We Cracked It! Our KS2 Conference

After months and months of careful planning, on Monday 2nd March all of our SLS team traveled to the wonderful Green Britain Centre in Swaffham to host our Cracking the Code conference and we’re pleased to report that it was a great success!

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(Above: some of our lovely SLS stock on display for all to see!)

Delegates from across the county came together to take part in a variety of cross-curricular workshops and to listen to what some brilliant Authors had to say.

The day was kicked-off by Andrew Cope, author of the popular Spy Dogs series and ‘Art of Brilliance’ advocate who spoke to our delegates about the importance maintaining a positive approach to teaching, even in the face of stress (and ofsted!). His keynote speech, ‘The Art of Being a Brilliant KS2 Teacher’ was a great way to start the conference and gave us all lots to think about; we certainly came into the office on Tuesday with a spring in our step because none of us had toothache…! Andy later went on to deliver a workshop session entitled ‘The Happiness Advantage’ and then spent the afternoon visiting a nearby school in Swaffham.

Throughout the day, delegates at the conference were given the opportunity to attend three workshops each of which covered a different topic.

Before lunch, Helen Dennis, author of the Secret Breakers series, led a session showcasing 13 real codes and the way in which these could be integrated into school lessons, talking about how she used them herself when working as a Teacher in Sussex. She went down a storm and in the afternoon was whisked away to Neatherd High School in Dereham where she was well received by the students she met. We loved her session and learnt so much, though we’re still baffled by bacon’s bilateral cipher (and probably will be for some time!)

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(above: Helen Dennis showing our delegates how to crack some codes!)

In the afternoon we were joined by author and illustrator Kate Pankhurst who had spent the morning at All Saints Academy working with groups of KS2 children. Entitled ‘DO judge a Book by its Cover’, those who attended Kate’s conference workshop were asked to look at a variety of children’s books and see if they were able to decipher any clues about the book’s plot based on their covers. Using her Mariella Mystery series as an example, Kate then explained how she puts together her own work, often creating and illustrating a character before she’s considered what the story will be! As she did in schools, Kate instructed delegates how they can create their own mystery-solving characters, each of us making a miniature flip-book animation using just some paper and a pencil.

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(Above: delegates hard at work in Kate Pankhurst’s workshop and below, part of the display produced by pupils at the school Kate visited!)

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We were also joined throughout the day by Lisa Hewitt from the Museum Service who delivered a hands-on session of archaeology, looking at ways to support the new curriculum’s focus on prehistory and Jacqui Thompson from Pulse CSI who explored how practical science is used in crime scene investigation. We were also given the opportunity to try our hand at Morse Code as our Mobile driver Tony is an expert operative; here he is below teaching one of our Librarians, Gail, how to send a coded message!

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The day was brought to a close with an interview with Carnegie award-winning author, Sally Gardner. Sally had spent the morning at Neatherd High in Dereham and arrived with us at the Green Britain Centre where SLS Manager, Kirsten, asked her about her upbringing, her school experiences and struggle with dyslexia and her success as an author for both young and teen audiences.

Of all her literary characters, Sally explained that she identifies most strongly with Standish Treadwell from Maggot Moon, a book she believed would remain unpublished – it later went on to win the 2013 Carnegie Medal – and she said that she did not consider Standish to be dyslexic until someone later pointed this out to her. Dyslexia became the focus of her conversation with Kirsten, Sally advising teachers to ensure that no pupil gets left behind, that individuals are encouraged to nurture their ability to think outside the box and are allowed to utilize visual aids. She ended her interview with a powerful performance of her poem, ‘Disobey Me’, a line of which is particularly inspirational when considering those dyslexic pupils: “Words are our servants, we are not their slaves, it matters not how we spell them it matters what we say.”

We’d like to thank the Green Britain Centre for the wonderful venue, Jarrold’s for providing us with a brilliant bookshop, our Authors and workshop leaders for delivering such engaging sessions and of course, our delegates for coming along and giving us their feedback. It’s too soon to tell if another conference is on the horizon, but rest assured, we all have our thinking caps on and are coming up with some ideas as we speak…

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