FP: The Snow Leopard

Year 2 learners at Glasllwch Primary School & Claire Turner (dance mentor)

Overview

The project aimed to develop literacy skills through creative movement and was developed through the PE and School Sport programme (PESS), now the Physical Literacy Programme for Schools. It was planned and delivered over a period of six weeks, i.e. half a term.

After the preliminary meeting, sessions were planned with the teaching groups involved. Schools were asked to provide at least half an hour meeting time between teachers and mentor after each session. Through weekly meetings, the teachers were able to discuss observations about the children and make meaningful connections to classroom learning, supporting and developing future work.

Background

Glasllwch Primary School in Newport was identified for PESS input to support the PESS schemes Dragon Multi-Skills & Creative Movement, and to create the opportunity to embed Dance into the curriculum. PESS uses established training programmes and resources, followed up with mentoring support for teachers in their own school, to develop teacher confidence and impact.

The school was offered a project for two teachers, to ensure they could share the work with their colleagues.

The PESS mentor, Claire Turner, visited the Year 2 and Year 5 teachers to discuss and plan. This preliminary meeting included a discussion about their level of confidence in delivering creative dance / movement activities, what they felt motivated their pupils and links with other areas of the curriculum.

 

Planning

Literacy was identified as a priority throughout the school and the Year 2 class were about to start looking at the story ‘The Snow Leopard’ by Jackie Morris. The class would be approaching the story using the Pie Corbett methodology of storytelling, designed to enhance literacy skills. Children explore stories in a multi-sensory manner and use actions to help develop their storytelling. This provided a clear connection and an ideal opportunity to use literacy and creative movement to enhance children’s learning.

The Year 2 class teacher provided information about the storytelling methodology and other ways in which the class would be exploring The Snow Leopard across the curriculum. The dance mentor, shared information on the format of the movement sessions including a ‘best practice’ planning tool and creative movement ‘skills progression maps’ so that the teacher was well informed of sessions to come.

Storytelling

Through Pie Corbett’s storytelling methodology, the learners internalise:

  • “‘big’ patterns that are revisited, such as ‘quest’ or ‘journey’ stories – in this way basic plots can act as blueprints for the imagination.
  • the building blocks of narrative – common characters, settings, events, the rise and fall of narrative patterning.
  • the flow of sentences, the syntactical patterns.
  • the vocabulary – especially, connectives that link and structure narrative such as: once upon a time, one day, so, next, but, finally….”  (from ‘Storytelling’ by Pie Corbett)

The pupils’ storytelling experiences informed the weekly movement sessions. For example, children used descriptive language to explore the story environment in the classroom and then linked this with movement language in the creative movement sessions.

The Snow Leopard

The Snow Leopard

Preparation

The dance mentor researched the storytelling method to be used with the learners and devised creative activities around The Snow Leopard text. The creative movement sessions were devised in response to the children’s work as it developed in the weekly sessions. This was done in collaboration with the class teacher and linked the literacy, numeracy and creative movement skills appropriate for children in the Foundation Phase.

The teachers were given a detailed account of the aims for each session, the structure and method of delivery and resources used.

What happened?

The weekly sessions guided the children through exploring and creating movement material using The Snow Leopard as their stimulus.

what happened
what happened?

The children explored the narrative pattern and environments within the story through movement and later connected with storytelling methods to create, refine and perform their own sequence of movement telling their chosen part of the story.

Claire discussed with them whether their journey/story should have a set start and finishing place and then asked the children to split their journey into halves/quarters.

She also asked them to describe or repeat movements and do some basic timing and counting for movements and rhythms.

Using Pie Corbett’s ‘story-mapping’ method children created a visual map of their story, to help them cement their movement choices into a chain or sequence.

The sequences were videoed for the children to reflect on and evaluate, helping to develop peer and self-assessment. The children were encouraged to make evaluative statements about each other’s work using descriptive language to express what they had seen and experienced.

What happened?
Follow up

At the end of the project the teacher guided the children through their own re-telling of The Snow Leopard story through their creative writing.

Outcomes

The children grew in confidence and skill in creative movement. They worked effectively as individuals, pairs and small groups, were fully engaged in tasks and made choices about how and what they learned.

They responded to the creative stimulus The Snow Leopard and selected appropriate material to tell their creative movement story.

By exploring environments through creative movement the children were able to expand their descriptive language within their writing.

The children’s performance and evaluation skills improved through their experiences sharing work. Children were able to select, refine and perform their final structured sequences and use appropriate and dynamic language to illustrate what they had seen others do.

In the same way the children were developing skills in exploring and experimenting with language to effectively structure their own versions of The Snow Leopard story.

The Year 2 class teacher commented:

“The sessions completely focused on literacy, using a holistic approach to learning.”

 “The children’s peer and self-assessment skills greatly developed through the project”.

“The boys especially loved it!”

Evaluation

The teacher carried out an evaluation with the children following the project allowing them to express what they had learned and enjoyed.

The children commented:

“My favourite part was the rainforest. We have to act like we were actually in the rainforest. It was so much fun and I can’t wait to do it again.”

“My favourite bit was going across the squelchy mud.”

Evaluation

“My partner and I liked the hot lava and rainforest.”

“I enjoyed the actions in the jungle because there was loads of obstacles to dodge and loads of vines to swing on and loads of trees to climb.”

The teachers’ confidence, knowledge and experience increased as a result of the project and the school plans to embed the methodology beyond The Snow Leopard project.

Impact on the artist

Through a greater understanding and experience of the Pie Corbett approach, the dance mentor has been able to create other bespoke projects for Foundation Phase pupils in schools and created meaningful links with the national Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF).

Reflections

The literacy focus was important for the school and the project worked well to enhance learning in both creative movement and creative writing. This holistic approach fitted well with the school ethos and the expectations of the Foundation Phase.

The dialogue with teachers was essential to help develop their confidence in the planning and delivery of creative movement. By connecting the project so closely to literacy, which they were more confident in, the teachers were able to quickly reinforce effective strategies which crossed both areas of learning.

The lesson plans, movement skills progression maps and statements about children’s skills and progress, provided by the dance mentor, supported the teachers in developing links between creative movement and classroom learning.

Teachers participated in each practical movement session and were involved in detailed discussion each week. These conversations included observations about the children’s responses and progress (in creative movement and literacy).

Between the dance mentor’s visits the children had opportunities to develop their creative ideas to feed into the following week’s creative movement session. These included creating a page of movement words in response to a page in the text and drawing or painting a dance story map of where their sequence of movement would take them.

Each session was planned using a model structure advocated by PESS, focusing on movement skills appropriate to Foundation Phase.

A written record of each session, along with photographic and video evidence meant that the project was well documented for sharing with others in the school.

More Information

Talk for Writing is an approach that helps children to understand the whole creative process of writing and to begin to see themselves as writers. It does this by engaging children in ‘Writer Talk’ encouraging them to critique what they read and write as authors and audiences. By internalising phrases and patterns, children are more able to remember and use the language of a particular type of text. For more information about Pie Corbett’s approach to developing literacy skills through story, including examples of storytelling maps, www.talk4writing.co.uk/about/

The Snow Leopard author, Jackie Morris describe the inspiration for the book www.jackiemorris.co.uk/snowleopard.htm