So, continuing on from my last post on zooming to Higaturu Oil Palm International School, PNG for a most memorable book week, here is more about the classroom itself. This image is what it looked like from the point of view of the students in the main zoom room, before we were allocated to our learning zoom room with the students and their teacher.
So how did we end up with a confident performance of a group poem by the end of book week (despite the challenges of working via zoom and classroom learning space combined) and a wall full of beautiful art and sense poems?
This is where the immense dedication of the teacher, her assistant and children, going with the flow of a physically distant author communicating and coming to terms with being on a large screen, and stuck there, makes a massive difference.
As I communicated, using voice, slide shows, and virtual white boards, Ms Gwendalyn, and Ms Cynthia, her assistant, would further explain it to the students. Zoom can be tricky as I couldn’t walk around the classroom, nor easily read the body language of students, like I normally do. The students could only walk up to the front to ask me questions, and sometimes felt a bit shy of the screen.
Although by the end of the week they knew to keep an eye on the whiteboard for surprises, such as Riddles!
It helped that they had the focus texts, of Magic Fish Dreaming and Michelle Worthington’s Possum Games with them to work from as well. These had been posted to arrive before Book Week in PNG began.
They became mentor texts for the students, to also learn about publishing, illustrating and cover pages.
We had a prior meeting on zoom the week before, with all presenting authors, Tina, Phil, Caroline, Albert and myself, meeting the teachers, and working out how we would proceed. I asked Ms Gwendalyn, to please put stickers on the children with their names, and she sent me a class list as well.
I ran the program by her, to check if it would be helpful for the students, and had a mix of activities to go with the books, such as art, drama, writing, all complementary to the text, as well as readings.
Although I have done many workshops this was my first time doing a sequence for a whole week, and in Papua New Guinea too, as normally I just have had two hour workshops so that was a blessing and a new challenge.
As part of the process we decided that each day it would be helpful for me to email Ms Gwendalyn, and just check in on how she felt the children had responded, as well as observing that during class time myself.
These consultations sometimes led to modifications for the next day which were beneficial for all. Although sometimes the messages took longer to arrive then we anticipated. That’s the internet for you.
The immense benefit of working over a whole week with the students and their teacher was we could use each earlier class as a foundation to the next class and creative task.
We could expand and apply new concepts into their work from previous sessions. The main challenge, was just making sure to go with the flow of what was engaging the students, and extending them to just the right balance.
This meant every now and then, me or Ms Gwendalyn, making on the spot easy to implement decisions to alter previous plans.
By the end of this post series, I’d like to feature some of the work of the students, the school is just doublechecking with their parents that this will be okay as it is my hope to introduce these budding authors to you through their work. Perhaps some of them will choose the pathway of authors, designers, artists or playwrights!
Another amazing thing, was the warmth of the author team and some of the zany things we decided to do, like change our head gear everyday…
to be continued…