Friday, 16 December 2011

let me tell you a story

Let me tell you a story.  Like all good stories, it begins like this.  Onceuponatime.

Onceuponatime there were two old ladies.  Two rather stubborn and unbending old ladies, as it happens.

Anyway, these two old ladies both arrived at the local greengrocer’s at the same time.  And as bad luck would have it, they both wanted the last remaining orange (yes, I know – a greengrocer’s with just one orange; that certainly wouldn’t happen at Waitrose!)

Anyway, this greengrocer didn’t quite have his act together – and only one orange there was.  And these two old ladies, these two stubborn and unbending old ladies weren’t about to give in when it came to that one last remaining orange.


‘I need it!’ said the first old lady.

‘But I also need it,’ said the second.

Now, I know by now you are all terrific at solving conflicts.  So what do you think happened next?

Ella’s hand was up even before the question was out!  ‘Cut it in half,’ she said, to nods of agreement.

Well, that would be fair wouldn’t it.  Tanisha certainly agrees that it would.  They could ‘share; like one person can eat half and the other could eat the other half.’  They wouldn’t get quite as much orange as they needed, but at least they would both have a fair share.

But does anyone else have any other suggestions?

Yanis does.  ‘Maybe one could have that one first and the on another day there might be more oranges.’

‘Yes,’ concurred Melchior.  They could ‘ask the shop man if tomorrow you could bring more oranges.’ 

Tim agrees this might be the solution.  They could ‘ask the shop man to order one more orange.’

All great suggestions, but unfortunately this need for an orange is urgent.  Only now will do.  ONE orange.  Each.  Now.  If you please!

Mélina thinks she has the answer.  ‘They could go to another shop.’

Oh sorry.  Didn’t I mention it before?  This is a very small village.  There are no more orange shops for miles.  (And sorry again, but kilometres just doesn’t sound right here!)

So we are back to Ella and her suggestion that the greengrocer cuts the orange in half.  And yes, that is what he did.  Carefully, oh so carefully, he got out his sharpest knife…..

(it was a ‘laguiole’ as it happened) and making sure that both halves were equal, he sliced it in two.  And gave one half to each of the old ladies.

But he was flummoxed, because it turned out our two old ladies still went away unhappy.  Why?

Well, you see, one of them needed the juice…..


to be squeezed from a whole orange and the other needed the zest…..


to be peeled from a whole orange…..


because she was making orange jam.  By cutting it in half, neither got enough of what they needed. 

But if they had talked together at the start rather than just arguing with one another, they would have realised that one orange had enough of what they both needed.  One of the old ladies could have peeled off all of the zest and then the other old lady could have squeezed out all of the juice.  And they would both have gone away perfectly happy.

The power of – what’s that word again?

Ah yes.  Thank you Bianca. 


With thanks to Nikki for the idea.

one inside the other

Just so you know, Matryoshka dolls are Russian dolls made from wood.  They are painted in bright colours and the best thing is that they have a secret; for inside you will find another, smaller doll.  (And maybe inside that, yet another…..)

But before we get to that, we need a background.  A background painted in warm colours.  So let’s get started!  Dip your paintbrush into the red, the yellow or the orange…..


and then decide if you want narrow stripes…..


broad stripes…..


or even no stripes at all.  It’s up to you!  The only important thing is to make sure that there are no white bits showing.

Next comes the tricky bit.  Starting with a template (that’s an outline) in the shape of a Matryoshka doll - and a black marker, you are going to be drawing on the details.  Our doll needs a nice round face…..


with a beaming smile….


and prettily patterned clothes with frills and buttons.  And stripes and wiggles.


Of course she needs to be coloured too.

  _MG_8446 _MG_8447  _MG_8463

And then, when she is done and still smiling,  she needs to be cut out, snippety snip.

_MG_8462  _MG_8469

There!  How does she look?


Finally (or almost finally) she needs to be stuck on our background painted in warm colours.


Oh – I did mention her secret earlier didn’t I?


Another smaller doll….








Thursday, 15 December 2011

don’t say that!

Chances are you know how this post will start…..

It was called ‘Don’t Say That!’  A story set during an art lesson at school.

Johnny was painting a picture of a dragon. 


His friend leaned across to look at the painting – and laughed!


‘That doesn’t look like a dragon,’ he said.

We stopped the story at this point.  How would you feel if someone said that to you?

Well of course we all agreed that it wouldn’t be a very nice feeling.  We’d feel sad.  Maybe even angry…..


‘Don’t say that,’ said Johnny.  He certainly felt angry, didn’t he!

You can imagine from the illustration what might have happened next; a conflict about to lead to fighting.

Fast-forward to the end of the story (as with most stories, it had a happy ending, you’ll be pleased to know) and on to what we did next.  The instruction was to get together with two classmates (yes, that’s three people in all) without a fuss (no conflicts if you please!)…..and my goodness me, something must have stuck.  I heard helpful words such as ‘would you like to be with me?’ and ‘can we be together?’ and even ‘you can come with us.’  Eighteen divided into six groups of three – in a flash!

Once we had formed our groups, our task was to replay the story but to try and solve it without the conflict getting out of control; by using helpful rather than hurtful words so that no-one would feel sad or angry.

Here then, is a taste of what happened in our versions of the story.  As you will see there were lots of different routes to the mostly successful outcomes!

Poor Melchior tried his best but his dragon just didn’t make the grade as far as Bianca was concerned.  She said some hurtful words.

‘Stop!’ shouted Melchior.  ‘Don’t say that!’

‘I’m sorry,’ Bianca told him.

‘We got friends again,’ announced Melchior, smiling.  ‘Let’s tell the teacher.’

Ms Tanisha, the teacher was pleased.  ‘Well done,’ she told them.  ‘You solved it.’  And so they had!

Next up, Emily and Itaru, who likewise had a bit of a disagreement over what made a ‘good’ dragon painting.

Enter Mr Nicholas.  ‘If you can’t solve it, you will have to go outside!’ he announced.  Hmm.  Wonder where he might have heard that one before!

It had the required effect on Emily.  ‘I know,’ she said.  ‘Let’s colour together.’  After which there were smiles - not to mention beautiful dragons - all round.

Problem solved.

Luna had the sharp tongue in our next role-play.

‘Stop!  It’s not nice,’ said Ella.

Along came Ms Lakeisha.  ‘Let’s solve the problem,’ she told them.  ‘You will go to the baby class.’  To Luna.  Crestfallen.

Now, I am not sure that this is quite what I had in mind…..what do you think?  How would Luna feel about that?  OK so she said some unkind things, but I wonder; how might we replay it so that everyone ends up feeling OK?

Another less than sympathetic teacher in this one too.  Mr Yanis, I am afraid, agreed that Yousouf’s painting was not quite up to standard!  ‘It’s scribble,’ he said.   Cue Joseph.  Who noticed that Yousouf now feels very sad.  ‘Would you like me to help you?’ he asks.

Tim took on the role of meanie in this next one.  Poor Hiromi was quite upset! 

But quick as a flash, Ms Mélina realised the effect of his hurtful words.  ‘It does look like a dragon,’ she assured her.  Phew!

Similarly, Anusha played the role of a supportive teacher in her skit.  Aalian and Youssef ended up perfectly happy following their little fracas.  How well she had explained things to them.

The reason for all of this?  Well, I for one am going to be keeping an eye open for principled children; children who can work and play together without conflicts arising; children who know right from wrong, and who can do the right thing even if no-one is watching.  And I shall be keeping my ears open too, for helpful rather than hurtful words. 

What about you; can you too be on the look-out for people working and playing together peacefully?  And how about telling me when you hear someone using helpful words?  You might even tell them too.  After all, it is always nice to know that you are doing the right thing…..

Friday, 9 December 2011

starry nights and speckled jeans

Take a shallow container of white paint…..


some black paper and a paintbrush.  Dip the brush into the paint.  Now carefully flick (madness, I know!) your finger across the bristles…..


and spray the paint in speckles all over the black paper (and preferably not all over anything else!)


Oh and the idea is not to get too much paint on your hands - oops!


OK - that’s the background done.  Next it’s scissors at the ready to cut out some rectangles.  Tall narrow ones…..


and short squat ones.  These are going to represent buildings.  Yes, that’s right Nicholas; skyscrapers.  Skyscrapers set against a starry night-time sky.

And of course as skyscrapers are not always just rectangular in shape, so if you wish you can snip away the corners to add a bit of interest to our skyline.


When you have made 5 or 6 buildings, it’s time to glue them all-in-a-row onto your speckled black background.


Finally, snippety snip, you need to cut some squares of yellow paper – for the windows.

And there you have it.  A city at night.  In fact lots of cities at night.

IMG_7291   IMG_7299

You may even be able to recognise which city.  Here we have Athens (the flag gives it away rather!)…..


New York…..

new york

Kuwait City…..

kuwait city



and Tokyo!


You will no doubt be relieved to learn that in spite of all that spraying of paint, yours truly escaped pretty much unscathed - although poor Béatrix ended up just a tiny bit speckled.  Rather like one of her hens.


Sorry, Béatrix – but it was all in a good cause!


smiles are catching!

We have been doing lots of thinking about our own emotions as well as about recognising emotions in others.  But here is something interesting that we discovered.  Maybe you remember.  During one of our problem-solving  ‘role plays’ (about Angry Arthur) Arthur number 4 (aka Nicholas) acted out for us how angry he was and his mum Hiromi looked genuinely scared!

So it seems that our emotions can affect how other people feel.

When you have a really angry face…..


it can make other people feel scared.

When you have an about-to-get-angry face…..


your friends may feel sad.

But watch what happens when you have a happy face.

IMG_7316   IMG_7317   IMG_7318

Smiles it seems are catching!

when I feel angry…..

Remember this angry chap?


Well, he is so very angry that he is on the point of…..well what exactly?

How about this angry fellow? 


We all know that his anger was like a universequake!

What about you; when you feel angry, what is it like?  Is it like a rocket, exploding into space?  Or like fireworks?

IMG_7257     IMG_7265

Is it like a balloon about to pop?


Like a scary monster maybe?


Does it feel like an erupting volcano perhaps?


Or is it like a TGV train and a tree falling down and an erupting volcano (a specific volcano I’ll have you know!) all at the same time?


Anger is a normal emotion.  Everyone gets angry from time to time.  But whatever anger feels like to you, the important thing though is to learn to recognise when you are about to erupt like St Helen’s or explode like a firework so that you can try and stop the eruption or the explosion from happening.  What sorts of things have you tried to help you calm down?