Session Two: The Firebird

November 18th 2016

Aim: To raise awareness of our bodies through movement and observation.

The Simorgh from Shahnameh, courtesy of Chester Beatty Library collection.

Prior to planning this session I needed to ensure that the children had time to watch the two films that I had sent for our first session. The children had responded really well to observing birds movements whilst out in the playground. They mirrored the movements of the birds and didn’t seem too self conscious to be able demonstrate the moments in front of the whole class. I had also been looking at images from the Chester Beatty and had been inspired by the story teller Xanthe Gresham’s recent performance of The Simorgh from Shahnameh. In response to this I had created a Phoenix from brightly coloured paper. I love the idea of the Phoenix appearing out of the flames, an almost unreal creature who’s movements remain fluid and unknown like flames, changing colour, appearing and disappearing as it sores in the sky – untamed, mysterious and free. I am not sure yet where the Phoenix will take me but it is a seed of an idea that I shall plant with the children and see where it goes.

Initially IT presented a few issues for this session, they could see and hear me and I could only hear them. We resolved the problem eventually but I still think that the session would work well even if I could only hear them. Ms Harriot could send me photographs of the work created during the session and as we clarify everything through verbal communication this would work as long as the children can see the things I need to show them whether that is something I have in my hand or up on the whiteboard. My view of what the children are doing is limited as the camera is in a fix position and when the children present things up close they are too blurred for me to see any actual detail.


Once we were up and running we explored the idea of the Phoenix a little, what it could represent and where it came from.  I think the seed of an idea has been sown and I shall need to see where my ideas for a Phoenix could go before I take it back to the classroom.

I invited the children to describe what the saw in the two film pieces I had asked them to watch. I was delighted and surprised at the descriptive language they used -graceful, swirling, murmuration, I like the idea of collecting words the child use and learn as we go through the different sessions. I also asked the children to mirror the movement of the birds in motion and to try to become aware within their own bodies of what different part of the bodies moves when we move a hand or lower arm and how simple movements impact on the whole body. I want them to do this so that they can begin to understand their arms and essentially how their own bodies work in motion. When the children went out into the playground I asked them t move about with wings rather than arms.

In the package I had sent the previous week there was transparent vinyl that initially I thought we would use to cut out another hand. Instead I asked the children to show me the V like shape of a bird in flight using their fingers. After a little practice I asked the children to draw these shapes onto the transparent vinyl. Each child drew between 3 and 5 V shapes each one slightly bigger than the next. I knew that the classroom had large windows so I asked if the v shapes could be stuck onto the glass to create a flight pattern across all the windows, placing similar sizes together starting from the larger birds in one bottom corner and leading upwards with a cluster of smaller birds. As the window were actually quite high this task demanded Ms Harriots attention. Thankfully there were a couple of older children present in the room for the day and were able to assist her. Whilst the children had been cutting I had created my own birds in flight on the studio window.

Whilst Ms Harriot was distracted with creating our birds in flight I tried out a little creative visualization with the children. I asked them to close their eyes and with their feet firmly on the ground and their backs straight against the chair. Starting at their feet I talked through most of the body parts asking the children to bring their attention to each mentioned part, finishing with a piece of string tied to the top of their head and pulling them upwards stretching their spine just a little. I was very surprised to watch classroom of children sitting very still and following what I was saying. It was quite a long exercise and the children seemed to respond well.

As with the previous session we did not quite get to do everything I had planned. Again I was able to leave Ms Harriot to show the children the links in the afternoon.

The first two minutes a piece from Swan Lake

Beach Birds, a very short piece but very accurate …..

I wanted to show this one for the movement of the body. It’s done in water and is great fun.


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