Global creativity for control freaks

16th September 2005 at 01:00
Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: Making it personal

I remember when I first had to teach the Victorians. I was tidying away a presentation on the theme "All about Me". I had brought in some photos of my family, among them my great grandad and great grandma, whom I knew well as a child. One of the photos showed me standing between them, and then it hit me. There I was, stood between two Victorians! After that, I had a real life context for my Victorians topic, and the personal connection became a regular point of reference, both for me and the pupils.

As I seek to introduce a global perspective into my classroom, I have been looking for a similar hook. What really inspires pupils is when they feel they have touched a different world. But you have to get them to that world first. I've found that initial interest can come by introducing them to others who have visited places for themselves.

It started as we looked at the world map that we had in our room and talked about some of the countries we knew. I said that my wife's grandpa had been born in China, while his parents were working there as doctors. As I was pointing at China, William told me his dad's family were from Italy. Pupils started to come in each day with new personal connections with the world map. I started to label the map with pins and string. Each string led to an explanation of why our class had a connection with that part of the world.

In time this led to setting a challenge for my class. How much of the world map could we cover with these pins? Could we get pins on every continent?

The result was that the world became the focus of pupils' conversations with each other, school staff and their family and friends. Everyone became desperate to try to place another piece in our puzzle. Pupils started to bring in photographs of places they'd been on holiday to prove their connection. They also started to talk about where they would like to go to get a new pin in the map. Hopefully, this will turn into a desire to research and learn about the world.

If you want to spread the message school-wide, how about setting up a world map in the staff room. As part of an in-service day, we designated a north, south, east and west orientation to our hall. We asked staff to imagine this was a world map, and then stand in the position of a country that was important to them. We found ourselves distributed fairly evenly across the world for all sorts of different reasons, from heritage to travel. It would be good to think that my pupils may one day be scattered across the world.

Hopefully, we will be able to tick off our final continent as one travels to Antarctica.

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

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