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Can I Build Another Me?

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I could have shared the weird feeling it gives me when I wear gloves for too long, which makes me feel like I am being suffocated. Follows a child's hilarious, wildly inventive train of thought as he decides to make a clone of himself and starts to ponder what makes him HIM.

Being able to tell a story, in the form of anecdote, is a valuable social skill, a form of confidence building, and it is also supportive of an understanding of storytelling more generally. The circle is just to cement the idea that we need to listen to each other, and make sure that everyone can see each other. Some children are more than happy to wear their heart on their sleeve, whereas others may be much more reticent. I chose to go without glasses, but because I couldn’t see properly, I tried to take the wrong kids onto the slide, which was among the most excruciatingly awkward moments of my life.It Might Be An Apple – The story follows a child’s hilarious, wildly inventive train of thought through all the things an apple might be if it is not, in fact, an apple. I shared how I have always bitten my nails, and my Dad really hates it (always has) and he threatened to put English Mustard on my fingernails if I didn’t stop.

follows a child's hilarious, wildly inventive train of thought as he decides to make a clone of himself - and starts to ponder what makes him HIM. The way I see it, the book is a gentle introduction to introspection – when kids read it and begin to think about how they would programme their own robot, they tiptoe towards a kind of reflection on selfhood that doesn’t come instinctively to them. Either way, this is a really fun focal point for classrooms and one that works best if children are given enlarged or close-up access to the illustrations. After we have shared ideas as a class – I don’t force any individual kid to share unless they are wiling to at this point – we can then get onto producing our own page. Kevin, a little boy fed up with doing things he doesn’t want to do, like homework and daily chores, decides to spend all his pocket money on a robot that he intends to turn into a clone of himself.

I am interrogating the role of anecdotes in the classroom at the minute – I guess this is my little teaching preoccupation – and this book has a great scope for it. The time should be given for the children to add detail to their stories, when telling them – time for embellishment and questioning. This esoteric little book is a brilliant one to share, it is visually arresting and is such a great book to teach with. Soon, Kevin realizes that he is the embodiment of all his younger selves and although he was made by two parents, he created his own history and developed his particular characteristics. He realizes the diversity of the feelings he has, the intensity of the dreams he grows, the joy of interacting with different people and the secrecy of some of his most intimate thoughts.

Philosophy for children this certainly is: I lost count of how many times it opens up space for reflection and discussion. Some kids might point out birthmarks or scars, some of them might talk about trapping their fingers, or about a special piece of jewellery they are wearing, or why they are wearing mehndi at the moment. Bursting with imaginative illustrations, this thought-provoking book offers an engaging and enjoyable experience that not only sparks discussion but also serves as an ideal catalyst for exploring the concept of each person’s distinct uniqueness.Does the book contain anything that teachers would wish to know about before recommending in class (strong language, sensitive topics etc. is one of those so well written and profound picture books that dare to explore big, philosophical concepts in such a hilarious and inventive way, that by the time you finish reading it, notions like existentialism, individuality, selfhood or life experience are already familiar. Each page shows something different, such as his Likes and Dislikes and the Things I Can and Can’t Do. Distrusting the apple’s convincing appearance, the child’s imagination spirals upwards and outwards into a madcap fantasy world – maybe it’s a star from outer space with tiny aliens on board? In telling these stories, what you are needing to do yourself, and what you are encouraging in the kids, is the ability to spin a good yarn – to speak humorously or with pathos, to be able to pre-empt the reactions it might get and to withhold certain information until the very end, to be able to identify the key parts of the ‘plot’ and to tell it appropriately.

As you see, the simple idea of it is that different body parts are labelled and different facts or stories are linked to each. Some really thoughtful artwork and picture books can be created by the class through a short sequence of lessons using this book, but more than this, the greatest strength is in the quality of discussion that can come about through getting the kids to create their own pages. I could share – and I have just thought of this now, and this is the kind of free flowing retrieval of anecdotes that this lesson is all about – the time when I was taking a group of kids to the swimming baths with a youth charity, and I had to choose between wearing my massive glasses in the pool and looking weird, or going without, and lacking my eyesight. I leave traces of me”, Kevin admits, thinking of how his parents identify his mess or how his peers recognize his belongings. A loose set of lesson plans can be found here – I am going to use this when we get back with Year 4 over the course of the four lessons, one a fortnight, that I cover each class during their Creative Arts Day.Younger classes will enjoy imagining what a robot close of themselves might look, act and feel like, while older children can get philosophical about the factors that have come together to make them who they are, or even about the potential ethics of cloning oneself (I’m sure overly busy teachers may also be tempted to wish for a clone! A vital closing part to this session should be the opportunity for children to share their work with each other in the class, perhaps randomising it in some way so that they are not necessarily just sharing with their best friends. To get what I mean, think about one of your classes: you will have a couple of children in there who can capture the attention of everyone in their class when they are telling even a quite objectively boring and uneventful anecdote, and you will have some children who, even if something truly remarkable has happened to them, haven’t got the capacity to tell it well. Through doing this activity, and being able to share a class full of completed little pages like this, you will almost certainly learn much more about the children in your class, and they will learn much more about each other.

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