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Ted's teaching tips

This wonderful mother and child photograph offers rich opportunities to the imagination and raises many questions about sleep, relationships and life in the wild. There is something universal about the picture that allows young and old to identify with it.


How many hours do you sleep each night? Do you get up promptly, or do you have to be dragged out of bed to go to school? Do you go to bed willingly, or are you driven upstairs, away from the television? Do you remember your dreams? What happens when we are asleep (we go through a series of phases of deep and shallow sleep)? What are REM periods (rapid eye movements, the times when we are dreaming, essential for proper rest)? Why is sleep necessary (for healthy recovery from stress, injury; people wakened during REM periods become bad-tempered, hence the problems for parents of babies being woken at random during deep sleep)? What are the common features of dreams (wish-fulfilment, such as being able to fly, getting something we want; wrestling with problems; anxiety, as in nightmares, being chased, teeth or hair falling out; frustration, inability to run away; social concerns, such as feeling a fool, being naked in public)?

Polar bears

What are polar bears and where do they live (member of the bear family, up to 2.5 metres tall - measure that out up the wall - feed on seals, live in the Arctic)? What other bears do you know (brown, including grizzly; black bear; spectacled bear, lives in Andes; sloth bear, India; smallest species is sun bear, Malaysia, about four feet tall)? What about pandas (related, but sometimes classed as raccoon family, or separately)?


What does this picture tell us about parent and child relationships (love and affection, warmth and physical proximity, protection, security)? What happens when it is time to leave, during adolescence (child wants to be grown-up, so lots of negotiation; arguments about going out, clothes, friends; parents may be reluctant to let go, feeling of emptiness, or even sense of uselessness, especially for mothers, when children have left home; relief all round)?


(a) Imagine you are the baby polar bear. Describe what you are dreaming about, what you will do when it's time to get up; (b) write a caption or funny speech bubbles ("I'm going on a diet - tomorrow", "We must get you a proper bed", "Do I have to go to school?").

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter Univ.


Do people spend too long sleeping nowadays?


We have become a lazy society, no longer needing to hunt for food or protect ourselves, so people sleep far more hours than are necessary. Too much sleep may even be harmful to health. When people cut their hours in bed they cope perfectly well and have more time to lead a fuller life.


Many people work long hours , so they are entitled to proper rest. Deep sleep is essential for recovery from stress, and without it we would become irritable. The need for sleep varies with age and situation, so we should be allowed to judge for ourselves how much we require, without being condemned.

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