Tuesday, 21 January 2014

A First Story Visitor

I love being able to show off the First Story students at Oxford Spires Academy, so when Nikki came to visit, I was very excited!

Nikki is the Project Officer at First Story and often liaises with me about events, competitions and general administration. Today, she came to observe our after school class, as the First Story superstars at HQ occasionally like to do.

I took Nikki on a little tour of our school first, showing her the contrast between the old administration block that has historically been part of the school since it was a boys' school back in the 1950s, through to the brand new Rubens Business Centre, which only opened last term. The Library, where we host our First Story classes, is in the old build. It is a large room with high ceilings and a stage, because it used to be the school hall. Now, it's walls are lined with books and there is a large central table where our creative writing club meets.

Continuing to focus on the details in our poetry, Kate had us take a look at a poem called I Come From by Robert Seatter. It explored sights and sounds and tastes, funny family traits and school day memories. We also looked at a beautiful poem of the same name by our very own Azfa, in which she talks about her childhood in Glasgow.

Some of the students immediately responded to the poem, getting excited by the structure and rhythm, so Kate started us writing lists of three. She encouraged us to think about a space from our past - a bedroom or classroom - and to draw out the senses experienced in that room: what could we see; what could we smell; what could we hear? Immediately, the students started to recall memories, thinking about friendships, adventures and stories they'd heard a thousand times.

Poetry can be very personal, but I was proud that the students in our group were confident to read in front of Nikki. Somehow, in just a few minutes of writing, these teenagers had completely engaged with the structure and meaning of I Come From, and they ran with it. The rhythm was natural - Kate barely needed to guide any of them in editing - though some struggled with an appropriate ending. At this point in the year, when students have a good understanding of the expectations and have explored a variety of poetic forms, it is amazing how quickly and independently they can produce beautiful work.

Nikki said she was blown away by how easily the students understood the task, and was impressed by the outstanding writing they all produced so quickly. She was in awe and would like to come every week!

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