The whole of this blog centres on a mean trick (and I feel bad about it), which has produced something special, like pearl accreting around grit. I’m the grit.
Last week my colleagues and I pretended that a giant ice block fell into the school field. We dug a hole, put police tape around it and faked a letter from the local police. We intended it as a stimulus for reading and writing, which it has been, very successfully. We told the children that one of us believed it was an enormous hailstone, while I countered that it was obviously an ice meteorite. We were in role. They believed us. We were very convincing. We took it too far. They still believe it.
So, ignore the dubious heart of this tale. The work is worth it.
The previous week, I attended Doug Lemov’s Reading Reconsidered workshop. I’ve been a fan of the book and thought I’d squeeze the last extra drops of wisdom from it (it turns out I’d only understood about 5%, on top of which there’s the huge gap between “I-get-it” and “I-do-it”). So the course was great, and perfect timing for the ice-block-in-the-field incident.
Back in school, after we trouped the kids into the field and stared in amazement at the icy hole, we studied hailstones. We had some texts ready, which we thought were too tricky. It turns out using “control the game” the level was fine.
Later. we used “the art of the sentence” strategies to write a single sentence explaining how hailstones form (yes – in one sentence. I tried. It was hard). These are three good examples by my year 6 pupils (kids who will have to work hard to reach the UK expected standard).
Hailstones can be formed in any season by cumulonimbus clouds blowing water droplets up until they freeze, get bigger and fall down because they are too heavy for the cloud to lift again.
Clouds that make hailstones are called cumulonimbus and when water drops are blown high in the clouds, they freeze and freeze until they are too heavy and fall.
Hailstones are made by the wind blowing the rain up where it’s coldest so that it freezes and falls, grabbing another lot of rain and goes up again and gets bigger until they get too heavy and fall to the ground, faster than a snowflake.
They knew I didn’t believe it was a hailstone though. I (still “in role” / still “lying”) believed it was an ice-meteorite.
This is the text I used (Article from Meteorite Quarterly: November 2006, 12(4), 17 – 19). It is a professional journal text. Same year 6 pupils.
We focused on these paragraphs:
Nothing stimulates the imagination more than the mysterious, and one stimulating mystery, concerning the fall of large blocks of ice to the Earth’s surface, has recently been reviewed in this magazine by Saul (2006). The point that I would particularly like to pick-up on, however, relates to Saul’s suggestion that, “it now seems more prudent to assume that ice meteorites do exist than that they do not”.
The second reason why ice meteorites must, at best, be exceptionally rare relates to their survival lifetime in space. To get close to the Earth means that an ice-meteoroid must become heated, and once this happens lifetimes are typically just a few tens of years. In other words an ice-meteoroid is ‘destroyed’ in space long before it might encounter the Earth to produce an ice-meteorite.
This last paragraph was a bit of a blow to all of us.
Never-the-less, we have prepared for the debate with my colleague on Monday. My pupils have written the lines I will use and we are hoping my colleague hasn’t read the meteorite article as carefully as we have.
The reading, writing and engagement has been brilliant. We’ve added a huge amount of background knowledge, the key to successful independent reading. We’ve set out on the journey of finding challenging texts challenging, rather than impossible. There is no way that any of us will go back to “age-appropriate” texts in class. This is much better.