Pencil Cake

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This morning at 7am I was in Tesco buying Chelsea buns, chocolate buttons, some grapes, some milkshake and some strawberries. At 7:30am this morning I was in school gathering old and unloved colouring pencils. At 8:00am this morning I inserted all the pencils into the Chelsea bun, and placed the bun on a paper plate, which I then scattered with grapes, strawberries, chocolate buttons and erasers. I then topped it with milkshake, and shaved some pencil sharpenings over the top. I then hid it in the cupboard.

Yesterday, during literacy, we were exploring how we can make boring sentences interesting by building up information about the Where, the When and the Which One. I suggested we all play around with the dull sentence ‘I ate the cake’. The kids set about improving it, keenly and creatively, keeping an eye on their grammar whilst letting their ideas flow. I got one boy to share. No more was it, for him, ‘I ate the cake’.

Confidently and building in pace and volume, it was

I ate the gigantic delicious cake covered in tasty chocolate and fresh fruits a few kids laughed at the way he said it, and he began to riff off of their laughter and pencils…and cardboard…and jelly babies…and rubbers and pencil sharpeners.

This, to the Year 4 imagination, is among the funniest things ever conceived. They were laughing their heads off and the descriptive young gentleman basked in his glory. As they left the room, in a way which I now realise was probably quite menacing, I quietly told him ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ He left the room with a curled smile and a suspicious eyebrow raised.

Today, during literacy, I got one child to summarise a story we have been reading together, so that all the children were giving the summariser their full attention. I sneaked off to the cupboard at the back of the room, and silently withdrew my cake creation. They didn’t notice.

I sidled up next to yesterday’s fantasy cake describer. I slid the cake across his table whilst he looked away. The kids on his table noticed before he did, and suddenly little whoops of laughter were popping up across the room. The cake narrator turned, not seeing the cake in front of him and only seeing me with my camera poised to capture his reaction. The eyebrow shot up, accompanied by a “Huh?!”

Then he saw the cake and he could not help but let out an actual squeal of surprise. It was a memorable moment for him, and for that moment of the Grand Reveal, I, my Teaching Assistant and the children were laughing and smiling, cheering Eat It, Eat It, Eat It!

Coincidentally, it is Roald Dahl Day. Not even Bruce Bogtrotter had to munch through the contents of a pencil case.

That one minute of laughter at the end of an otherwise regular literacy lesson will probably be the memory they take with them of their time with me this year, certainly for the cake receiver. I expect I could have crammed an additional spelling word in that final minute. Or I could have allowed them an additional minute to practise a handwriting join. Or any of the hundreds of other integral and necessary things we teach them. But that final minute of cake-pencil time communicates something important. My role is not solely to boost your knowledge, fill you with facts and equip you with skills, no matter how central and important that is to my role. As a teacher, I want also to fill the classroom with laughter and recognise our situation as humans sharing life together enjoyably.

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