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Creative QWERTY® and a Competition

There are lots of things to love about QWERTY®:

  • it’s easy to remember (just look at your keyboard if you need a reminder!).

  • it’s straightforward – follow the stages, which naturally flow from one to the other.

  • it can be used at multiple ability levels, from the eight-year-old that is our normal starting point to ‘advanced’ adults (well, we use it all the time so I’m not going to say ‘old’!). Carers of those with special educational needs have often commented on how useful it is to them.

  • ‘multiple depths’ is another one. A quick QWERTY® run-through in your head when you have only a few minutes to spare before starting your task (but oh how useful those few minutes are!) to a detailed QWERTY® using loads of Forget-Me-Nots to do extremely detailed preparation before a mammoth task. That kind of preparation will ensure that wasted time is kept to a minimum and that your ‘product’ is as interesting and high-quality as it is possible to be.

  • flexibility – QWERTY® can be used to do so many different tasks of varying kinds, whether stand-alone or that work together. This blog showcases an example of that (indeed, of all the above points) from when we were doing some vPlus sessions for Potential Plus UK.

In the midst of the Coronavirus lockdown, PPUK came to us as a previous provider at their Big Family Weekend conferences to ask if we’d put on some virtual sessions for their members. We were very happy to do so. The first thing we did? A QWERTY® session to think about what those sessions might look like and what topics we could include.

Once the discussions with PPUK had progressed and we knew the format they were hoping for (they were working with a number of providers, so wanted a certain consistency of approach) we could start thinking about more detailed planning. There was to be a 40-minute taster session, followed by 4 hour-long sessions (one per week). Although demand was such after the taster that we ended up delivering each session twice.

Our QWERTY® deliberations suggested that the taster should introduce the method, with a fun activity, and then our follow-up sessions would cover topics such as using the technique for complex maths, writing better English, improving projects children have to do and then finish off with a fun twist on problem-solving and lateral thinking, namely a murder mystery.

Enter QWERTY® for lesson planning! What we will include (content) and how it should be presented (structure) is a classic one-two for the technique and, as usual, it was a knock-out. We’re not going to go through every session in the series to show you how the technique helped with planning, as we’re sure you’ll soon get the idea, but we want to talk about the fruits of the first session.

Our taster (if you’ll excuse the pun) would introduce QWERTY® and its various stages to a range of 7-to-11-year-olds using an ice cream sundae as the ‘vehicle’ for what we were delivering.

Designing a sundae is a fun activity – but how does that help with thinking? The answer is to add a constraint of some sort. Making a task a bit more challenging (without making it overwhelming) can up the ante. The children will have to think more about what they are going to produce and come up with different ideas that could work together rather than just go with the first thing that occurs to them.

In the taster session we did that by making the sundae design suitable for a character of their choice, rather than just for themselves.

We gave them a number of practical examples so they could understand what to do:

  • The Dennis the Menace Sundae used ice-creams in his trademark colours (in stripes, like his jersey) and was finished off with some milk teeth for Gnasher

Image of sundae with red and black icecream and milk teeth topping
Dennis the Menace Sundae
  • Our ‘Frozen, too’ sundae had bramble ice-cream inspired by Anna’s cloak, carrot cake ice cream (Kristoff is always feeding carrots to Sven, and Olaf has a carrot nose) and Elsa’s Water Ice (think blue slushy!). We enhanced it with popping candy (Elsa’s magic is always a bit unpredictable), matchmaker ‘arms’ for Olaf and rock trolls in the shape of nut clusters.

  • An ice cream sundae for Got-A-Head? using flavours in our livery.

Image of sundae in livery colours of green, blue, pink and red
The Got-A-Head? Sundae

To increase their engagement, and encourage them to have a go at using QWERTY®, we set a competition, where they had just under a week to come up with their own design for a sundae and say who it was for.

We were delighted to get a good range of entries. No two types of character were the same, with entries including a real-life footballer, fictional characters from print, film, television and the imagination and even a dolphin pod.

Just when you might have thought we’d stretched our uses of QWERTY® enough for this session… you’ll find the answer is no.

Our ten-year-old daughter did a QWERTY® with us to decide what our judging criteria should be for the ice cream sundae competition. Her final ranking looked like this:

  • Creativity, as the taster session was all about thinking creatively

  • ‘Representation’ - her term, by which she meant how good the connection was between the chosen character and the sundae designed for them

  • Presentation – the sundae had to look good, but she did say that the content was more important than its appearance

  • Bonus extras – although this is ranked last, it was clear that the quality of any ‘extras’ could be used as a tie-breaker if two designs were close.

What impressed us about all of the entries, without exception, was the high level of creativity in the designs. That’s what QWERTY® brings to tasks, so we were pleased to see it, if not surprised.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Zakariya’s Harry Kane-inspired sundae had moving parts, clear connection with the character (e.g. using a number 10) and even a picture of the character

Hand-drawn image of ice cream sundae
The Harry Kane Sundae © Zakariya
  • another sundae, by Callum, had super visual representation of Padme Amidala as well as flavours representing her heritage, so we not only knew what she looked like but where she came from

image and text illustrating an ice cream sundae
The Padme Amidala Sundae © Callum

  • Chloe’s dolphin pod would have enjoyed all the fishy flavours, like squid spaghetti ice cream, and there was a lovely graphic representation of the creatures in the ‘dolphin tail ice’

Hand-drawn ice cream sundae
The Dolphin Pod Sundae © Chloe

Ben’s skeleton had great links between the character’s character (see what I did there?!) and what was in the ice-cream

Hand-drawn image of sundae
The Sunday Sundae © Ben
  • Anna’s sundae for Carmelita Spats clearly identified items inspired by the character as well as things that Carmelita herself would have liked, which was a great mix

hand-drawn image of sundae with text
The Carmelita Spats Sundae © Anna

There was no doubt about the ultimate winner though, with a unanimous vote from all of us here at Got-A-Head®?

Zakariya (a different one from above), one of the youngest participants in our sessions, came up with a sundae for the Numberjacks.

It impressed because:

  • It gave a reason for the sundae – ‘the Numberjacks are poorly’ – and a solution, which was to give them lots of vitamin C

  • The characters were very well-represented in both colour and number and all the items related to the original premise of giving them vitamin C

  • The presentation was fabulous – colourful and attractive

  • The best bit, though, was the reference to QWERTY® throughout with flavours to ‘make your brain go’ such as ‘blue-sky thinking ice cream’. The celebration when the Numberjacks felt better was YaY!

Annotated graphic of sundae
The 'Numberjacks are Poorly' Sundae

We hope you can see how creativity levels have ramped up using QWERTY®. The technique shows them how they can take some basic ideas (and where to find plenty more!) and use them like building blocks to create interesting and unusual solutions that are way beyond what they might have come up with a ‘standard’ way of working. QWERTY encourages lateral thinking and innovation as well as a detailed evaluation of their work, so they can improve it and learn for the future.

We’d like to finish this blog with a big thank you to all those who took the time to enter the competition. We think you are all stars! Thanks, also, to PPUK who very kindly donated the first prize.

We hope you’ll try it for yourself and discover how much there is to love about QWERTY®. Why not try out the sundae idea for yourself? Do send us images of what you come up with, if you do!

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