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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Nasty Box - workshop idea for all ages

I have lost count of the number of times I've visited schools to discover that the children have been using Kit Wright's famous poem 'The Magic Box' as a model for their own writing. The poem is very well suited to this, filled as it is with rich imagery wrapped up in a scaffold that is very easy and enjoyable to mimic. But why not go for something a little more original, or at least give children the option of going in a different direction? Instead of a magic box filled with wonder, why not have a 'nasty box' filled with bad stuff? This has the advantage of maintaining the helpful scaffolding whilst at the same time fostering a sense of mischievousness in subverting the original piece. 

In my poem 'The Nasty Box' below, I have maintained Wright's structure, whilst changing the nature of the box. 

The Nasty Box

I will put in the box

the bark of a dog, keeping me awake at night,
lava from the mouth of an angry volcano
the graze on my knee from when I fell over.

I will put in the box

a snowball filled with bits of dirt,
a fizzy drink that’s gone warm and flat,
a stomach ache and a trip to the doctor.

I will put in my box

the deafening taunts of a thousand bullies,
a snarling teacher with sharpened fangs,
the red crosses on my failed homework.

My box is fashioned from decaying bark
with fungus on the lid and ants in the corner.
Its hinges are the knuckles terrible ogres.

I shall bury my box
deep in the bowels of a dense forest
where, like a lost tribe,
it will never be discovered.

As ever, I'd start by getting children to write a list of bad things, perhaps memories, people they find annoying, or things they find ugly, distasteful or scary. I would then introduce Wright's poem, and compare it with my own above, before letting the children loose on their own pieces. 

Please note that there are many famous poems that can be subverted in this way. Another great example could be Adrian Henri's poem 'Love Is'. Why not get children to write a poem called 'Hate Is'. I personally find the latter much more fun!

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