Pulling strings

11th April 2008 at 01:00
Puppets and poetry are putting fun back into the curriculum, says Laura Frascona

Cross curricular

Despite the Government's enthusiasm for making learning an enjoyable experience, many teachers still feel driven to meet targets at the expense of fun. But not the teachers at Kobi Nazrul Primary School in Whitechapel, east London, where they have combined puppetry and poetry in an attempt to break away from the routine curriculum.

The pupils, who are mostly of Bengali descent, were taken off timetable for a week to explore ideas of inter-culturalism. The project, which was part of a broader emphasis on pupils accessing the curriculum through art and design, music, dance, ceramics and other forms of creative expression, culminated in two performances at a local theatre.

David Pyle, acting deputy headteacher, says that the school wanted to create a more holistic approach to learning. "Sometimes it is necessary to take risks in education to achieve successful outcomes," he says.

The project began with Rosie Harris, a performance poet, giving a training session to staff on teaching poetry. She talked about creative warm-up games for the children, to get them in a more imaginative frame of mind.

Each class wrote a poem based on the themes of harmony and disharmony, after discussing these issues in the context of racial and cultural differences.

The poem from the Year 5 group, "Friends Forever", focused on the idea that they will have friendships in life as long as they are respectful to each other.

Appropriately, these are the sort of themes central to the work of Kazi Nazrul Islam, Bangladesh's national poet, after whom the school is named.

The children worked in close collaboration with The Little Angel Theatre in Islington, north London, as well as parents, staff and governors, to prepare performances of their work. They made their own puppets, sets and props to visually represent their poems, as well as designing posters to promote the show, which was eventually performed in front of two large audiences.

The school believes that placing a strong emphasis on the creative arts broadens the children's educational experience and encourages them to enjoy their learning, while also getting them to achieve key literacy, numeracy and other curricular targets. Another goal is to encourage children to be lifelong learners by introducing them to creative arts in the school environment.

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