Creativity for control freaks

11th February 2005 at 00:00
Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: Famous for three minutes

Lewis had been going on all day. "I've got a card trick," he told me as he came in. He also told me on the way out to play and the way in from play.

From the moment he told me, I wanted him to show me. I wanted him to show the whole class, but not just now, perhaps later. The trouble is, later can last all day.

"Show and tell" is a given at certain ages. We know how it develops self-esteem and promotes oral presentation. It encourages listening and questioning in the audience and affirms pupils' similarities and differences.

All true, but what about the fact that it is just plain cool for kids to talk about stuff that matters to them? It comes back to the reasons for my attempt to be creative. Who am I doing this for, me or them? As Lewis sat there shuffling his deck again, I looked around the room and wondered who else had something they would like to show me and the rest of the class. So I asked them.

I told them about Andy Warhol and that everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. I asked them if they would like to use up some of this "fame time" in the classroom. I explained that I would make available to them a three-minute slot. What they chose to do in that three minutes was up to them, but I would begin the stopwatch the moment they started and they would sit down exactly three minutes later. I put a list on the board and invited them to pick a slot. By the end of the day, we were booked up for the next term.

The class have been more creative for their three minutes than I ever imagined. There have been the usual kinds of collections of weird and wonderful treasures, each with a story attached. On top of this, though, there have been performances, double acts, musical instruments played, presentations on martial arts heroes, and film reviews. You may think the most satisfaction came from the quiet ones who found their voice. It didn't, it came in equal measure from every one of them that so clearly enjoyed taking centre stage. Lewis dazzled us all with his magic disappearing card trick. He managed to do it three times in the three minutes and with each one, the round of applause got a little bit louder.

What I don't think he knew is the real trick he had performed that day.

More than a rabbit out of a hat, he had managed to get time out of a control freak. Now that's magic.

Peter Greaves teaches at Dovelands Primary School in Leicester Email: primary@tes.co.uk

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