Saturday, 31 May 2008

Pharaoh's Birthday Cake - Perhaps?

Another post migration.

Joshua and Madeleine's school have an interesting approach to homework and it's taken a little time to get used to the new format. Previously, each day they'd have different assignments set for individual subjects and each batch of homework would have a time period in which to complete it. In some ways I liked it. It helped them to filter their concentration on to specific subjects and also taught them the discipline of having work completed on time and done to the best of their ability. What I didn't like was the rigidity of it. If work was set on a Monday to be in the next day, it was difficult to get them to concentrate when they had after school activities the same night. It's also VERY difficult to ask a child to concentrate on work when there are siblings within earshot all making very noisy demands on your attention. In seniors when exams are paramount, I'll welcome the stricter more rigid demands placed on them but for 7 and 8 year olds, it's all a bit much.

So, I was delighted when the school introduced a new form of homework discipline. Many parents dislike it - I love it. It takes the form of a table divided into multiple skills - numeracy, literacy, interpersonal, intrapersonal, social, scientific, PHSE ..... Then, into each discipline are various tasks each with a differing points value. The idea is to complete at least 8 projects and score at least 30 points with no more than 3 disciplines from each line being completed. They have the whole half term to do it.

This means I can do weekend projects with them - things that take time, rather than trying to rush them at the end of a day where they're tired from school and I'm tired from work, trying to cook dinner, entertain the others and generally being ratty. It means we can spend time together researching information at our leisure rather than being pushed for time to fit it in between dinner, after school activities and a reasonable bed-time.

This half term Joshua's learning about Ancient Egypt. As well as numerous miscellaneous projects from the sheet, he's already done a bar chart showing the length of reign of 4 Pharaohs (he instantly recognised and applied the reverse mathematics when calculating the reign of a BC rule). He's written spells warning casual wanderers away from a sarcophagus and his short story about himself during the period has also received an 'Excellent Job' marking from his teacher. (I think the bit about being caught by the guards whilst fleeing across the desert, knocking the nose off the Sphinx and being chopped up and given to the best chef in Egypt to serve up in the new Pharaoh's dinner kind of impressed Mr H.).

BUT - the Pièce de résistance just HAD to be the pyramid cake he made. With a little bit of help measuring ingredients and loading them into the mixer, he made a Madeira cake.

I've always encouraged the children to think laterally. Not to always be content with the first idea in their head, or feel defeated if somebody has already achieved something they would like to achieve. I like them to think how they can improve on designs and ideas, how they can apply methods and theories differently to achieve the same goal or perhaps improve on it. In this instance Joshua decided that the other cakes his classmates had brought in had exhausted the 'pile one slab on top of the other' method, so he needed something new. He wanted to 'build' his pyramid, so after cutting the cake into bricks we set about assembling it, using hot jam as cement to hold the pieces together. Then topped off with copious layers of buttercream to give that all authentic sandstone look. We had to ensure there were enough bricks for each child in his year group and teachers AND assistants to have one each.

Not much pressure there then.

Looking more like the leaning tower of Pisa here!

Joshua proudly displaying the fruits of his efforts - nearly done now.

TA DA!!! Here we have it - Pyramid Cake

He took it in today to share with the class. 85 bricks in all, so there's plenty for everyone. With this assigment completed he's notched up 31 points and 7 completed tasks.

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