Back in time: what happened when a centurion put Year 6 on toilet duty

29th October 2004 at 01:00
It's literacy hour in Christine Kelly's Year 5 and 6 class at Rawdon Littlemoor primary in Leeds and the children settle down happily for a visualisation session. In their own minds the 10-year-olds sitting on the rug are now Roman soldiers who are preparing for a good night's sleep in their barracks.

They have their eyes shut tight as the teacher sets the scene. Someone is snoring "really, really, really loudly".

Who is it?

Look around and try to see in the dark.

Is it Marius? Is it Felix?

She tells them their story, how they head out to the toilet block and get into trouble with a centurion, who assigns them toilet duty.

Miss Kelly tells the children that they have decided to escape, to go to the town for some entertainment. She leads them on a bit further, and then they are on their own. They return to their desks, discuss ideas with their partners, and finish the tale in their exercise books.

One of the striking things about this lesson, in which Christine Kelly used the visualisation techniques she learned on the three-day Teaching Freedom course, is that it is just as much about revising history as about literacy. She is careful, for instance, to use the right historical vocabulary. The stories need careful preparation, says Miss Kelly, and at the beginning she wrote them out in full; now all she usually needs is a few bullet points. And, as it is her second year of using the method, she can use last year's stories as well.

James Dakin, who developed the system, says it is good for promoting social skills as well as subject learning. Last year, children in Miss Kelly's class started coming in with their own visualisation stories, which brought a new dimension to learning. The more relaxed people are, the more access they have to their talents, says Mr Dakin.

Meanwhile, the 10-year-old Roman soldiers have finished their stories. Some are quite sophisticated, involving journeys around the known Roman world.

There has been much bloodshed.

"Mine ends sadly," says Ben. "Gaius dies. He dies in battle. Someone puts a spear through his heart."

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