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Creativity for control freaks

Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: I'm forever blowing bubbles.

Whether we are being warmed by a gentle spring breeze or soaked by an April shower, it is likely that over the next few weeks all of us will find ourselves under the cloud of end of year assessment.

There are those who feel that creative types like us should be making a stand. Rather than taking part, we should be junk modelling with our pupils in the role-play corner. While this may grab me in spirit, the more realistic and practical position I have become comfortable with is to prepare pupils not just for the tests, but for the testing season. End of year assessment is likely to be an annual event for our pupils for anything up to the next 11 years. The whole feel of the season reminds me of revision leave, where recapping on knowledge was important, but so was unwinding and relaxing. These are habits that we need to teach and preserve for our young test-takers, so over the next few weeks I'll suggest different ways to create spaces in which the pupils can chill a bit. We all know that if they do, we do.

Bubbles were probably the first stress-buster I ever discovered. I was too young to know what stress was. I didn't know what "nervous breakdown" meant either, but I had been told my Grandma was having one. When I went to visit her once, I don't know why, I took a pot of bubbles with me. We took it in turns, watching each other's bubbles floating and landing. Our conversation followed the rise and fall of the bubbles as we talked, and our troubles, at least for a short time, seemed to be lessened with every pop.

In the many years since then, I have seen countless pairs of pupils sit opposite each other, taking it in turns to talk and blow bubbles.

Obviously, it's best outside on a sunny day, but bubbles can weave their magic indoors, too. Pupils appreciate and use the image of the bubble popping to take worries away from them. If we've been working through some practice questions, I tell them to let each pop take a wrong answer away.

Other times they want to blow a big bubble, thinking and talking about where it could carry them. Sometimes, I let a bunch of kids blow bubbles for no reason.

The best thing is when you have an odd number of pupils in your class. This means that when they are paired up, there will be one kid left. Make sure it's not the same one each time and then, whatever you do, don't give them a pot to themselves. Grab the pot, sit down with them and spend five minutes taking it in turns to talk and blow bubbles. By the time it's over, the cloud will have lifted and you will remember why you are a teacher again.

Peter Greaves teaches at Dovelands Primary School in Leicester Email: primary@tes.co.uk

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