Renee was one of the the teachers I had the pleasure of learning from when I visited Paris in the days leading into the New Year. She taught me to make a basic sewn journal and then to make some truly wonderful metal books. During the course of the three day art retreat I got talking to this wonderful lady and told her how I taught children with Asperger's here in London. Renee told me she also had Asperger's (no surprises there!!) and of course we continued until the end of the retreat to have lots and lots to talk about. She is one of those people you meet and know she is one of life's gifts. A lovely, lovely woman!
Across the three days I learnt some wonderful things from Renee, but more than anything she reminded me how wonderful humanity can really be. Our course ended and I came home with a suitcase full of goodies including the art I had created. At the end of it all Renee gave me all the tools and some of the resources I would need to bring the learning to my class. In my normal excitable form I had been saying how much my boys would love this as we worked through the different projects and this beautiful and generous lady made it very possible for me to bring my learning back to them.
I can't post photos of the boys actually doing the projects so that you can see the looks on their faces. You just have to believe me that it brought them a great amount of joy! Here are the sewn books they made and then used to write the spelling words they needed to practice in order to learn them. These books were an invaluable addition to my classroom and helped to bring end of year results that were absolutely outstanding. The boys all made brilliant progress with their English marks and their confidence in spelling grew every week!
Eventually we started to make the metal books Renee had taught me to make. The initial flattening of the cans was very well received. In fact they regularly asked if they could do it again! It is a great source of stress relief for anxious children to get out there with a hammer and a tin can to belt into! The cans they flattened were not actually usable as they had too many splits and sharp edges due to their over enthusiastic efforts, but they were happy to use cans that had been flattened by me and were still safe. I was away the day they flattened them, but by all reports they took to hammering the cans flat with great enthusiasm!
When it came to using the tool to punch the holes (and Renee they loved the concept that you can never have too many holes!) they thought the eye protection that made them 'look like mad scientists' was very cool! We used the keys from an old computer keyboard, beads, laminated photos and pictures and rivets and brads as decoration. Renee also gave me a cold laminator that they could wind the handle on and watch their favourite pictures of themselves or their favourite things come through the machine ready for use. They were deservedly so proud of the results and were so well behaved while we were working on the books. No medals for working out engagement in the learning activity leads to great behaviour!
Making holes in the cans!
One finished book. The pictures are from a series called 'Bakugan' one of the class favourites and something I had to learn about when I started working here. The lad who made this has some issues with his fine motor skills and using the tools was excellent therapy. Threading the beads took a great effort.
This is the second one. Note the pictures of chocolate cake in the middle. A major motivator for this guy! He has a fabulous sense of humour and had to use the 'end' button from the computer keyboard on the back of his book and kept on saying 'do you get it Ali?'
...and last but not least this one was made for his mum and he just had to have the diet coke can with the kisses on it as a base. He wanted to write 'mum' on it but there is only one 'm' on a keyboard.....his solution the 'w' upside down! Again the bakugan characters star. He spent ages lining the beads up in an order he liked.
The boys showed these books in assembly every week for about four or five weeks as they gradually made them. They were rightfully so proud of their efforts and couldn't wait to take them home. It was a very different classroom activity to anything I had ever done before and I loved it!
Believe it or not only having one set of tools with my small class of three became another aspect of their learning. They had to be patient, take turns and plan ahead. All great lifeskills.
There is more to come about my last day at the school. I just have to work out how to write it!