Creativity for control freaks

15th April 2005 at 01:00
Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: In the club

A new summer term is here. For primary teachers, it brings a mixture of excitement and dread, hope and despair.

The summer term is the best of times and the worst of times in the classroom. Perhaps at the forefront of our minds are the impending statutory and not so optional end-of-year tests. Don't forget, though, that later on will come the sunny days that the approaching end of an academic year affords us. Just by nature of the season, everything will seem a little more relaxed and perhaps a little more fun. Risks that go wrong will bring smiles instead of hair pulling (your own, I hasten to add).

To capture that end of year feeling now and begin to enjoy it, do a crazy thing and start a club. You may think the last thing you need is more work, but it really can refresh your mood if you tackle it in a creatively control-freakish way. Here are tips for setting up clubs that will bring you as much pleasure as it does the children.

First, run the club for six weeks. If it's great, then you can run it again with a different group. It doesn't matter if it feels like you've only just got started. It's much better for pupils to be left begging for more, than trying to think of another week's worth of ideas for dwindling numbers.

Second, keep the duration short. Much better to be a bit rushed than having to supervise bored kids in dragged-out activities. Think of how long you need and then make the club 10 minutes shorter. Depending on your school day, lunchtime might be a better slot than after school.

Third, pick something wacky that you enjoy. It's only for six weeks, so it doesn't matter if you're not an expert. Juggling, fantasy football, German, Cluedo, Abba appreciation, Lego, art. You enjoy it? Then get some children along and watch them enjoy it too. The most fun I ever had was a rocket club, where we made things fly and explode and not always in that order.

Finally - and absolutely crucially - keep the group small and manageable by selecting those who can come. It might go against the grain, but it is OK.

Target your club at pupils you want to work with. It may be your own class, or a completely different year group.

Pick a small group, I suggest about 10, and make sure they will help you have fun. This has got nothing to do with ability. Remember, if you are not having a good time, neither will the pupils, so think about every returned slip and whether that pupil will make it pleasurable for others and for you. Don't feel bad about giving more of your out-of-hours self to pupils who give some return on your time investment.

Anyway, can't stop. I'm off to my "bring a cake" club

Peter Greaves teachers at Dovelands Primary School in Leicester


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