Reading To Kill A Mockingbird as a teenager was a seminal moment and awakening for me as a young man. It was the book that helped bridge the gap between teen and adult fiction. I was still pulp reading the likes of James Herbert and Stephen King but discovering Harper Lee led me to discover new authors like John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, James Joyce and Alisdair Gray. The tension and segregation of the American south depicted in To Kill A Mockingbird was completely alien to…Continue Reading “To Kill A Mockingbird”

One of my ‘go to’ thinking skills and discussion tools is a PPSS grid. Puzzles, Patterns, Similarities and Surprises. It is adapted from ‘Tell Me’, the seminal book about reading and book talk written by Aidan Chambers. The original analysis grid has Likes, Dislikes, Puzzles and Patterns. I find it a simple yet powerful way in engaging the pupils in dialogue about books, short films, writing, self / peer assessment and why they pushed Jamie into the plant pot at lunchtime. Anything at all, really….Continue Reading “Tell Me Questions”

In the early 1950s, the artist Joan Eardley could be seen transporting her easels and paints around the Glasgow tenements in a pram. She painted and photographed the ragged children of Glasgow’s inner city slum housing. The artwork she produced is also ragged and childlike. Bold colours and brash strokes. She incorporates collage with newspaper scraps added like crude nursery school graffiti. Her subjects are innocent and bright eyed. Cheeky. Poor children painted with compassion. Her photographs share the same humanity. The post-war Glasgow was a city…Continue Reading “Children and Chalk Walls”

(Listen to this first: youtu.be/fOiuDAPHxCE) My teacher in p3 and p4 was called Mrs Dickson. She was very old and had been enticed back after retirement because they couldn’t fill the teaching slot in the village school. It was a composite class with 3 year groups in one and I remember lugging in to the stage above when they were being taught maths so I could attempt to answer all the tricky ‘sums’. Mrs Dickson was a keen gardener. We grew lettuces, radishes, carrots and spuds….Continue Reading “Gertcha!”

In Mark Cousin’s characteristically idiosyncratic documentary about children in cinema, he says that the best films with children are ‘not when the children on screen are spellbound by the film but when the film is spellbound by them’. It’s a fantastic documentary, culled from rare and popular children’s films that all share a unique ability to capture childhood emotion, honesty and innocence. And loneliness. Here is a list of 10 movies about children that leave me spellbound. 1. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) I was taken…Continue Reading “Spellbound”