Monday, 12 November 2018

The War of Corbyn's Coat


If Corbyn’s coat is wrong,

the others’ coats must be right.

The dead cannot see coats.

Day cannot see night.



Hurrah for the warriors of the press!

We know what rocks their boat:

at the sight of a million dead,

they quibble over Corbyn’s coat.


Let us praise famous coats,

worn to mourn the dead of war;

worn by those who lead us

as their bombs slay even more.


It’s not his coat they hate.

That’s not really their cause

What gets up all their noses?

He opposes all their wars.


Let us imagine the day -

or it could perhaps be night.

The politicians start a war

and no one turns up to fight.

-----------------------------------


Maths:
 1 wrong Corbyn coat = bad man;
Therefore 1 good coat = good man.
Trump wears a good coat.
Therefore 
Trump = good man. 

Tomorrow’s lesson:  
SS Officers’ lovely leathers.


Thursday, 8 November 2018

Macron and the rehabilitation of Pétain, Vichy and my relatives



News is coming in of the French President's intention to rehabilitate Marshal Pétain, nominally for his World War One record but these things are symbolic. Pétain led the Vichy regime which collaborated with the Nazis in WW2. He and his regime helped the Nazis deport some 74,000 Jews to their death (as well as co-operating in the killing of some 2000 others in France). My father's uncles were deported to Auschwitz because of Vichy's collaboration which involved drawing up lists of Jews, creating a network of camps to incarcerate Jews, seizing their possessions, enforcing the wearing of the yellow star and putting up signs saying 'Enterprise Juive' (Jewish business).


As well as this collaboration with European genocide, Vichy arranged for the forced labour of 250,000 French workers to work in German factories and on German farms. It created the 'Milice' an armed militia which went to war against the French Resistance carrying out summary executions in fields, streets and houses.

To commemorate Pétain in any way is an outrage and an insult to hundreds of thousands of people.

On November 20, there will be the ceremony at the Memorial of the Shoah in Paris to commemorate the departure of Convoy 62 to Auschwitz from Paris on that date which was the train that took my father's uncle and aunt. I will be there with Emma-Louise Williams and it has suddenly become a highly political matter. I've been asked to say a few words at the ceremony and I'm wondering whether the Foundation which runs the Memorial have made some kind of public statement about Macron over this.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Here are 3 links to help you put in place Reading for Pleasure policies.

Link 1:

https://www.pearson.com/uk/educators/primary-educators/subjects/primary-english/tips-from-michael-rosen.html

Link 2:

https://www.teachers.org.uk/reading-for-pleasure

Link 3:

https://researchrichpedagogies.org/research/reading-for-pleasure

It's not about levels. It's about the drama of the book meeting the life-drama of the child



The other day I heard myself say to a teachers' meeting that rather than worry about a child's 'level' or supposed 'lack' of knowledge, think of how a book or poem might relate to that child's psychodrama. Pompous I know. But I kinda believe that.

What I meant is that every one of us, no matter our background, no matter what 'level' we have been put on, lives a life that is in its own way a drama. Books and poems and plays are dramas. When we read or view the two dramas (our own and the one in the book or poem or drama) intermingle. We relate them. This applies whether we have read 100s of books and have education pouring out of our ears, or if we are 6 years old and been designated special needs or whatever. We all have that drama of how we relate to the world and to other people. This is what we bring to books, plays and poems.

As authors or teachers it's our job, then, to think of the psychodramas - in the child/children and in the books, plays and poems and figure out how these intermingle and inter-relate.

That's what I meant when I heard myself say that.

More thoughts on reading for pleasure

Reading for Pleasure for all cannot be achieved by one agency alone: not schools alone, not libraries alone, not voluntary organisations alone. It has to be a many-headed Policy from all these.

Every voluntary initiative about reading for Pleasure is welcome. But it’s not enough to reach all. It needs to be a cultural in-school and out-of-school Policy.

I

Haven’t

Ever

Said

That

One

Thing

Only

Solves

The

Problem

Of

How

We

Can

Enable

Reading

For

Pleasure

For

All.

And

I

Don’t

Blame

Parents.

It

Gets

Us

Nowhere.


Btw I’ve sat face to face on different occasions with four Education ministers: Balls, Knights, Coaker, Gibb plus Culture Minister Hodge trying to convince them that Reading for Pleasure needs to be ‘Policy’ and I’ve totally failed to convince them.

The problem is that ‘reading books for Pleasure in your spare time’ was never made part of ‘education’ so no one makes it ‘policy’. But every research on it shows that education is enabled by RfP in spare time! It needs to be policy so ALL can benefit.

I notice on the comments thread after my article about reading for pleasure in the Guardian how soon it attracts the ‘blame parents’ lobby. Do they think the state shouldn’t do education? The RfP argument is that RfP should be part of education! Not a voluntary annexe to it.


It.

Can’t.

All.

Be.

Done.

With.

Voluntary.

Projects.


It’s not a matter of implementing one thing. It’s about a cultural policy

Teacher librarians, librarians, children's librarians, school librarians, the school library service, the YLG, the SLA, librarians, librarians, librarians. This should be the backbone of in-school and out-of-school education.


What we read and how we read as children is not trivial or 'childish'. It's these books that contribute to our patterns of thinking, dreaming, hoping, fearing, yearning for...and of course our patterns of reading and understanding the printed word for the rest of our lives.


Meaning is also conveyed through ‘prosody’ - the rhythms, sound-patterns, repetitions, variationsbin the musicality of a Text. Dickens uses this a lot when distinguishing between the discursive ironic narration and the poetic descriptive one.


Parents who share picture hundreds of picture books with their under-5s enable their children to make cognitive leaps through trying to interpret the logic and meanings suggested by the unstated differences between the pictures and the text.


Reading for Pleasure works because books work. Books work because they invite interpretation = the play of speculation, reflection, prediction, affirmation, surprise, deduction, analysis, wonder, empathy, fear, hope, horror, sensuality, conceptual thinking, memory...and more.

The big irony of recent educational change is that parents who, at home, can use 'progressive' non-cramming educational methods of: cooperation, invention, discussion, children doing planning, investigation,discovery, interpretation bestow huge advantages on their children!


It’s not simply a matter of ‘teaching children to read and write’. There is the question of who owns literacy. Who leaves school thinking that they own literacy, that writing is something that they own and control and use in many different ways according to their needs? How can we help children own literacy? Publishing and performing, whole school texts, suspending the curriculum, open interpretation using questions like 'what in this text reminds you of something that has happened to you or that you have read or heard?' 'what questions would you like to ask anyone in the book? Or the author?'


The best help you can give for writing (schools or wherever): imitation, invention, investigation, interpretation and audience. Ie saying ‘we can write like that, make stuff up, wonder why, discuss and share.’


The danger [irony alert!] of silent reading is that it doesn't provide instant data, it provokes thought and interpretation and when it provokes talk, this quickly leads to higher order thinking, independent of direct instruction.


It needs to be 'policy' because we want it to be 'reading for pleasure FOR ALL. Like health used to be done by charities but it meant not everyone got it. Reading for pleasure should simply be part of education ie what we all do.


My point in the article about Reading for Pleasure is one of policy. Given that it's now been shown that RfP has huge benefits for those in education, I'm asking why not bring people together (another point of the article) to work out how to make RfP part of education?

But when I say 'education' - I don't only mean 'schools' - I mean in-school and - just as importantly out-of-school. This needs to bring together the kind of thinking that goes on inside the voluntary bodies with those in education.


The comments thread following my article in today's Guardian about 'Reading for Pleasure' is full of parent-blaming stuff, which in effect says, 'Well, there's nothing you can do and there's no point in doing it.' Why do people do that?


Reading works to enable us to think because when we read we make comparisons between life and the book, between the book and other books, and between things in the book. These acts of comparison are at the least a first step towards making generalised and/or abstract thoughts.

Reading for Pleasure works because books work. Books work because they invite interpretation = the play of speculation, reflection, prediction, affirmation, surprise, deduction, analysis, wonder, empathy, fear, hope, horror, sensuality, conceptual thinking, memory...and more.


Reading for Pleasure is 360 degrees. Every part of in-school and out-of-school policy has to contribute and co-operate.


Yes, and the interesting thing about fiction, drama and poetry is that more often than not, they involve some kind of marriage between ideas and feelings attached to beings ('characters) that we come to care about.

Browsing and choosing are vital and necessary starters for reading for pleasure. Just handing children books and telling them to read for pleasure is not reading for pleasure. 

Browsing and choosing teaches us about how reading can be part of our lives, how it can matter. Browsing and choosing involves special kinds of reading: scanning, selecting, picking up clues and cues. We only find out if it works when we go with our choices and start to read the rest. If it 'fails' we try other ways. 

Trial and error without fear of failure - it's a crucial part of reading and education as a whole.


Reading is one of the easiest ways in which we get hold of the strategies and procedures of continuous prose (CP). This is not just a matter of 'vocabulary'. We really need to get away from just talking about vocabulary because it makes us focus on books as if they are just self-storage places full of words in store. 

CP is very different from speech, dialogue and inner speech. CP carries the language of law, administration, humanities and science.

There is a model of reading which suggests that when we read, we take eggs out of egg-boxes - that we lift chunks of text - words etc which supposedly just  'mean x' or 'y'. (This is the 'retrieval' model.) No, what we do is yes, take eggs out of egg-boxes but we can't eat them until we cook them - boil them, poach them, make scrambled eggs. We make the meaning. 

When we read, we relate our interpretation of the text with our experience of life and experience of the texts we know. This 'comparison-making' is the central component of 'interpretation'. We do this with dialogue, but with reading it is slower and more prolonged. This is how we educate ourselves to get hold of this way of thinking. 

Monday, 5 November 2018

Never mind the 'ability range' (or some such) feel the psychodrama



The other day I heard myself say to a teachers' meeting that rather than worry about a child's 'level' or supposed 'lack' of knowledge, think of how a book or poem might relate to that child's psychodrama. Pompous I know. But I kinda believe that.

What I meant is that every one of us, no matter our background, no matter what 'level' we have been put on, lives a life that is in its own way a drama. Books and poems and plays are dramas. When we read or view the two dramas (our own and the one in the book or poem or drama) intermingle. We relate them. This applies whether we have read 100s of books and have education pouring out of our ears, or if we are 6 years old and been designated special needs or whatever. We all have that drama of how we relate to the world and to other people. This is what we bring to books, plays and poems.


As authors or teachers it's our job, then, to think of the psychodramas - in the child/children and in the books, plays and poems and figure out how these intermingle and inter-relate.

That's what I meant when I heard myself say that.

Sunday, 4 November 2018



A child in a school said to me,

‘Are you real?’

I said yes.

He moved away,

came back and said,

‘Really? Are you real?’

I got out my Goldsmiths college, ID card.

He looked at it and said,

‘OK.’