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Saturday, 26 October 2013

Halloween-Based Workshop Idea

I have been busy over the last week, visiting primary schools in Camden, Bracknell, Hackney and Newham. As it is approaching Halloween, and as I have a thing about monsters anyway, I have been running some Halloween-based poetry workshops. I have refined it over the course of my schools visits, and I'd like to share it now. The thing I like about it is that it enables a lot to get done in a relatively short space of time, whilst still remaining fun. It develops skills such as listening, recollection, drawing, writing, collaboration and performance all in a single session!

  • Start off by playing children my poem OOSHUS MAGOOSHUS, available on YouTube: Test the children's recollection skills by asking them if they remember (a) what Ooshus Magooshus eats, (b) where Ooshus Magooshus lives, and (c) what you should do if you encounter Ooshus Magooshus.
  • Ask the children what sorts of things I didn't tell them about Ooshus Magooshus. The most important piece of information that is missing is what Ooshus Magooshus looks like. Ask the children to take a minute or so to close their eyes and imagine their own monsters, focusing specifically on what it looks like.
  • Children go to their tables and ILLUSTRATE their monsters. They do not do any writing at this stage; they focus instead on doing the most colourful, fun, imaginative drawings they can. Tell them to imagine things such as the monster's legs, arms, eyes, face, teeth, etc, as well as what colour(s) it is. 
  • Now comes a bit of a curveball. Go round the class and collect in the monster pictures, and go round redistributing them so that everyone has someone else's monster. The task now if to DESCRIBE the monsters they can see in front of them. This can either be done in books, or on the space around the monster. Depending on age, the description could be either a single sentence or a detailed paragraph. To ensure that interesting language is used, a couple of sentences can be MODELLED on the board. 
  • Now comes the TEAMWORK. Hand out big sheets of paper, one per table. The children need to work together to turn their individual monster descriptions into a group poem. Ask each child to choose a sentence from the descriptions they have just written. Try and ensure that each child on the table is describing a different part or aspect of their monster. They then need to arrange their descriptions into a group poem, to be written up on the large sheet of paper (for younger children this could be scribed by the teacher; otherwise they need to work together to decide who is going to do it). They need to decide the order in which they want their lines to go. 
  • Each group needs to REHEARSE the poems they have just written. They need to decide how they would like to perform it. Will one person do the reading, or will they take it in turns? Will people do actions? Will they add a chorus in between each line or couple of lines (for an example of a monster poem with a chorus, see my Zombie Poem).
  • Lastly, it's the PERFORMANCE. Each group performs their poem to the rest of the class. If you like you can add a light element of COMPETITION by awarding a prize to the best group. (This doesn't have to be for the best performance; it could be for the group who works best together, or who tried the hardest to overcome some initial conflict. I always like to acknowledge this.)
I hope you've found this helpful. It should work well with primary children of all ages. I recommend that each child gets to keep the monster they illustrated, rather than the one they described. This is both because they are usually more emotionally attached to these critters, and because it will be useful for them to see how someone else has interpreted their work.

Have fun, and may Ooshus be with you!