Friday, 25 May 2012

Radiators and Monster Mashups

Click to enlarge
My late friend and colleague, Geoffrey Spaul told me one day about the planning approaches they used in his first post.
Long term: Car plans (on the way to work).
Medium term: Corridor Plans (on the way to teach)
Short term: Radiator lessons (planned while leaning against the radiator in front of the class).
It's almost impossible to get away with this on a regular basis these days of course.  But I've shared this formula with lots of teachers over the years and many of them agree that some of the best lessons they have ever taught are radiator lessons.  Why is this I wonder? I suspect there are characteristics of improvised lessons that make them memorable and attractive...
Now the lesson I'm posting about was really more of a corridor than a radiator lesson.  Half of our Year 6 were out today and I was teaching half a class for my M.A.D. lesson this morning.  I had intended to run the "Hands" session I blogged about recently, but when the class arrived I realised they had done this session last week. Serves me right for not reading my timetable revisions carefully enough.  I started out by asking if they had finished last week's work and they seemed pleased to be given the opportunity. But that still left an afternoon session.
Eating a sandwich in the sunshine, I decided it would be best to build on the skills they had just been acquiring in the design of their "Hand of Kindness" collages.  Collage is a great way to introduce the idea of layers in a graphics package. It is an exact digital analogue (if that's not a tautology) of the paper version - you can work on an individual image without affecting the rest of them and can rearrange and re-order them. The next step is to combine edited images to create a single new image: a montage, and hence the idea that came to me in the middle of my cheese-and-tomato for "Monster Mashup Montages".
We had a really good afternoon with Paint.NET creating monstrously conglomerate creatures. Paint.NET is a fine program: powerful enough to do some useful and interesting work but fairly simple and intuitive to use - and free.  There are a fair old number of additional effects and filters too available through the forums.
Just as Charlotte was waiting for her printout to arrive at the end of the afternoon, I collared her and asked her permission to use her montage on this blog. Happily, as you can see, she obliged.

As you inevitably spend time smelling the food you are preparing, your palate becomes jaded and the final meal never seems to taste quite as good as when someone else has has cooked it. I suspect this is the problem I often have with a meticulously planned lesson - I'm slightly bored by the time I come to teach the lesson because I feel as if I've already done it. The improvised lesson can often feel fresh and interesting and I'm sure this conveys itself to the way the lesson is presented. The risk that the lesson might not work, forces me to watch and listen even more carefully to ensure I forestall problems quickly. And because you have made no heavy time investment in the direction of the lesson, you are happier to follow and develop the students' ideas. The problem with true radiator lessons is, of course, how to ensure progression, but that's always a problem. Detailed planning can show progression but do they actually...really...truly ensure progression for the individual? Isn't true progress messier than even an infinitely detailed plan can hope to show?