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How animal magic aids learning

My school is part of Clifton Partnership Education in Cities Action Zone, which recently arranged a visit to see March of the Penguins as a visual literacy stimulus and a vehicle with which to promote cross-curricular work. As a school we already use this approach, and it related well to our latest topic of Cold.

The film is a documentary about the life cycle of emperor penguins. It explains how the penguins travel up to 100 miles to their breeding ground and how difficult it is for the egg and then the chick to survive. On a large screen, children were able to understand more clearly the reality of the harsh conditions in which the penguins live, as well as appreciate their spectacular movements, elements that can't be explained as well using books, photos and posters. For some of our children, it was their first visit to the cinema, and after their initial fascination with the flip-down seats, they were glued to the screen. The awe and wonder on their faces were clear for all to see.

The children came back to school enthusiastic and motivated to participate in a variety of activities. After a speaking and listening activity, they wrote film reviews to say what they had enjoyed most and least about the film, and why. We also created observational artwork in a range of media.

Some was done using the Dazzle software package, with its plethora of tools and techniques, to create an Antarctic backdrop. We then added penguins to backgrounds, creating scenes from the film. During dance sessions, we imitated the penguins' movements: waddling, huddling, sliding and exchanging the egg.

The children, supported by Debbie Billard, our education action zone literacy consultant, used Sue Palmer's Report Writing Skeleton to create spider diagrams about the penguins. They organised ideas and key words under headings which they selected themselves. For example: Appearance, Habitat, Food and Movement. We then used these skeletons to write non-fiction report booklets. Their booklets included contents and glossaries, along with information about the penguins.

The work resulting from this has shown the impact of using creative stimulus to inspire pupils.

Caroline Richardson

Year 2 teacherYear 1 co-ordinator

East Dene Junior and Infant School, Rotherham

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