Superheroes and real-life heroes haunt the library

Book cover - Graphic novel - Page by Paige - by Gulledge.Over the summer, many bright and shiny books will be smuggled onto the shelves by busy librarians and also flash the message from the catalogue: ‘Graphic novel’.  There will be far more than the Newsam Library ever held in its ‘Curriculum Resources Collection’, which in fact includes all kinds of children’s and young people’s books.

‘Which corner?’ you may ask – I can see some of you already on their way here while they are reading this on their smartphones!

Well, some of them stand in a rack at the far end of the library, but generally, we put the graphic novels in different corners because they are of varying nature: a visual re-imagination of a novel or tale; a presentation on the borderline of historical research and fiction; a brand-new story based on a recent event…

Do not be surprised at the categories ‘graphic novels’, ‘comic books’ or even ‘comic strips’ – in fact, look out for all these: partly, these terms are due to international conventions, partly, it is sometimes difficult to put these works of art and learning into categories.

Screenshot - Catalogue search - Graphic novels.

An illustrated version of a literary work will be right next to it. L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of the Green Gables awaits you at MON (for the author’s name) in the ‘Fiction’ department as the original text of 1908, as an abridged audio-book on CD’s, and in a ‘comic book’ adaptation of our days with very little text indeed. Philip Pullman’s Northern lights lives at PUL as the novel of 400 pages (1995) and as a slim (but at least as scary) graphic novel of 77 pages, and at ATW, Margaret Atwood’s The handmaid’s tale (1985) unsettles you more than ever.

Book cover - Graphic novel - Northern lights - by Melchior and Oubrerie.We also offer yoBook cover - Graphic novel - Anne of Green Gables - by Marsden.u plenty of new titles, from volumes of over 500 pages to slender comic books with no words at all. In Mera tidebreaker, a princess finds her superpowers in a realm beneath the sea. She wants to be ‘more than a dress’; indeed, if she wants to free her country from the oppressors in Atlantis, she must fight and kill…

In Page by Paige, another teenage girl develops her artistic powers – those of the drawing pencil, which we can watch under our noses, when situations and emotions are visualised in the strangest manner. In this preview, you can watch the protagonist wringing her own neck and hair till ink pours out as if she were a quill. Just look at the cover above, where the long red hair — which so many literary heroines share — weaves itself into a script…

Book cover - Graphic novel - Northern lights - by Durr and Horneman.In a previous blogpost, I drew your attention to literature about contemporary refugees, including graphic novels; we have just added a new one in Zenobia, but be warned: it is bleak. There is a historical reference in the warrior queen of antiquity, whose memory gives a girl courage for the journey into an uncertain future.

The Iliad and the Odysee, in their various incarnations, even for young children, live in the ‘Folktales’ at 398.238, surrounded by superheroes Hercules and Theseus, mighty monsters Hydra and Minotaur, heroines Persephone and Antigone, and a flock of animals conjured up by Aesop.

Book cover - Graphic novels - Iliad by Hinds.For our new editions, bring extra bags (since they are as heavy as weighty) or extra time: the words may be abridged from Homer’s epic but are not always simplified, and the actions and details in the pictures demand your attention just as a verse or prose translation might. While Gareth Hinds presents elegant poetic speech in his Iliad (“They prayed to the gray-eyed goddess, but their efforts were in vain, for Athena’s heart was set on the destruction of Troy”), Russell Punter opts for comic-style brief words and phrases in his Odyssey (“I pray to Athena that the people here welcome me”).

Shakespeare’s immortal cast dwells at 822.33 in the ‘Non Fiction’ section, where works about literature support the works of literature next to them. Various annotated versions of a play and relevant teaching materials sit side by side, and if we have retellings or illustrated stories, that is where we put them also for you.

The heroes of biographies in ‘comic book’ form also find their home on the Non Fiction shelves within their field of achievement. The faithful spy about Dietrich Bonhoeffer lurks at 943.086 with the other supporters and adversaries of Hitler. This true story of a pastor who wrestles with himself to turn into an assassin has whole pages of text and straddles the border of fiction and non-fiction.

Book cover - Graphic novels - Bonhoeffer by Hendrix.

The time traveller, a similarly conceived but briefer biography of Robert Paul, the London pioneer of cinema, haunts 791.43. Thereabouts, you can also find our new Illustrated history of filmmaking, covering the technology as well as the art of cinema from its ‘Prehistory’ to ‘The Future’. Adam Allsuch Boardman has put up some pages of his work, which itself borrows the style of graphic novels, on his website.

Book cover - Filmmaking - by Boardman.

 

You have not heard of Robert W. Paul? I had not either until the fabulous local museum at Bruce Castle put up yet another free exhibition on London history. This instrument maker morphed into a major inventor and director for a while, then abandoning cinema for new exploits. In order to realise his visions, he built a film studio at the back of the Muswell Hill, then still countryside above London.

 

Book cover - Graphic novel - Robert Paul - by Christie and Ilya.Robert Paul propelled the emerging medium of film forward with an incredible number of technical inventions and artistic innovations. First drama scene; first news report; first hand-coloured film; first subtitle in the scene… I think you could call some of his ideas the first special effects!

In the lovely show at Bruce Castle Museum, you can watch many of Robert Paul’s miniature films and extracts from longer ones, from slapstick to adaptations of literature, from newsreels to historical re-enactions. I hope whenever I look up the graphic novel by Ian Christie and Ilya on our catalogue, I shall find it borrowed by an avid reader. The Newsam Library seems to be the first one in the country to have this gem of graphic art.

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Secret societies, suffragettes and saplings- some recent additions to the Literature Collection

Real life experiences of American teachers at home and abroad, a romantic triangle, a Cambridge University secret society, educational experiences in post- colonial 1960s Rhodesia and post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona and several ‘grey’ books which are anything but, are all among the books recently added to the Library’s Education in Literature Collection.

In Touching lives: a teacher’s memoir Shirley A. Kitner-Mainello describes her 40 year career as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, private tutor and school administrator, offering an insight into the many changes in American education since the 1960s.

The author of The Kurdish bike: a novel Alesa Lightbourne, uses her own experiences as inspiration for her story about Teresa Turner. In 2010 the young American is dissatisfied with her teaching job in a school in northern Iraq, so she decides to buy a bicycle and explore the surrounding villages and countryside. Her friendship with a local widow helps her to find out about the lives of Kurdish women under Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The surprisingly complicated lives of university students are featured in two novels. In the first Lauren, Paul and Sean are affluent students at a small, liberal-arts college on America’s East Coast. Their curious love triangle is at the heart of The rules of attraction by Bret Easton Ellis.20190606_150425 In the second Hans Stichler’s aunt will ensure that his application to Cambridge University, where she teachers, will be successful. In return Hans must help her to infiltrate the elite university secret society, the Pitt Club. His investigations become increasingly dangerous. The Club by Takis Wurger was translated from the German by Charlotte Collins.

Although Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangaremba is a new edition of an old favourite it is worth remembering the importance of this novel. When it was published in 1988 it was the first book published in English by a black woman from Zimbabwe. In this semi-autobiographical novel, set in 1960s Rhodesia, Tambu is from a poor, rural, Shona family who eagerly replaces her brother at a missionary school after his death. 20190606_154625Gender and colonialism are major themes of the novel. How the hope and potential of a young girl and a fledgling nation can, over time, become a bitter struggle for survival is the theme of This mournable body which portrays Tambu’s later life.

Nada is the first novel, published in 1945, by Carmen Laforet. It is set in post- Spanish Civil War Barcelona. Andrea is an orphan raised in a convent in provincial Spain who is awarded a Government scholarship to attend university in Barcelona. At first she lives with her extended family in a decaying apartment but their increasingly violent behaviour forces her to move to Madrid to live with her friend Ena. Although the novel won the inaugural Premio Nadal Literary Prize in Spain it was controversial because in order to be published it had to pass the censorship of the Francoist State. At the time there was harsh state suppression of the Catalan language and culture in Barcelona. In 2007 Nada was translated into English.

There are now several books in the Literature Collection sporting grey covers which are all published by Persephone Press. Twenty years ago the founder, Nicola Beauman, set out to publish forgotten books by women writers from the early 20th century. All the books have to be a well written, ‘good reads’. Nicola Beauman has also stated that, because she is’ very, very interested in the novel as social history’, she likes books which tell how we lived.

The Persephone Press books include The Call by Edith Ayton Zangwill which is about Ursula who resists her mother’s attempts to involve her in Edwardian society. Her chemistry experiments are much more important to her until she becomes involved with the suffragettes.20190606_155613 The author based the details of Ursula’s working life on that of her stepmother Hertha Ayton (1854- -1923) a physicist who became an expert on the electric arc. The book gives an insight into a woman’s domestic life in the first two decades of the 20th Century.

Surprisingly, another Persephone Press book, Saplings, is written by Noel Steatfeild, better known as the author of the children’s classics ‘Ballet Shoes’ and ‘White Boots’. Published in 1945, the book is about the four Wiltshire children and the effect the Second World War has on their lives. Noel Streatfeild really understands children and the distress caused to them by the loss of an understanding grown-up.

Despite not having a grey cover Mariana by Monica Dickens, the great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens, is also a Persephone Press imprint originally published in 1940. It is a funny, readable and perceptive story of the growth to maturity of Mary Shannon in the 1930s with superb contemporary detail.

Do not despair if none of these new books attracts your attention because they are plenty of other novels and autobiographies to choose from in the Education in Literature Collection which is shelved on level 4 in the Library. Books may be borrowed for eight weeks. If you would prefer to watch a film there is also a selection of DVDs which include foreign language films. DVDs may be borrowed for 7 days.

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Focus on DERA (Digital Education Research Archive):Modern Foreign Languages (MFL)

The IOE Library has always collected documents published by government and other relevant bodies in the areas of education, training, children, and families. Today, the Official Publications Collection here at the Library is the largest of our special collections and is highly valued by our users.

In some ways, official publications are no different to other areas of publishing and we have witnessed a rapid transition towards a “digital by default” approach. You may already have read our recent blog post about DERA – our online repository founded on the traditions of our printed Official Publications Collection, dedicated to preserving the digital output of government in relation to education – where we highlighted content on the subject of school meals. This month, we are highlighting DERA resources focused on the teaching of languages in schools.

A recent online news headline Language learning: German and French drop in half in UK schools caught my attention. The article analysed information from secondary schools in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland about the number of pupils taking GCSE language courses. The decline in uptake of these courses appears to be alarmingly rapid, with drops of between 30% and 50% since 2013 being reported in England.

DERA holds a great deal of information related to languages in schools. A House of Commons Library Briefing Paper from December 2018 (Language teaching in schools (England) and a House Of Lords Library Briefing from November 2018 (Foreign Language Skills: Trends and Developments) outline the landscape for language teaching in classrooms. They describe what should be taught, expectations on the quality of teaching, levels of achievement and, interestingly the potential impact of UK leaving the European Union. This last point has received considerable coverage in the wider media, as demonstrated in the Guardian article, Brexit Britain cannot afford to be laissez-faire about its language crisis. The author David Cannadine says that Britons need to forget the idea that most other people speak English and so we do not need to make an effort to improve our linguistic skills. Additionally the UK’s linguistic under performance has economic repercussions in terms of lost trade and investment.

Languages are also vital to national security, diplomacy and “soft power”. Indeed at the reopening of the Foreign Office’s language centre in 2013, the then foreign secretary, William Hague, said:

Diplomacy is the art of understanding different cultures, and using this understanding to predict and influence behaviour. Speaking the local language is the essential first step in this process. It is an important sign of our respect for other societies, and it increases their respect for us in return.

One factor that is said to have had an influence upon the number of language teachers, especially in England, is the introduction of The English Baccalaureate (EBacc). The EBacc measures the achievements of pupils who have gained Key Stage 4 (GCSE level) qualifications in the following subjects: English; Mathematics; History or Geography; the Sciences and a Language. A House of Commons Briefing Paper 2017 gives a good overview of the motivations behind the EBacc, including the increase in the take-up of ‘core’ subjects which would best equip pupils for further study and work. Fears were expressed about the fact that extra attention paid to the core subjects might have an impact on subjects such as art, music and drama which were not included. The decision to not include religious education, although it would remain compulsory to teach it, was particularly controversial. It was also argued that the Ebacc would not necessarily be suited to a number of pupils.

The National Curriculum in England: languages programmes of study: key stage 2/ key stage 3 (2013) states that teaching “may be of any modern or ancient foreign language” and in 2016 the Government announced that a range of community languages would continue to be provided at GCSE and A level. These included Arabic, Modern Greek, Polish, Bengali, Urdu and Japanese as languages that can be studied alongside German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Mandarin and Welsh.

The influence of Brexit on the learning and learning to teach MFL is already being felt, as discussed in The British Council Language Trends 2018 Report (p.7) with parents discouraging their children from learning languages once again because of the erroneous belief that everyone speaks English. In reality once the UK leaves the European Union the number of native English speakers will be greatly reduced and English may not retain its place as one of the “official” languages of the EU.

James A. Coleman’s article “Why the British do not learn languages: myths and motivation in the United Kingdom” discusses some of the reasons why pupils may not be motivated to study languages beyond GCSE Level. Amongst other factors, it is argued that the xenophobic attitude of some politicians and certain newspapers undermines the value that we place on learning an additional language. In addition, languages are sometimes portrayed as a ‘hard’ option that involves more effort to gain a good grade.

One part of the UK where children can be said to start with a positive attitude towards the learning of languages may be Wales, where education is provided through the medium of English and Welsh. In DERA I found the 2009 document from the Welsh Assembly Making Languages Count which makes the point:

Our young people therefore have a head start in the development of the skills, knowledge and understanding that are at the heart of language learning and can be readily applied to wider European and world languages.

The Welsh Government also funds a MFL Mentoring Scheme whereby undergraduates and postgraduates are placed in secondary schools to encourage engagement with MFL via face-to-face and online mentoring with the aim of increasing the number of students studying MFL at GCSE level and beyond. The success achieved in Wales can be replicated elsewhere in the UK as demonstrated by Anna Bawden’s recent article describing the results of a trial in South Yorkshire. Year 8/9 pupils at 10 secondary schools in Sheffield received 5 weeks of mentoring from language undergraduates from Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam Universities.

The success of this scheme may help to mitigate the effect of current financial constraints that have led to UK schools turning to foreign governments to fund languages . It is unlikely that the Italian, Portuguese, French or German governments will want to continue to help once Britain leaves the EU.

Once again an interesting article in the popular press has lead via DERA and Explore to a better understanding of the background to the current situation concerning the teaching and learning of MFL. There are examples of schemes which if implemented on a larger scale could lead to more children enjoying their language lessons and wanting to study MFL to the highest level.

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Books that run away with you

Book cover looking like a wall of bright red bricks.The book is so small that you can cover it with your two hands, and it is so old that most of us were not born when it was first published, but it is still startling: the figures and buildings and machines in it jump out of it and make us laugh, make us think, make us read… or write… or paint.Book cover looking like a wall of bright red bricks. Book cover looking like a wall of bright red bricks.Stefan Themerson wrote Mr Rouse builds his house in Polish in 1938 and recreated it in English in 1950, with the same quirky illustrations by Franciszka Themerson; not a mean feat if you have a text that breaks into free verse, rhymed verse, and concrete poetry over and over again:

“He walked and walked:

On Monday, he walked along the Broadway

On Tuesday, he walked along a high-way (…)

On Friday, he walked along a byway (…)

On Sunday, he walked across some fields.

And in the middle of the field there was a box. It was a telephone box.”

Another surreal story dating back to the same period was developed into a picture book in 1963 and was translated into English only in 2012: The table that ran away to the woods is a real treasure, packing so much imagination and wisdom into fourteen pages of collages and block lettering. The letters are integrated into the pictures, quite literally rushing down the stairs and over the hills, in the same way that the description of the 7 stairs in Mr Rouse’s house forms 7 stairs.

Book cover showing a b&w table and a multi-coloured window.“Once upon a time,

the table where I write

grabbed two pairs of shoes,

ran downstairs, and took flight,

from the fifth floor to the first!”

This queer little book is really a meditation on urban life and nature, reality and poetry, and should be rated, I believe, as a surrealist artwork for children and adults alike. Tate Publishing’s edition is furnished with an afterword with additional images and references to the authors’ exile in Paris and London.

Film still: white tendrils on black ground, looking almost abstract.

Stefan and Franciszka Themerson were at the forefront of visual art, producing films as well as books. In one film, Adventure of a good citizen (1938), a rebellious individual walks all the way from the city to the woods backwards and flies through a wardrobe mirror to attain freedom; in another one, The eye and the ear (1944/45), abstract and vegetal shapes take on a life of their own, just like The table that ran away. Fittingly, Franciszka also illustrated Alice in Wonderland, and Stefan named his publishing house after the Jabberwocky poem… Gaberbocchus!

Tiny book looking like a brick wall, lying in a pair of hands.Another new picture book at the Newsam Library is so big that it could cover your upper body when you unfold it; except that there is a huge hole in the middle. Yes, that’s right, The book with a hole is exactly what it says, and you can peep at the world through it and imagine it is a camera, you can make faces behind it, or throw a little ball through it, and it is the book itself suggesting those activities, a new one on each page. It is really a toy as much as a book, and perhaps Hervé Tullet restricted himself to black and white in order to stimulate our imagination all the more. The fruit in the picture below is not on the book cover… but on on my clothes.

Huge book with hole, showing person behind; fruit on her jumper seems to be in mouth painted around the hole.

In another of his ingenious books, Hervé Tullet manages to lure young children or indeed any readers to follow a little dot round the pages without any holes or other tricks, without much more than abstract lines and patches of colour. Let’s play had me flat on the floor (this is figuratively spoken, though) with a yellow blob which bounced through the pages, vanished from the paper, and claimed to be sitting in my hair now… I don’t have a photo or video to prove it – unlike the author – but I believe it may have happened.

A black square and a black circle with eyes in a landscape of squares with some plants.

Cover of square book showing a black square with big eyes.There are more wonders awaiting you at the Curriculum Resources Collection – which covers far more than teaching resources and also more than books for young children; for instance, novels for teenagers and young adults, illustrated non-fiction for all ages, and language learning resources.

Cover of square book showing a black triangle with big eyes.Square by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen explores the questions “What is art? Can everyone be an artist?” with simple and accomplished paintings, mainly variations of basic shapes. Naturally, the book is square, although the corresponding Triangle contents itself with being square, too.

All these titles could be a great inspiration for art teachers and any early-years teachers, and of course parents.

Board-book unfolded to make a very bright crocodile-like monster.Book cover: Bright dots in a loop.

Lastly, the strangely shaped board-book This clumsy monster by Claudio Ripol and Yeonju Yang reveals itself only when you unfold it: into the crocodile-like and neon-coloured creature itself, strong enough to stand on its six pairs of feet. Mr & Mrs Themerson were there long before, with their tiny book forming a bright-red brick wall.

Crocodile-shaped board-book going through monster jaws of The book with a hole. Huge book with hole, looking as if swallowing tiny book.


Please note our other blogposts on pop-up books, for example Books that make your eyes pop out.

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A question that has no easy answers – or perhaps it does?

gradudation 3Congratulations! You have completed your thesis, gone through the viva and have passed with flying colours (with or without corrections).

At this stage, you are expected to upload the digital copy of the thesis into UCL’s Research Publications System (RPS) together with the ‘Thesis Deposit Agreement Form’. And it is also at this stage when you have to decide on whether the thesis will be open access, which of the open access licenses is appropriate for you, and whether you want to impose an embargo on the thesis for 6-12 months. Your supervisor(s) may advise but many will leave the decision to you.

It is reasonable to put an embargo on your thesis if you are if planning on converting the thesis into a book using a publisher who does not allow open access for a set time until after the publication of the book, or if your thesis contains material that will be patented or is confidential in nature. You may also want to check your funder’s terms and conditions before you put an embargo on the thesis if your doctorate was funded. Most funders want the research they have paid for to be openly available.

However, if a student asked me what they should do, I usually list the advantages and the disadvantages and ask them to weigh the benefits of making their work openly available. I confirm that I am biased but this is not to say that I don’t understand why students may want to place an embargo whilst they are creating other publishable content from their thesis. But I ask them to think back to their own research process and whether they had benefitted from using open access materials. I also explain that not all researchers have access to quality information around the globe, and quite apart from the ethical issue and the advantages to society and to policy/decision-makers on making research openly available, it is important to consider the following:

Pros Cons
You have more options on which publisher to use if you are converting your thesis into a book especially if this is a pre-requirement by the publisher. Your work will be available immediately and will have greater visibility whilst also having the UCL stamp which offers you credibility as a researcher.  This may mean your work gets cited earlier than it would have done.
You may be less anxious about others ‘copying’ your work; but remember the law (Copyright Act 1988) protects you against the misuse of your intellectual property, including plagiarism.  See: https://libguides.ioe.ac.uk/copyright Publishers often trawl through research repositories looking for content to publish in book format; they may not see your thesis!
Assuming you have not found a publisher, it is worth noting that it will take at least six months to a year (probably more) to convert your book into a thesis and in this time, the research may become (slightly) dated;
Your book or journal article(s) is unlikely to include all the content from your thesis. You may not, for instance, use all the content from your methodology, and this will not be available to current researchers, especially if they are interested in examples of methodologies used.
Future employers cannot see the quality of the work you produce;
You may lose citations as your research is current and literally ‘hot off the press’;
You are adhering to the UCL Publications Policy which favours open access. See: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/library/open-access/ucl-publications-policy-2012

As you can see from the table above, there are more disadvantages to imposing an embargo than advantages.  Given the rate at which scholarship is produced and available on the internet, you may want to re-consider an embargo if you were thinking of one – at least a lengthy embargo.  Fundamentally, UCL is committed to open access and we have the first open access university press here in the UK – see UCL Press

Once your thesis and the form are uploaded and available on UCL’s research repository, UCL Discovery, it is considered to be published. Double the congratulations, for you have now contributed new knowledge and it is available for the rest of the world to read for free!

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Two Years in the Infant School—a review by Paul May

I was surprised when the children’s author, Paul May, contacted me about a post I had written on Enid Blyton as an educationalist, for once written and published, these posts are often forgotten!  I was also curious about what he thought of the pedagogy that was being promoted during the 1930s especially as he had been a primary school teacher.  This was of particular interest to me as during the time Blyton was editing teachers’ handbooks, schools were being encouraged to embrace ‘modern methods’ of teaching Paul has kindly given us some of his time to write about his views on one of the handbooks Blyton edited.

____________________________________

Reused with permission from The Enid Blyton Society https://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/

Reused with permission from The Enid Blyton Society https://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/

‘Two Years in the Infant School, prepared under the supervision of Enid Blyton, N.F.U.’ was published in 1938. Its preface states that by means of its eighty-four weekly topics, ‘the whole curriculum of the Infant School is covered.’ The preface also tells us that the suggestions of the Board of Education have been ‘closely followed’.  Is this true?  The suggestions (1937) say: ‘The curriculum is a matter not of subjects but of experiences and activities . . . This is particularly true of the first year in the Infant School, where so much of the time is spent in joyous activities, which, though largely instinctive in origin and apparently without ulterior purpose, provide the best preparation for the more serious occupations of a later day.’

In fact, most of the activities in Two Years in the Infant School are teacher-directed and there is little sense that children might be engaged independently in ‘joyous’, ‘instinctive’ pursuits. But while the publication may not entirely have lived up to its claims, it is user-friendly, and most modern-day Early Years teachers would find the contents and their organisation familiar. The topics mostly had a rural or natural theme, but many, like ‘People Who Work for Us’ or ‘Crossing the Road’ might still be seen in today’s classrooms. So, how useful were these plans? I’ll take Topic No 1, ‘The Home’, as an example.

The topic starts with a ‘Talk’ that is too long for most four- and five-year-olds I know. The first paragraph—‘Who has brothers and sisters? Who has a baby at home?’—contains more than enough to prompt lengthy discussions.

Section II covers ‘Oral Composition and Language Training’. ‘Let the children chatter freely about Mother,’ it begins. There are plenty of ideas for getting the children talking, singing, and learning and acting out rhymes.  

Section III concerns ‘Reading Preparation’—‘phonics’, ‘word recognition’ and ‘the sentence method’. The phonics section begins charmingly: ‘These exercises should be preceded by the use of the handkerchief.’  The teaching is thorough, ensuring that the children can both say and hear the sounds, and recognise the letters that represent them. The look-and-say section uses flash cards, pictures, signs and labels around the classroom. For the sentence method, ‘Every week a special sentence or phrase can be written on the board for the children to learn and draw.’ To conclude, the author says that ‘In educated homes children approach reading by all three methods; indeed, an intelligent child cannot be confined to one.’

‘Writing’ was Section IV. This, in the first year at least, was practice in developing fine motor control, tracing, filling in Montessori insets, drawing in sand, on blackboards and on coarse paper, writing their own names and (presumably when they were ready) copying sentences. This is much the way writing was taught in many schools through into the 1990s, and elements are still there today.

In Section V the plans for ‘Number’ are far less detailed than the reading and writing.  In Week 1 we find, among other things, the wildly ambitious ‘teach the values of figures 1-5.’

There is a range of activities in Drawing and Handwork.  In ‘Drawing to help Writing and Number’ we have ‘Drawing lines of different lengths’, ‘Drawing a pin family,’ ‘Drawing a house’.  (What Early Years teacher, planning the week’s work late on Sunday night, hasn’t scribbled down something like this?) There are also ideas for modelling, building, and paper folding or tearing.  

The final section is Dramatisation, Musical Activities, Games etc. The children will act out episodes of home life. They will march, walk and skip to appropriate music.  In the playground they will play ‘Catching the Duster’. ‘The teacher holds a duster by one corner and runs away. The children run after her and try to get the duster.’

To be fair, the musical games, activities and songs in Two Years in the Infant School are generally good, the drawing, modelling and handwork activities would provide useful starting points for imaginative teachers, and the nature-study topics are also detailed and interesting. But the plans are uneven in quality. There is much whole-class teaching and little differentiation. There is some recognition that some children are ‘quicker’ than others and children are allowed to work at different paces when it comes to ‘individual work’, but this is not individual work in the sense of ‘self-chosen activity’.

And it does all look SO familiar. This is exactly how things were in many infant classrooms when I started teaching in the mid-1970s, and a lot of what’s here can still be seen in classrooms today. Can it really be true that the Hadow report on Infant Schools (1933) made the following statements more than 85 years ago, among many others just as radical?

‘It is on the open-air activities and interests of the children that we would base the training and teaching of the infant school.’ (p 124)  ‘During the infant stage the play-way is the best way.’ (p 125) ‘There is little doubt that manual and aesthetic development are better secured when the child is left to make what he likes, how he likes and, within reason, when he likes than by any set lessons.’ (p 130)  ‘The child should begin to learn the 3 Rs when he wants to do so, whether he be three or six years of age.’ (p 133)

The recommendations of the 1933 Hadow report look as much like a distant Utopia today as they did then—and I can’t help thinking that the modern equivalent of the infant classroom has as much in common with the classroom of Enid Blyton’s ‘Two Years in the Infant School’ as it does with that of the Hadow Report.

Paul May                                                                                                                                                  Children’s Author &                                                                                                                                former Primary School Teacher                                                                                                        Website: www.paulmay.co.uk

References

Blyton ed. (1938) Two Years in the Infant School, George Newnes: London

Hadow (1933) Infant and Nursery Schools, Report of the Consultative Committee, London: HMSO

Board of Education (1937) Handbook of Suggestions for Teachers, London: HMSO

See also Nazlin Bhiman’s 2012 post: Enid Blyton, educationist.

 

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Social networks — in papercraft and calligraphy

Social networks — in papercraft and calligraphy

Did you have a friendship album when you were little? My teachers in primary school were mobbed for entries into our ‘poetry albums’, as they were known in German; my father wrote a poem for my album, my mother stuck in a real butterfly which she had brought back from her travels; and I watched with amazement a great-aunt neatly copy out some verse by Gottfried Keller and carefully frame it with a delicate garland of flowers.

Trompe l'oeil painted into a book, looking like pile of papers (letters, calendars, newspaper, etc.)

But a bunch of sunflowers, so finely embroidered that you take them for painted, or a still-life of minute flowers in a vase and musical instruments which could be put up next to the miniatures in an art gallery? That is another league. Nor did I have princes and princesses signing my book or a John Milton writing in Ancient Greek. Who had such prestigious albums of memories and dedications, and when did people take the time to paint their portraits for their friends, or hire someone to do it?

Most of the albums in the British Library’s current exhibition Friendship before Facebook: social networks in a pre-digital age strike you as stage sets for Shakespeare plays: gentlemen in yellow stockings and dangling earrings, ladies in pumped-up dresses and broad-brimmed hats, courting couples drifting on gondolas, the pomp and ceremony of the royal court…

Latin sentence and Latin signature of Charles (Carolus), Prince of Wales.The tradition of friendship books or alba amicorum started in the 16th century as a custom amongst students and other young men, long before it became the domain of ladies and then of little girls. The gentlemen recorded their good friends and social connections as well as their travels – just as we collect photographs to remember where we went and whom we met… or to prove our social status.

Some people did travel three or four centuries ago: German, Austrian, Dutch albums in the display show destinations in England and Italy, and in the online gallery you can admire more lovely views, including Windsor Castle and Old London Bridge.

The still-life with music, flowers, and food is planned to remind you of all the senses, of life with all its facets, beautiful and ephemeral. Elsewhere, music is included, in the form of musical notation and lyrics, reminiscent of a brief audio or video file, evocative and poignant in its silence.

There is a selection of paper craft: a black flap reveals figures underneath a canopy; some thick brushstrokes of paint turn out to be an intricate collage; a collage of calendar and newspaper sheets, in turn, has fooled you as a miniature trompe-l’oeil, recording the date forever, together with the skill of the maker and the status of the commissioner.

Black gondola with oarsmen and cabin with closed curtains. Black gondola with oarsmen and cabin with opened curtains, revealing lute player and couple.

This was the purpose of these solid leather-bound books: they give us a snapshot of times past, and I am sure the owners and their friends would be thrilled to know we dwell on their portraits, their thoughts, and their memories many generations later.

Teachers and parents could be inspired by this exhibition to try out the ideas and techniques employed before photography and digital media with children – from the youngest onwards. Perhaps some of you will start a new fashion for friendship albums?

I found the last ones I spied rather depressing: nothing more than printed templates to affix a photo and record your own interests, basically an annotated selfie for youngsters. Very little poetry and wisdom there, very little variety and creativity.

Miniature painting of banquet in garden; bright clothes from around 1600.

You could consult your public library or the Newsam Library for books on drawing, paper craft, calligraphy, and poetry writing… or could teach children to use a library for learning new skills! This would fit in with art education as well as creative writing and, I believe, social education.

On the shelves at the back of the entrance level, find paper craft at 745.54, collage at 745.58, calligraphy at 745.6, and art skills in general at 702.8. For poetry, put ‘poetry writing’ or ‘creative writing’ or ‘poetry authorship’ into the search fields of a library catalogue, like UCL Explore.

Book cover of Twelfth night: gentleman all in yellow, lady all in pink, dress around 1600. Book cover of Twelfth night: man's legs in yellow tights and black shoes.

Also, the Shakespeare aspect has been exploited by the British Library: their online resources offer parallels between certain plays and the images (which you may reuse under their conditions). Just in case a teenager doubted that the yellow stockings or dangling earrings were authentic…


Image credits

Trompe l’oeil:
Taken from Twitter (@britishlibrary, tweet of Feb 26th).

Signature:
Friendship book of Michael van Meer, of Hamburg (?), ca 1615–16.
Held by Edinburgh University Library. Shelfmark:  Laing MS III 283.
© The University of Edinburgh (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Gondolas:
Friendship album of Erckenprecht Koler, of Nuremberg, 1588-1612.
© The British Library. Shelfmark: Egerton MS 1208.

Banquet:
Friendship album of Moyses Walens, of Cologne, 1605-1615.
© The British Library. Shelfmark: Add MS 18991

Book covers:
Twelfth night, retold by Rosie Dickins. London : Usborne, 2009.
Twelfth night, modernised by Alan Durband. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2014.

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