Sock Monsters!

I don’t usually do children’s birthday parties as I teach regular classes every weekend, but as an exception I had the pleasure of doing one yesterday. We made sock monsters!

I have got a bit carried away myself making quite a few of these lovely puppets. They are so easy to make and really versatile for games and creative activities.

Puppets and role-play is also so helpful for story-building – a lot of potential here! 

Festive Fabric-painting!

 

I recently ran two workshops at Christmas Fairs (Hollymount School and Holy Trinity Church) hand-printing and painting on bags. Here are some of the beautiful results!

How I teach Creative Writing

A lot of my students initially tell me they are ‘bad at writing’ and ‘can’t do it’; ‘don’t know what to write’. They are also fed up with lists of things to include in creative writing: complex vocabulary; adverbials of time, place and manner; metaphors, similes, etc.

I use games, art, drama and music as a way in to writing. Kids’ eyes light up when they see paint or plasticine on the table in their writing lesson. Are these relevant to writing? Yes!

To start stories, you need creative magic. It can come from anywhere: from a place you visited; from a rock you like the feel of; from the smell of damp leaves; from your dream last night. Some students find it easily, but many, when confronted with a blank page, don’t.  

I help them find it and then channel it into their writing. We model plasticine characters and imagine what they are like – what do they want? What do they dream about? Do they like broccoli? We paint/collage settings and jump into them like in Mary Poppins. What can we see? What can we smell? Is it raining? Is the rain hot or cold? We laugh about things we imagine like rotten egg smells and dog poo, floating people and giant trees.

Once they have come up with a place and a character then their imaginations take them into the story. They get excited; ideas flow easily; they realise they are in control of the writing even though they don’t know how the story ends. This is the creative process!

And then they edit the story. We find any gaps in the plot; we discuss exciting similes and metaphors etc.; we question constantly in order to make the world of the story more real. But now they’re enthusiastic and involved; happy to do it. Because now they’re committed to their characters and to their ideas. It’s all from them; not from a list.

Some recent artwork from my classes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why painting is good for children

(as published in Families magazine September 2016)

Picasso said it took a lifetime to paint like a child. I think that if children paint regularly in a supportive environment, they will experience a joy and creative confidence that they won’t forget.

I find the painting process beautiful. I’m currently painting instinctive abstract paintings: I set up my my colours and wait for one to attract me, then when I am finished with it I wait for the next, and so on, until the painting feels finished. I express what I feel in that moment. There are of course moments of ‘it’s not working’, and when that happens I take a break, have a cup of tea, go back to it fresh. It teaches you to have the patience and confidence to explore creatively and that (for example, when everything falls into place seamlessly with minimal effort) you really can create your own joy.

I’ve always loved art but I didn’t pursue it at school. I have vague memories of painting fruit and making lots (and lots) of coil pots. I was quite good at copying, but it was tedious. Then, waiting for a job to start (in law), I did a painting course on a whim. The teacher said there were ‘no mistakes’ and just ‘follow your instinct’. It was magical: I had the freedom to create whatever I wanted, and someone who thought I was good at it standing there, cheering me on!

I want to show my students that they have absolute freedom to express themselves in paint/collage/pencil and to assure them that what they create will be beautiful and unique. I’ve seen in my art/creative writing lessons that this takes quite a lot of convincing; endless exams teach us that there is a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ and that we want to be right. But, when the message gets through, I’ve also seen that it does wonders for self-esteem and confidence, and brings so much joy. That’s why it’s important to start early!