POETRY_WORKBOOK

NOTES FOR PLAYWORKERS

.1. If the children are unused to writing activities start with a game from the first few of SIMPLE STARTS.


.2. Make sure that AT LEAST ONE ADULT is going to be able to give ALL their attention to the workshop.

.3. For all games involving writing it's important to be seperate from other play activities. At the simplest this can be achieved by sitting at a table in a corner, or building psychological barriers with tables to define the workshop's area; by forming queues for floor games; by creating verbal barriers by explaining to sightseers the distraction they are causing - how this hinders those writing and makes their own wait to play longer; and by making lists so that interested children can go away until its their turn.

All these strategies have one aim: to reduce the pressure of external distraction on the child and assist their concentration.

.4. Though with proper staffing and arrangement of the environment all the games can be played in open spaces, if you intend to play any games other than the simplest it's worth trying to actually isolate the workshop.
This is because the general noise and movement are disruptive and make writing harder than neccesary and so less enjoyable.
Isolation could mean a seperate room or a corridor blocked off by a table. We've worked in large cupboards, changing rooms, kitchens and toilets. A standing joke is that the Project got its name from always working in windowless rooms. Most children appreciate the "special" nature of the seperation and enjoy curious environments.
The main problem is tourism.
Working children will usually support you in sending away disruptive visitors, but the harm may be already done. If you judge that tourism will be a potential problem, try to get a room that either has no direct access from the main play area or that is supervised for other reasons, like a kitchen. Or try to get a room with a door. I have had to rehinge and hang a youth club door to achieve this - but it was worth it- the resulting calm inside made the room different from anywhere else in the club and appreciated, especially by the girls, for that very reason.

In any case, it's usually helpful to start a list and let it be known that only those on the list will be invited in. While you are stimulating interest or while behaviour presents no problems you can always leave the door open. If sightseers start preventing others working then you can put them out and close the door, explaining that they wouldn't like interruption if it was their turn, that it's delaying their turn, that there are lots of other places to shout and run, etc.

.5. If you find that circumstances cannot be controlled, which will be rarely if you've sorted staffing and space out properly - play a simpler game.

.6. Proper staffing for a workshop which is mostly brain work and in which many may have additional difficulties with the manual skill of writing, depends both on the game and environment. But to encourage well thought out work, to give the level of assistance that will overcome language and spelling difficulties, to actually pass on skills involved in crafting a piece of writing, the ratio of adult to children should not be above 1 to 3. This is because each child must feel that what they are saying is important, that they are not struggling unnecessarily with the mechanics of grammar or even letter-formation, that they are being encouraged and assisted to make their own decisions. This means listening, trying to let their own words become the poem, offering possibilities, choices of style, shape and direction.

To achieve this you need to restrict the numbers to as many as can be treated properly, but they will write with greater ease and concentration because of the respect and attention, and will finish their poems sooner and with more pleasure than they would struggling on their own, and this means that a steady stream of children can pass through the workshop at the speed of their individual requirements rather than being left, unavoidably, to their own devices as would happen in a larger group.


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Windows Workshops Dave Calder, The Windows Project ,1997,1998,1999,2009