Clear thinking

10th March 2006 at 00:00
Two excellent books offer definitive ideas about the creative dimension and how teachers can promote it, says Huw Thomas

It's difficult to oppose creativity in education but, having said that, we need to clarify where the creative path will take us. Anthony Wilson's Creativity in Primary Education provides a good starting point.

Taking a top-down approach, he opens this edited volume with an encouraging view of the way various Government strategies have positively promoted the creative dimension.

The book adopts a healthy stance towards national initiatives, such as Excellence and Enjoyment and the various strategies, acknowledging their strengths while also suggesting ways in which these starting points can now be extended to further the creative dimension of the subject they promote.

So, for example, Wilson acknowledges the positive contribution made by the literacy strategy to the range of poetry taught in schools, but then challenges us as to whether we are becoming very form-driven in our poetry teaching. "What matters to you more: that, say, the haikus your class writes all have the required number of syllables... or that they encapsulate and provoke a moment of reflection?"

Although it covers core and foundation subjects, this volume is literacy-heavy. However, the literacy techniques involved lend themselves to the creative application of language across the curriculum.

The chapters on creativity in PE and music are also worth highlighting, as both provide an interesting slant on subjects where creativity may be taken for granted. Sue Chedzoy's ideas on creativity in swimming are examples of the way these authors use their thorough knowledge of the subject to open new avenues for the rest of us.

The volume promotes itself as being for trainee teachers and I would echo its usefulness for this audience, but it also has a wider relevance for anyone involved in whole-school development who particularly wants to explore a creative dimension.

Andrew Lambirth's Planning Creative Literacy Lessons finds an array of interesting creative paths within its one-subject focus. Lambirth suggests that creativity is a process in education and, as a result, risks being swept aside if teaching becomes too driven by the end product.

The contributors are fully engaged with the process. Each chapter provides a unit of work, many of them using texts that are not massively well covered in other resources. Here, for example, is an excellent guide to creative work on playscripts or science fiction. Each unit follows a pattern of immersing children in rich, creative encounters with the type of text being tackled through reading, drama and discussion.

Theresa Grainger's exploration of the short story involves a weekly outline of guidance that is teacher-friendly and inspirational.

The authors then move the class towards written work, having enthused teacher and children for the task.

While every chapter is worth reading, I want to point out three: the fun of approaching the Greek myths through the making of a popular magazine; the case made for using picture books to develop multimodal writers ready for a visual age at key stage 2; and Yvonne Stewart's chapter on working with novels.

The last example should be mentioned not only for the quality of its ideas, but for the way Stewart avoids the pitfall so many writers fall into of quoting children's literature only from the 1980s or earlier. She promotes the use of Louis Sachar's Holes, Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife and other novels currently popular with children.

Both books make inspiring reading and give a clearer definition of the world of creativity, while also offering coherent maps to navigate it.

Huw Thomas is headteacher of Emmaus Primary School, Sheffield

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