Strike up the band

29th August 2014 at 01:00

As September looms, I am plagued by a recurring nightmare: my students return to school even more obsessed with multicoloured bracelets than they were in July. They are captivated by them to the point where I am invisible. I confiscate them by the handful but more appear. My pockets overflow. My drawers refuse to close. My cupboard bursts open and millions cascade on to the floor.

I had hoped that the summer break would kill off the loom band fad, but their popularity is apparently increasing. Reports that David Beckham and the Duchess of Cambridge have been spotted wearing them don't help; the news that Harry Styles is a big fan is particularly worrying.

For the benefit of anyone who has been in a coma for several months, loom bands are tiny, rainbow-coloured rubber hoops that can be twisted together - with or without the aid of a specially designed loom - to make fashion accessories such as wristbands and necklaces. They can also be used to drive teachers insane.

Although loom bands boost creativity and promote pattern recognition in maths, their overall contribution to learning is not a positive one. They stimulate time-wasting behaviour in the book corner and seriously inhibit non-chronological report writing. At a more sinister level, they have the capacity to inspire acts of antisocial behaviour that include fights, theft and disputes over ownership.

Bans have proved ineffectual so far and it occurs to me now that what is needed is an alternative - something equally stimulating but less disruptive. I cast my mind back to the innocent pastimes of my youth but all I can remember is clackers.

For those not at school in the late 1960s, clackers were comprised of a pair of hard plastic balls on either end of a piece of string. The object was to hold the string in the middle and get the balls to clack against each other. This was achieved by a rapid up-and-down wrist motion; an action popular with adolescent boys.

My clackers were eventually confiscated by Mr Kettlewell after they accidentally dropped out of my pocket during a science lesson. "Any boy caught playing with his clackers in my class will have them permanently removed without the benefit of an anaesthetic," Mr Kettlewell solemnly announced.

Today I am preparing for the new academic year. This involves emptying my bag of last term's rubbish to make room for this term's rubbish. At the bottom I unearth a zip-lock bag containing several hundred brightly coloured loom bands, two plastic looms and instructions.

I leaf through the series of step-by-step illustrations of how to produce basic designs such as the single weave, the squared weave, the starburst and the railroad. I decide the fishtail pattern looks especially effective. Now, I wonder how easy it is to make.

Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield

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