but there is a way around this. Find a simple image/silhouette on Google, blu-tack paper to the IWB and project image the size you want. Easy and very effective, also guaranteed to be different to anyone else. On a theme on Titanic I printed out passenger lists, tea stained them and used these as backing paper. Simple and effective. Old maps would work brilliantly as display paper, maybe print them off a little bit lighter and off you go! I do think though you should think carefully about your colour palette. Match the colours to whatever the theme is.

  
Labels and Signs

I always think a mixture of handwritten and printed labels are nice. Again as I have mentioned before handwritten labels give you opportunity to model good handwriting in line with whatever policy is in place at your school. When it comes to titles or signs again a mixture of handwritten and typed work well. Handwritten banners can be very effective, especially when working on historical themes. I have also found an image I like, such as a poppy field and used this to cut letters out from for a theme on World War One. I once used portraits by Hans Holbein for a theme on the Tudors. Luggage labels are great for labels or key vocabulary on displays, especially as these are now  available in a multitude of colours.

Borders, backing and laminating

I rarely use borders, I also rarely mount or back work. I certainly never double back; a waste of time and waste of paper!  At my school we have our own way of backing. We call it the ‘Medlock rip’. Torn edges can look very effective when done carefully, particularly with a historical theme.  When it comes to laminating I will laminate the things I will use again, pictures, vocab, titles etc. English and Maths resources are usually laminated but for theme displays I don’t bother, it saves time and with laminated work you can get a glare so the children can’t see what’s on it anyway.

Like I said earlier I am not suggesting this is how you should set up your classrooms this September but I hope it’s given you some food for thought. Maybe there’s  something you might take away and try.

  

Getting to know you…through art

Well the time has come, the walrus said…Seriously though, the time has come again where teachers  like myself across the land are preparing to climb out of holiday mode, some more willing than others, and venture forth into school to get ourselves ready for the bright young minds that will come through our door in September.

It is these first few weeks where you begin to learn what makes them tick, what motivates them and gets them all fired up raring to go. It is also a time where you establish your expectations, your routines and your boundaries all in the name of creating a happy, productive learning environment.

This is where art comes in! It is a great way of working with children creatively and finding out about them. It gives them opportunities to work collaboratively and independently, to problem solve, to evaluate and analyse. It also gives them opportunity to dig deeply and express themselves allowing you to gain a greater understanding of each individual child. It also gives you the opportunity to establish routines for tidying up, behaviour etc.  ‘Yes but how?’ I hear you ask…

Well here is how…

1.Bunting

Each child in the class can make a flag (size variable and this actually could be extended to them making a series of flags). The children are to collage the flags using words, images and drawings that are linked to them and their personal experiences. These images could be found during an ICT session, text might be typed during this time too. They might even want to collage photocopies -examples of work they are proud of or objects they have brought in from home. The children might add information about their families, draw pictures, patterns, symbols,  add colour washes or layer tissue paper onto the flags.

  1. Timelines/ life maps

I have done this recently with my year 5’s. We looked at journeys we have been on and thought about our life as a journey to create maps or timelines. When you think of these more as maps rather than timelines you open up a greater range of possibilities. These might be done on a spiral, like a tube map with different branches for different events and the stations marking feelings or people that were there. These could also be done like a mind map. The key with this is for the children to explore with different types of line or mark. They can create different lines and symbols to represent the events and the emotions they felt. For example a dotted line might represent a nervous time or a zigzag might be a time where they felt frustrated etc. Colour can be added to these also.

  1. The colour of emotion

Transition can be a difficult time for many reasons. Also our children have many things that go on in their lives external to what happens within the safety of the classroom. It is important therefore that children understand their emotions and are able to talk about them. This is a simple activity that I have found very successful. Create a list of emotions as a group and ask the children if happy was a colour would it be? Not everyone will have the same answer – good! On paper or in sketchbooks if you have them (children could always make transition sketchbooks) the children are to use the primary colours along with black and white to mix colours to match different emotions. The range in this is amazing. It is lovely to see personal responses; also everyone is right!

  1. Selfies

In the age of the selfie the children could take selfies showing different facial expressions which match parts of their personality. They might pull funny faces, smile or look sad. These can range from between 4 pictures to as many as 20. These look great when they are all printed together on one page like a photographer’s contact sheet. They are also great fun to do! You could print some of these individually for the children to work into adding explanations or symbols to the images.

  1. Make it large

This is a collaborative session and is a great opportunity for the children to get to know each other, work together and for you to see who clicks and who doesn’t! This needs large paper, very large paper. This can be large brown kraft paper ( found in YPO) or smaller sheets of paper that have been joined together. The children are to lie down on the paper and a friend is to draw around them. Working in groups of 3 works well for this as they have to aim to get three figures on the paper. The children are to then fill in their own figure with things about them; collage, text, photos, paint, graphite, tissue paper, black marks  etc. The figure must be filled totally though for this to be most effective.

So there are a few ideas of how. Go on….have a go!

What can you do with a painting?

Recently I have been involved in weekly discussion on Twitter called #PaintingsTalk. It is still in its infancy but steadily growing each week with a wide range of paintings selected for discussion. The amazing thing for me about this has been that in the few weeks that it has been running I have already learnt so much. I have questioned, analysed, debated, commented and even discovered. It has been a great experience and I am so pleased to be involved with it. This has lead me to think more about what paintings and art in general can offer in our classrooms. So here are a few ideas of things you can do with a painting in your classroom.

  1. Cut it up

Choose a painting (go for something that has things going on in the background) and cut it up. Give each child a section of the painting and go! The possibilities here are endless. What can they see? What questions do they have? What do they think it’s a painting of and why? What information does it tell them? Draw the rest of the image etc. This is a great starting point for a theme as it presents the children with questions rather than answers. It sets the tone for discovery. You might reveal different parts of the image over time and build it up like a jigsaw. This works well if you give groups different paintings all linked to a similar theme.

  1. Use it to learn about the past

So many pieces of work tell us about life in the past. Greek pottery tell us about the Olympics and myths that were told. Paintings by Paul Nash tell us about the horrors of World War One. Drawings by Henry Moore tell us about life in London during the Blitz. Paintings by Hans Holbein show us the faces of prominent Tudor figures. Drawings and paintings by Ford Maddox Brown give us an insight in to life during the Victorian times. Arts and crafts by artists such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh and William Morris give us a taste of fashions of the time in the home.

  1. Read all about it!

This might sound strange. Read a picture? But yes! What does it tell you? What is in that picture and what can you infer from it? Paintings are great for inference. Also what themes are in the painting, how do you know?  They are a way of developing key skills with children without giving them a load of text. I have developed a range of activities in my school around this and they are used in guided reading sessions.

  1. Developing literacy

I won’t go on too much about this as I have written 2 posts about this previously. Using paintings to develop literacy 1/2. Lots of opportunities for writing though.

  1. Turn up the volume!

Paintings offer a wealth of opportunities for drama and music. Children can recreate the sounds they would hear in the painting. Again this would support work in literacy as it would give the children opportunities for speaking and listening which can eventually lead to writing. It would also develop historical understanding as the children would need to think about sounds from different settings in the past. Role on the wall would also be a great extension activity here.

  1. Let’s get messy!

Finally paintings can be used to allow the children to explore colour mixing and mark making. They can be an opportunity for the children to explore how other artists have created different patterns and textures. The way that they have created a sense of light. The way they have created movement or drama. Artists draw upon the work of others to influence them, whether it’s to steer them in new directions or take techniques and replicate them. Asking children to reproduce their own version in a given material teaches them very little. However you could give them a painting and ask them to create a section of it in a different medium such as collage, mixed media or textiles. This teaches different skills and presents problems that the children would need to solve.

There is a wealth of drawings and paintings available to us as teachers that we can use in our teaching. Pinterest is a great way to start building up banks of images linked to particular themes. Paintings offer opportunities for us to equip the children we teach with a vast array of tools and skills that they need. So let’s get visual and #PaintingsTalk!

#PaintingsTalk The Tragedy by Pablo Picasso

This week it’s my turn to choose the painting for discussion for Tuesday’s #PaintingsTalk. I will be honest, this has been a difficult task for a number of reasons. Mostly that there are so many paintings that intrigue and beguile me. I have gone around in circles questioning my choices, wondering if others will be as invested in discussing the painting I choose as I am. Works by Frida Kahlo, Edvard Munch and the Pre-Raphaelites have all been hot contenders. However I have made my decision.

The painting I have chosen is by Pablo Picasso. I will be honest, I am not particularly a Picasso fan: I was once followed around the Picasso Museum in Paris by my art college lecturer who was baffled by my dislike for his work and made it his mission to prove to me that Picasso was a ‘genius’. To a degree I see his point more now I am no longer a cocky teenager. The only Picasso paintings I have ever been particularly drawn to have been the ones he created during his blue period.
I have chosen the painting The Tragedy painted in 1903.

the-tragedy-1903

I have many questions about this painting which is why it draws me so much. I think that great art often leaves you with more questions than answers. Here are some of mine:

What is the tragedy that has befallen this family?
Has this tragedy effected the whole family or just one member?
The woman appears to be holding a baby we cannot see. Is she? Is this the tragedy for the small boy?
Why do they appear to be on the beach?
I look forward to exploring some more questions on Tuesday.

Possibilities for using it in the classroom.
I have used this painting with children before. It is excellent for developing inference. For example they are wearing no shoes therefore…The painting has been created using one predominant colour – what does this suggest?

I also think this painting is excellent for opportunities in drama; bring the painting to life. What is the dialogue between these people? This can then be extended to role on the wall. Do we always say what we think? If there has indeed been some terrible tragedy would the man in the painting voice his fears or keep them quiet to ease and comfort his wife and child?

Often I give children a painting to explore and discuss without giving them the title. The children then, at the end give the painting a title. I think that this painting offers the potential for some very powerful responses.

Useful links
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picasso%27s_Blue_Period
http://www.nga.gov/feature/picasso/
http://www.theartistpablopicasso.com/pablo-picasso-painting-tragedy.htm

https://primarycoloursart.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/using-paintings-to-support-literacy-1/

Myths and Truths about Art

I recently read ‘Oops! Helping children learn accidentally’ by Hywel Roberts. A great book and it affirmed my belief in a holistic approach to education. In the book he suggests writing a list of myths and truths about your particular subject. I thought it was the perfect opportunity and sounded very much like a blog post. So here it is – myths and truths about art.

  1. Myth – You need to be good at art to teach it!

Truth – Art is a way of responding to the world in the way that you see it. How you represent it is how you see it. Like any other subject children will not develop any skill in art unless they experience it and have opportunity to develop their skills. They are not needing you to create a masterpiece that Da Vinci would be in awe of. They want meaningful opportunities to play and experiment with a range of materials. If you feel you are not ‘skilled’ in art this can be an exploration and learning experience for both teacher and class.

  1. Myth – Art isn’t important.

Truth – Sadly the government are doing nothing but perpetuate this myth. Art is a ‘non academic subject’; therefore it’s not important. Schools do not  tend to put art down on their SEF form following the end of key stage results, nor do they use Pupil Tracker to monitor progress in the subject. Art can be used though as a tool. As I have said in my previous blogs, art is a pedagogy and can be used to enhance learning. It can be used as a stimulus for writing, developing inference in reading, a way of learning about other cultures, developing empathy, learning about the past etc. Most importantly it’s an opportunity for the children to express their feelings, their personal responses to the world around them. It allows them to develop their ability to analyse, question and evaluate. It also teaches them to be resilient and to solve problems. Surely this makes art invaluable? I was recently sent a link to an article in the New York Times that talked about art being a key source for the very definition of life. Profound stuff indeed!

  1. Myth – Art makes a mess.

Truth – This one isn’t really a myth in the true sense of the word. Yes, art does make a mess depending on what you do. Paint, clay, collage etc can all turn a classroom into a battlefield of paint splashes, spilt water, lost glue lids and paper that hamsters could use as bedding littered across the floor. I teach art in every classroom in the school; during the lesson the classroom looks like a creative, productive and happy classroom. When I leave that room you would have no idea that half an hour before we had the paint etc out. It is all about having systems in place. Clear organisation for materials that both support the children, the classroom and also the art coordinator who constantly needs to buy more tissue paper or red paint because it’s been wasted. As I am writing this now I can sense another blog post coming on so I won’t go on about this for much longer. I will say though that children need to make mess. They need to get messy. They also need to learn how to tidy up after themselves.  If we deny them opportunity to do this by giving them nothing more than a pencil and some pencil crayons we deny them a life skill.

  1. Myth – Art is about drawing pretty pictures

Truth – Yes we all hope something aesthetically pleasing is produced during an art lesson, but not always. Art is about experimenting with a range of materials. As I have said previously, it is about expressing yourself. Art is about learning about places, people and events. It’s about opening up the mind to see that art can offer more than an opportunity to fill that display board in the corridor.

  1. Myth – Art should only be accessed during special ‘art’ weeks.

Truth – I think you already know my response to this. I believe in a holistic approach to education. All subjects, where possible (I know there are exceptions) can be linked together to create a meaningful, engaging curriculum. Using art can enhance and add a different dimension to what is being taught. For example: for a theme on World War One you would look at photographs, artefacts, read accounts, read newspapers, poetry by Wilfred Owen etc. Why not include paintings by World War One painters? These are soldiers responses to conflict. Some soldiers wrote letters, diaries, poetry, others painted. It gives a more rounded view of the war.

These are a few of the myths I came up with. Things that I have heard or seen over the years. If you can think of any others please let me know, I would love the opportunity to try to dispel any. After all art is power!

An ode to Bob and Roberta Smith

Last night @primaryrocks featured a question about art. The response was fantastic! It showed the value many teachers hold for the arts within their classrooms. It was during this that I yet again shared my mantra ‘children need to express themselves using more than a pencil and lined paper’. They need to paint, to draw and to sculpt. They need to make ‘mess’ and explore the opportunities and wonders that art materials can hold.

This led me to the work of Bob and Roberta Smith, his slogan and the messages they give. He says that ‘Art makes children powerful’, I agree. It does, not just children, it makes adults powerful too. But how? Why? This was something that I decided to explore with the children today. What is art to them? What does it mean and what does it give them?

Some of their responses were fairly standard  ‘Art its amazing’, ‘Art is  really fun’,’Art is creative’, ‘Art is wonderful’, ‘Art is a talent’. All of these are perfectly valid responses. Art is all of these things. It can encompass so much of our being though and some children saw this and started to dig a little deeper. These are their responses:

‘Art is an opportunity to find your inner self’

‘Art is life’

‘Art is wonder’

‘Art is a thinking tool’

‘Art is an experience’

‘Art is time for imagination’

‘Art is a way to express my feelings’

‘Art is fragile’

‘Art is a belief’

‘Art is a way of making your dreams come true’

‘Art gives us opportunity to dream the impossible.’

If art is all of these things why then does Nicky Morgan continue to be blind to the vital role that the arts  play in the education and development of young people? This is a question I know many teachers are still waiting for an answer to

Through the arts the children I have worked with have grown in confidence and achieved things they didn’t think were possible. My last words for this post are not going to come from me. They are going to come from an articulate, talented year 5 child.

‘Art is an undiscovered adventure’.