The romantic notions of assemblies hark back to an age that has long since pasted – and yet the classical ideals behind them have not changed.
Assemblies come in many forms:
The Celebration – well done Cromwell for focussing for 23 seconds. Have a black and white piece of thick paper to put in your reading bag and forget about.
The Patriotic – banned in the UK since Victorian times (or something) though seemingly popular in other countries, if you read the Daily Mail… Which I don’t! Is this where Old Primary Head declares himself a UKIP supporter? Trying to out-do Game of Thrones for SHOCKERS.
The Preachy – Someone’s been throwing wet tissue paper onto the toilet ceiling. Let’s have a mass gathering condemning the mystery culprits and shaming them into admitting their crimes publically.
The Themed – YES! It’s the WORLD CUP… let’s talk about FLAGS and Brazil and … and… FOOTBALL!
The Moral – The world is NOT fair and you should listen to what these people are doing to make it better – while you sit here doing nothing! I hope you feel bad?
The Critter – Yeah, just thought having this 4ft Eagle in to eye up the Reception children will help rebalance the order of things… A little perspective in the grand circle of life… Anyone seen Frank?
The Worship- 50 ways to confuse a child…
They go on and on and they follow a pretty formulaic order and ORDER is the key constant throughout. As you may be guessing I have an issue with assemblies. An Issue I have been trying to address this year.
My new approach has hit upon two methods and a few tools to help me.
Firstly, I don’t do any of the above (apart from celebration on a Friday). I do three assemblies a week. Monday (EYFS and KS1), Tuesday (KS2) and Friday (whole school celebration).
If I have a theme it is THINKING. Questioning everything and looking at the world we live in from a different perspective. I love this film as an example of seeing the world differently:
The greatest compliment I have had so far this year is a Y5 girl saying to her teacher,
“Do I have to go? He makes us think… My head hurts sometimes!”
I use either P4C (Philosophy for Children) materials or other philosophy starters (The Philosophy Shop by Peter Worley being a favourite). I then plan it through using PREZI which helps me organise the questions and stimuli. I look for video, music, pictures or anything that allows me a starter that can get the children thinking.
Last week I used the Who Gets What and Why idea from the Philosophy Shop. I have attached the Prezi which is not particularly inspired but will give you an idea of my motives (you need the book and story to fully understand – especially the Bully bit).
Over the year I have developed talk partners within assembly to a degree where it is very lively and focussed (Using simple wide hand to signal – finish conversation). I have pushed with the children that ALL thoughts are worth saying and quite often this has caused more questions and incredible answers (In particular when exploring the idea of ‘nothing’ a Y6 response to what is in the box, “The residue of a dead star!”
I have also started to get children to illustrate the assembly. Initially I did this with KS2 and picked G&T artists. I made sure they had good quality paper and a range of good marker pens. I then dictated what they drew. Here’s an example of a recent session
“I need a box! Draw an empty box!”
“What can be in the BOX?” Draw shoes! Draw dust! Draw angry ants (The kids love this…)
“Ok… What cannot be in the BOX?” Draw Brazil! Draw Mr Walton! Draw NOTHING!
It gives a focus and if done well it is a good way of getting the assembly recorded. Children also see their ideas get illustrated and written down. If you add someone who is a good speller and has great handwriting to the mix you can get quotes and ideas down too.
I still struggle with ENDING…
I tend to leave it floating a little (not intentionally)… But it is nice to feel that this is my new art and it is one that I feel a novice in suddenly. By moving away from a more traditional formula I feel that I have something to learn and perfect. I feel that the next stage for me will be to get a colleague to observe and feedback. To test the learning going on… Maybe all heads should have their assemblies observed this way?