A new use for those literacy hour files

25th February 2005 at 00:00
I teach in a classroom that is on the edge of being condemned. There isn't any money to replace it right now. Parents and friends of the school bought it, second-hand, 10 years ago because there was no money then either.

I'm not ungrateful; it's light and bright, and the view is outstanding.

Instead of staring at the whiteboard, or even me, my class can gaze at the meadows, which stretch from just beneath our windows, across the stream, and up to the woods. There are deer to be spotted and pheasants that jump on to the boundary wall to stare through the window at the spellings on the board. Foxes doze under the hedge in spring sunshine, squirrels forage for nuts from the walnut tree in autumn. Pure poetry, an absolute rural idyll.

I would rather be there, any day, than in a hot stuffy classroom surrounded by high playground walls.

The walls, however, shake and shudder in south-westerly gales, and indeed those of us who teach in such classrooms have been asked by the LEA to listen daily to weather forecasts, so that we may be ready to evacuate our pupils. For example, during blizzards, we should listen for unusual creaking sounds in the roof. We have not, however, been advised to make full use of these experiences in our literacy hours, and that seems to be an omission.

Those tremendous creakings on the roof could be that giant again, resting his weary limbs after a morning's snowballing.

"O look, children! There is his boot outside the window. It is as tall as the Eiffel Tower (similes)! So immense (vocabulary) that our whole class could take shelter therein (archaic language) should the need arise. Thik (local dialect) ginat (common dyslexic spelling), pressing his face against our window, (subordinate clause) is hungry. Furthermore (connective), an infant can be seen clutched in his hairy hand (alliteration and passive voice(. In his other hand can be seen his new toothbrush, an uprooted lime tree (imagination, pure and simple)."

I really don't believe we should evacuate because of a few creakings and groanings, but then I don't believe we should do the literacy hour either.

The wise solution would be to shore up the collapsing classroom with thousands of expensively produced, glossy pages from the literacy hour folders. We could layer them thickly on the uninsulated floor and wedge them into gaps in the windows. They are of such quality, they will do the job splendidly, and at last be worth the money that has been squandered on them.

And of course we will be able to write marvellous stories. We won't be cold or damp, or tired from listening to the early weather forecasts. The files will be otherwise gainfully employed, so we won't feel obliged to refer to them. And best of all, no one will say, "Do we have to do the literacy hour? It's boring, innit!" (Contraction, informal language.) Jacqueline King is deputy headteacher at Charlton Mackrell CE primary school, Somerset

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