Summer Sports Workshops
By Glenn Martin James and Angela Marie James
Authors and Performers Glenn Martin James and Angela Marie James work regularly in schools with children, staging workshops on every subject from Vikings to the Spitfire. In Summer 2016 they embarked on a Tour of North Staffs with their Creative Kids Workshops, and devoted some special sessions to Sports and the Olympics, to tie in to the fact that Stoke-on-Trent was 2016’s City of Sport.
The words ‘Six Week Holidays’ is enough to fill most parents of school age children with dread. It’s wonderful for the children, because of course they feel like the world is their oyster and they have weeks and weeks to enjoy themselves, and no need to get up for school in the morning. For a parent it’s a different story, because of course you wonder what on earth to do to keep them occupied for a month and a half. As parents ourselves, we are no exceptions.
Yet, after seeing the creative talent and love for reading, writing and performing in the region, whilst working in schools, we decided to try and help keep that creativity alive during the summer break.
Summer Creative Workshops
We must have been insane, but we decided to stage creative workshops in three separate areas of the region across the week, with two days at each one. They were held at Bradwell Lodge in Porthill, the Art Stop in Stoke, and the Wedgwood Institute in Burslem. It was a bit of a challenging brief, and friends said it sounded like we were on tour!
These sessions had themes across each week to make it varied for the children, but one week in particular we focused solidly on Sport and the Olympics, reflecting on the 2012 Games in the light of Rio, and above all to do honour to Stoke-on-Trent as the European City of Sport for 2016.
These workshops are very active sessions, which involve poetry and riddles, storytelling, drawing and colouring, and lots of very energetic actions and jumping about. Quite a workout I can assure you!
Angela would always start each one with a series of really fun poems and riddles for the children to work out. This is done with a real sense of mischief, suggesting the subject without revealing it, and making it just hard enough to make the children almost explode when they thought of the answer, hands in the air like lightning.
After all of this interactivity, they would settle down to hear one of Glenn’s ‘Lottie and Mr Columbine’ stories, about an accident prone grand old wizard and his best friend Lottie, a little girl who lives nearby.
These stories are always illustrated by Glenn’s cartoons to help bring his stories even more to life. Afterwards, the children get ‘arty’ and draw their own creation based on the day’s theme and/or colour in colouring-in sheets of Glenn’s illustrations, which the children then get to take home. This always goes down well and gives a great natural break where they can all chat, socialise and get their energy back!
Ready for the workshops action-packed finale.
This sees Angela encouraging the children to get creatively and physically active, whilst creating and performing an ‘Action Poem’ on the spot, inspired by the day’s theme.
The children all gather together and each of them contribute a line of the ‘Action Poem’ with a chosen action. Each time a new child contributes, everyone performs all of the lines and actions once again, adding on the new one at the end. This can result in everyone going backwards over about 12 different actions! It’s an extremely hectic, energetic and fun set to end the sessions, and the children always look forward to it hugely, jumping up with big grins when called to take part. It’s boisterous and exhausting to lead, but enormous fun!
As you can see these sessions are noisy and boisterous, and we were very amused to learn one venue had, with circumspect foresight, placed us next door to an office used by a society for the hard of hearing…
When it came to holding workshops on Sport, we covered two related themes, ‘Sports Candy’ and ‘Sports for All’.
The workshops in the first half of the week focused on ‘Sports Candy’, a phrase successfully used on the children’s TV show ‘Lazy Town’, to describe fruit and vegetables to encourage children to eat them, in preference to sweets and candy.
These workshops saw the children getting really excited when trying to guess the fruit and vegetables, during Angela’s poem/riddle ‘Guess the Sports Candy’.
After which Glenn delighted them with his ‘Lottie and Mr Columbine’ story called ‘Sporting for Candy’. Where all the forgetful sorcerer wanted to do was stay in a hammock eating sweets and watching the Olympics on the TV. Lottie gets him up, gets him eating fresh fruit, and taking part.
The children loved the whole idea of that and were shouting out the kinds of vegetables or fruit you can eat to help keep you fresh and fit, in the great precedent of Sports Candy, in the children’s show ‘Lazy Town’.
They then had lots of fun drawing their own favourite sports candy and/or colouring in pictures of Mr Columbine eating fresh fruit and taking part in sport activities. At the end everyone delighted in describing and acting out different types of ‘Sports Candy’ for the Action Poem. It was a lovely to see the children taking a real interest in healthy eating and the benefits of eating fruit and vegetables, in a fun and creative way.
The second half of the week focused on ‘Sports for All’. We had some very keen budding athletes in the room and the children jumped up and down trying to get a word in over each other to tell you which sport it was, during Angela’s poem/riddle ‘Guess the Sport’.
Afterwards Glenn performed his ‘Lottie and Mr Columbine’ story called ‘Playing the Game’. Where the enterprising mage would set out to take up a whole new sport and get it completely wrong, and young Lottie tried kindly to put him right. This involved him hitting footballs with tennis rackets, or playing leapfrog over cricket stumps, and suddenly realising after jumping into a swimming pool that it might be a good idea to learn to swim first!
Glenn does a very silly voice for Mr Columbine, a bit like Jon Pertwee with adenoid problems, and some of the boys were in fits of laughter when Mr Columbine argued with the referee about where it said in the rulebook you can’t use a tennis racket when playing football!
The children loved Glenn’s illustrations which showed Mr Columbine getting into all sorts of muddles and finally realising that his favourite sport is cycling. They had lots of fun drawing their own sporting activity and/or colouring in pictures of Mr Columbine playing various sports.
Then of course it was time for the Action Poem, where each child suggested a sport and an action related to it. Oh, they loved this! There was cricket, skiing, rounders, tennis, running, swimming, football, gymnastics, basketball, skipping, hula hooping, and horse riding. It was great to see the children thinking about sports creatively and taking an interest in the different types.
It was absolutely exhausting to perform all of the actions again and again. But the children were giggling and having so much fun, that they didn’t even realise that we were all in effect having a physical workout. What a great way to get us all active. Creativity, sport, laughter and fun – what a great combination!
All in all the Sports Workshops were a great hit, really getting the children thinking about different sports, enthusiastic about participating, conscious of healthy eating, and also enjoying doing something very creative and enjoying stories and poetry. It worked very well, and it helped to spread the message about the City of Sport very effectively. By the end of the sessions they were very proud indeed of Stoke on Trent’s status in 2016.
Just to give you an idea of how these sessions unfold, please find below Angela poem/riddle ‘Guess the Sports Candy’ and ‘Guess the Sport’ We hope you enjoy it as much as the children did when they were performed live!
To find out more about Glenn & Angela’s work and the Creative Kids (Staffs) Workshops see here.
GUESS THE SPORTS CANDY
By Angela Marie James ©
I have a hard skin
But soft and squishy inside
Curved and yellow
Monkeys love me
Can you guess my name?
I’m long and crunchy
As orange as can be
Some say I’m good for your eyes
Bunnies like to eat me
Can you guess my name?
I have a long stalk and
A bushy head
I look like a tree and
Am as tasty as can be
Can you guess my name?
I am round and hard
Yet often juicy
With green or red skin
I can keep the doctor away
Can you guess my name?