A shiny start

Let it all hang out at registration says Margaret Sahin

Registration is now an important part of personal, social and health education for my class.

I invite the children to respond to their names by telling me how they feel. This gives them a chance to talk about what is worrying them or making them happy in a school day that allows little time for individuality. I can't recall which child first replied "bright and shiny", but it sets me up for the day when I hear it.

We build up to registration. Every child has a handwriting book with letter patterns, rhymes or poems to copy from a model I prepared. This buys 15 minutes calm and is a productive start. Classical music plays while I circulate, giving praise or making corrections. During this period pupils take it in turns (three at a time with a helper) to feed the school animals, which include chickens, and they love to look for eggs.

We start registration at 9.15. "Bright and shiny", "Strong as bones", "A bit sniffly" and "A bit sleepy" are common responses. Tim, the smallest child, often says "I'm a tiger" and growls, seizing a moment to feel powerful. I say I hope he won't be too fierce.

Richie comes in with a fierce, sulky face. He hasn't been allowed to bring his football. I sympathise and say it's probably safer at home. He can borrow a school ball at playtime. His face relaxes.

Marie replied "dead rabbits" for a week after her pets died and was offered sympathy by the rest of the class as part of their responses.

Each child's burning news of the day now has an outlet - after-school clubs, family birthdays, bereavements, visitors, wobbly teeth, late nights, excitements and disappointments. It reveals the mood in which each child has come to school and lets me know when to be tolerant of their preoccupations.

Margaret Sahin teaches at Bardwell special school, Oxfordshire

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