Kehua. By Robyn Kahukiwa

Week Five
What were you afraid of when you were little?

Have you read Spinster or Teacher, by Sylia Ashton Warner? She was an amazing New Zealand teacher and writer. I read her books when I was first training to be a teacher. Nobody at Teachers' College ever mentioned her. I found them at a garage sale. When I read Spinster I thought that she had a way of describing the fullness and the emotion of life as a teacher. The weaving of people and personalities and family. She was a thinker and a pioneer and probably a bit mad as well. Aren't all teachers. We'd have to be to do this job! I chose to read Kehua because it is about a Maori child who is afraid of a ghost. Sylvia Ashton Warner believed that children needed to learn the "KEY" words that were emotionally vital and powerful in their lives. She believed that one of those words would be the thing a child feared. She found that Maori children always needed the word 'ghost' and "European" children needed the word 'dog' most often. Robyn Kahukiwa is also an amazing woman. She is an artist and a political activist in her art. I am interested to see how my class of mostly "european" children will respond to this book. Will they know the meaning of some of the words? Will they connect? How will they compare A Lion In The Meadow, which is about imagined fears, with Kehua, which is about imagined fears of a different kind. I believe children have 'key' stories, key books. They will connect to reading when they find their book.

There's a lion in the meadow

The dragon grew too big!

Day One
We shared a film with the school at assembly this morning. They liked it. It took me 20 minutes to set up the data projector etc..UG. That is so frustrating. It makes you just want to forget even bothering. Then I spent several hours filling in a form for the ICT contract that was just the same questions over and over. It was like a weird torture. We kept reading them over and over. How much time in talk and how much time in walk?
I have just loaded the photos from the day onto my computer and I got such a surprise. My 18 year old son came to school to help and he must have given the kids the camera. They have taken some great photos. I usually give them the camera but they have just taken lots of photos of whatever they like. Very nice. I must stop hogging the camera. My son also took some photos of us outside dancing with our silk ribbons as dragons growing and a lion coming out of the tree. I keep looking at them. They capture something. The children are really lions in some photos. And I can almost see the dragon growing. I can see myself too. How strange. There I am "Tia as teacher" I don't think I've ever really seen myself in action. That's how the kids may feel.
I read Kehua today. We looked at the cover for a long time first. I asked them what they saw..what the book might be about. One child said he thought it was a spoon with arms and legs! They saw all the colour in the kehua. I asked who new what Kehua was. Nobody did. I read the book and then asked again. One girl thought it was a kind of taniwha. I don't think anyone said it was a ghost. It doesn't really look like a white person's ghost. We had a good talk about things we are afraid of at night. Tricksters under the desk. Ghosts that come in through the open door. Noises like...Going and jumping in Mum and Dad's bed. One child suggested that we write our stories down so that is what we will do. Then we can paint the scary things. I wonder what they will look like. I'm going to paint mine too. The one that lived in the basement. I wonder what it's like to have such a vivid imagination as these five year olds. When they are afraid, it must seem so real. I can't remember. I will try when I go to sleep tonight. I will try to remember.

I work with great people.

Children are bringing books to school everyday now.

Day Two
Mischievous. I like that word. "It looks mischievous," said one girl. My favourite word is Kehua said another. Why?I asked. Because it's a Maori word. I like the word, "Collided" says the boy who likes colliding. "That word isn't in one of the books though", I said. What word do you like from one of the books? "Collided", he said. Maybe the not a box police car collided. It probably did. We are talking about words now. I write them all down and feel quite happy with myself. There, I did something that seems like literacy. I really do like words. I like roaring whiskery but it's two words and the kids are the same. They don't want to like one word. I seem to be a bit like a mad chook today. All the little chicks clucking around me and rounding them up.
The children wrote stories about what they are afraid of in the night. I really am astounded by some of there ghosts. They don't look like ghosts I have ever seen or even dreamed of. So later in the day we read the stories and they paint the ghost things and witches and I didn't get the paint ready and it's all a mad flurry cause I wanted to sit and eat my lunch in the sun and not get anything ready and then I pay for my laziness. Luckily my secret collaborator is here and helps. He thinks I'm crazy, I'm sure. But oh well. He reads us some of his scary stories and I do like being read to. Adults should all try it.
We go for a bit of disorganized dragon dancing and in the field and the kids take some funny photos. It interests me to see what they take photos of. Tomorrow my research person comes. I can't answer any of the questions she gave me.
My mind is colliding.
Some people don't like Kidpix. They might even use the hate word. But they are wrong. It is brilliant. Five year olds can type words and import photos and add music from i Tunes and Garage Band and then make little shows with it and print it all themselves. They don't even have to touch the drawing tools or the stamps. It means independence and a really simple way into the pathways and links in a Mac computer. They can be creative and confident.

Two children made their own books at home and brought them to school today. The parents tell me the children are acting out stories at home now. The culture of the class is changing. It is as though each of the books we read is enveloping us and we become it. They said that adults can't really see the ghosts. One girl wrote that she sees the ghost in her mind but it
is true.
There isn't really a difference for them. Between the truths.


The kids take photos

Day Three
is a joke. It's what the children say all day long." Tia Tia..." My lovely research mentor came today from Wellington. We made a podcast of We're Going on a Bear Hunt and she joined in. The news is never quite right when someone new visits. It loses the shine. Children are such creatures of trust. I guess we all are. We tried to watch the movies and Michael Rosen but the data projector wouldn't do it's thing. It kept shutting off and all the kids were waiting so I postponed it. I spent the middle part of the day with Sue being interviewed about the project. I feel like I am not very clear. I talk about "AHA" moments but of course the things you think of are here and now. The bigger picture will be the long slow "AHA" that I know will only unfold as the story continues.
Today after I read Kehua the kids wanted to come and show pages, show things they were noticing for the first time that they were curious about. One girl pointed to a pounamu necklace an old woman was wearing and this sparked a boy to show us his bone carving of two koru. "I got it when I left my last school. I was a Maori at that school. I can keep it forever." "Aren't you a Maori anymore?", I asked. "No", he replied. "I spoke Maori at my Kura and I'm not a Maori anymore now." Another girl showed us her greenstone necklace. She said that she is English. I asked, "What is English?" She said, "It is a country." "What country do we live in?", I asked. "New Zealand", she replied. "What language do we speak in New Zealand?" I asked."English", all of the children replied. I explained to them that our country is also called Aotearoa and that in some places people speak mainly in Maori and that we can learn to speak Maori too.
It was thought provoking.
In the afternoon we managed to watch the movies. The children loved them. It was good for Sue to see their response. You can't really describe that. It's like great bubbles of joy and a serious engagement. Something is happening but I am like them. I don't know how to describe it. I think it is some kind of learning. It involves a great deal of sharing and cooperation to do this. To express a story together and journey in our reflections and thoughts and share our personal connections. I left the photos at school so I'll add them tomorrow.

A treasure


Painting Kehua

Day Four
It's funny how you try so hard sometimes and nothing happens. You know like you say bring... to school and nobody does. And you keep saying it and nobody does. Today was the opposite. A mum came in with her daughter and said that she had her special taonga (treasure) to share as her daughter had told her all about it. I was thinking to myself. "What is she talking about?" I didn't 'get it' until she took out this beautiful bracelet that her gran who had died had given her. The girl told me about each special symbolic charm and it's meaning and connection to her family roots. It was spell binding. Of course it was the little talk we had had about the picture of the woman with a carved necklace in Kehua. Then another child arrived with a special necklace her mother had let her bring and another had a bracelet from her oma. We hadn't even discussed the nanny in the story or the fact that it was she who had helped but they got it.

I showed Robyn's(another e-fellow) wiki to our teachers. One of them tried story circles today. She was excited about the response from the kids. I am going to give my kids some roles next week to see how they respond. I have had a few parents asking to see the movies but I want to have an opening night with popcorn. I was thinking about Sue asking me if there was any impact on the children's literacy. A child read Kehua today by herself to the class. I did some running records today, as you do, and some of the children have shifted 5 levels in 5 weeks. I am not into the "reading race" at all and I shouldn't be surprised. One thing that the kids kept saying about the film making. "I like it cause it's fun!"
I am getting too many movies backing up I need to edit. Time time time. I was a grumpy old cow in the afternoon. The kids probably didn't even notice. Sometimes I think I need to do a quieter job. I am losing my momentum a bit with the technology-movies. It was good to get feedback from Sue. I seem to get really into it and then when too many things need to be finished, I just think I'll have an ice cream instead.

This is a lecture by Joy Cowley about her life as a writer. I found this on Storylines as well.
Day Five
I spent a day with Mem Fox once. It was a fabulous day. Just one of those professional development days that we used to have in Nelson before they decided that we could do all our PD some other time and somewhere else? I loved it. She knows about reading and kids and writing and magic and books. She's no dummy. I'm reading her book Reading Magic. She has a great Web site too. I read this lecture by Joy Cowley too. I read my kids Bow Down Shadrach and The Silent One and lots of others. It is fascinating to know a person through their books and then read about their life.

My brain is refusing to give me access to those words that describe what we have to do now as teachers. You know-it's a word in front of assessment and it starts with f I think. No I just found it. It wasn't f. National Standards. Maybe it could be Fational Standards. Or Fational Nandards. Yes that's what I'll call them. Because I'm thinking that if people are so stupid and are willing to put kids learning at such a risk, and my days will be a bother with other people's anxieties, maybe this game isn't for me anymore. I guess we all have these moments. But I do not like it Sam I am.

It's the end of the week and this is what I think. This isn't about just one story. The story of that week. It is about many stories all interacting and coming together to make another story. It's about little people and me sharing an experience and our experiences related to a story. Today we talked about Kehua and A Lion In the Meadow. I asked "What is the same about these books?" They were so wise and articulate I wondered that I was in the company of five year olds. They are both about being scared. No one will come and help. It's both a scary thing.
I asked them how the stories were different. "She's got black hair", a girl said. "Yes but the boy has brown hair."

I asked them which book they liked better, thinking that A Lion In The Meadow would be the favourite by far. I was completely wrong. Most of the children prefer Kehua. "Why", I asked. "I like to feel scared." "I like to be freaked."
"I like the shadows." "I like K..that's my favourite letter and that's Kehua."

The children who liked A Lion In The Meadow said, "I liked the pictures." "I like the colours in the book."

Today I gave the kids the still camera and said make a movie. They set up Humpty Dumpty and lots of castles and blocks and teddies and took photos..lots and lots of photos. I want them to start to take more of a role in the filming and editing process.

I haven't put any films up this week. There will be three new ones up next week. If you are reading this I will put a notice up when I upload them. One of them will be a collection of ghost stories! YES. I love thrillers.
AHA. AHA AHA. I've just had a big thought. It's about literacy. And visualizing what you read, getting the picture in your mind. I did no teaching for these paintings. I put the paper, the primary colours and brushes out and said paint your Kehua-make it big. These are beautiful and they are so full. I have done a lot of art with kids but they don't usually paint pictures this completely. These paintings are about connecting to the book for a week. They grew in depth as the week went on. That is what happens with a good story and that is why kids need the story many times. That is why they need stories that are meaningful to them, that speak of things they know, like being afraid in the dark

While we were reading Kehua the children recounted their own experiences of being afraid of something in their room at night usually. Each of them painted their "Kehua"
and then I loaded the photos of their artwork into i-Movie and the children told their stories which we added as voiceovers. Lastly I added some background music to make it sound a bit spooky. I really like the final effect.