Jane Phillips talks to Kathryn Kohl about story-writing
Have you ever wondered where paper clips, rubber bands, and drawing pins disappear to? Let me tell you about Bada-badas, creatures who hide in desks, cupboards and drawers in classrooms and offices. They're made of paper and can fly, and they steal our school and office supplies. Well, one day a baby Bada-bada woke up early. Her mum and dad were snoring away in the paper cupboard. Baby was bored and fluttered quietly around the office. She was fascinated by the new aquarium filled with brightly coloured tropical fish.
This is how I introduce my favourite story-writing lesson for eight and nine-year-olds. I change the story each year, but the structure of the lesson has stayed the same since the early Eighties. It always works, and has generated classes of children who already know about Bada-badas through older siblings, word of mouth, or experience as captivated audiences in Year 1. They enter Year 4 anticipating writing their own Bada-bada stories, so I can see the rich effects of work shared between different age groups across the school.
The idea came from a BBC radio schools broadcast in the Seventies, but over the years I've refined it and made links with the English national curriculum (writing for a range of readers, including other children; using narrative and dialogue; and planning, drafting and presenting work). I do provide a structure: the stories develop from written plans, through drafts, to polished copy, and are then shared with classmates.
Meanwhile, children are busy making Bada-bada characters, which resemble playground "fortune-tellers" (see instructions). Bada-badas take on instant personalities as children add eyes and other features. Next come a variety of props, collected or made from paper and card, like food (they're partial to rubber-band spaghetti), toys, and dangers such as fans and Hoovers. Even maths comes into it as the children cut out squares to fold at right angles, and make Bada-badas a metre across or as tiny as their little fingernails. Some make Bada-badas that hide inside each other. The atmosphere becomes competitive in a friendly way - there's no stopping their imaginations!
Finally, children share their Bada-bada books with Year 1 children. The lesson teaches the Year 4s to write for a particular audience - five- to six-year olds - and gets them thinking about what is appropriate. Some get nervous, but even the shyest children are keen to share their stories. Working in pairs, one reading while the other operates the props, helps dispel fears. Emma (Year 4) says she "felt like a teacher". The Year 1 children are enthralled. You've instantly got them, because they love the little creatures. Kids today are still kids. This is puppetry, and despite all the sophisticated gadgetry available to them, it's a way to inspire them. At the end, the Year 4s help the Year ls to make their own Bada-badas to take home.
Eventually I have to confiscate Bada-badas that children keep making, but there's a real buzz in the classroom, a lovely co-operative atmosphere. As a Year 1 teacher says: "It's wonderful to see both the confidence of Year 4s I once taught and the excitement of the Year I children."
Jane Phillips is a Year 4 teacher at Hallam Primary School, Sheffield
HOW TO MAKE A BADA-BADA
You will need: * paper and pencils
* odds and ends for props
* an audience
Take a square piece of paper. Fold in half twice, corner to corner, creasing edges. Open, then fold and crease the four corners into the centre. Turn over and fold and crease the four new corners into the centre. Turn over and draw a face on one of the corners. Put a finger under the face and lift, pinching wings. Hold wings near face, push and pull to open and close mouth. Take care - they might nip you on the nose!