Dream way to better work

28th April 2006 at 01:00
Getting your pupils to write with the wrong hand and dream about imaginary places may not be a traditional teaching method. But English pupils in Cardiff are gaining inspiration for poetry by learning how to meditate.

Year 10 pupils at Cardiff high school are learning relaxation and mind-focusing skills under the guidance of head of English Jude Brigley, who believes that meditation can be a useful educational tool for creative subjects.

"Pupils are used to doing unusual things in my classes. But we have seen a real result from these techniques and some fantastic material," she said.

At the start of a lesson, pupils are asked to do warm-up exercises to loosen their minds and free up any tension, like writing with the wrong hand for several minutes.

"This can often stir up memories and get you in the mood for creative writing," said Ms Brigley, who is also researching the topic for a PhD.

"It's all about building up confidence and getting into the right frame of mind for writing. These techniques are also important life skills because if you're confident and calm, you can deal with any sort of challenge," she said.

Following a successful focus group with Y11 last year, in which 80 per cent of the class went on to do A-level English, similar exercises are being tried this year with Y10. Classes in the afternoon will often be asked to carry out a meditation exercise.

Pupils are asked to close their eyes and build a room in their minds in which they feel happy and confident, and where there is an object that symbolises success for them, such as a trophy.

"In that imaginary room, they feel good about themselves, confident and at ease. I tell them that they can access that place whenever they like," said Ms Brigley.

"Then I ask them to write down all their thoughts without stopping. It's amazing what comes out," she said.

Ms Brigley believes the techniques work so well they could be invaluable for pre-exam preparation, and should be part of the repertoire of all English teachers.

"In the past, education has devalued emotional intelligence and the intuitive mind. Now so much research has shown that the more relaxed you are, the more creative you can be," she said.

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