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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

'Poetry Is'... Workshop Idea For KS2 & KS3 (and maybe KS1!)

You know a lesson plan is fairly successful when almost every member of a badly behaved and disengaged Year 8 class comes up with a genuinely interesting poem. This happened to me yesterday, complete with soul-destroying groan when I informed them that they would not be having the end-of-term video session they had been expecting, but would be writing poems instead. I'd like to share the lesson plan that I used. I think it can be adapted, if not simply replicated, for KS2 classes (and potentially KS1, as will be explored at the end of this post).

Warm Up Exercise

Pupils write as many examples as they can think of in each of the following categories:

  • Something funny
  • Something beautiful
  • Something important (to them)
  • Something interesting
  • Something weird
It is crucial to impress upon them that there are no right or wrong answers, and that anything they write down will not be judged, condemned or criticised. They don't know it yet, but the things they write at this stage will form the raw material for their poems!

Sharing and Discussing Poetry

Have a discussion about what poetry is. Can anything be a poem? Simon and Garfunkel wrote that the four letters on the underground wall constitute a poem. Were they correct?

Share my poem 'Redefine' with the class (it is posted at the very end of this article). Have a discussion about any lines the pupils find especially interesting, or do not understand (once again: no right or wrong answers!). Pupils can underline any parts they found interesting.

Writing The Poem!

Having done the warm up exercise, and shared my poem, this bit is really simple. The warm up exercise has provided the raw material for a poem on the theme of 'Poetry Is...'. Nobody can say "WAAH! I CAN'T THINK OF ANYTHING" because they have already written down their ideas! It could be as simple as taking the things they wrote in the warm up and prefacing them with the phrase 'poetry is' - less confident pupils can do this if they wish. More confident pupils can elaborate and develop the ideas, infusing them with interesting vocabulary and embellishing them in the light of my poem. Remember to leave time for pupils to share their work. Here are some of the lines that were generated by Year 8 yesterday:

"Poetry is the way my baby brother laughs"
"Poetry flows unexpectedly like a waterfall"
Poetry is that warm cup of cocoa you get when it's winter"

Benefits Of This Workshop
  • This workshop marries the conceptual with the concrete in a way that is easy for pupils to engage with. 
  • Differentiation is built into it - the warm up exercise has provided the raw material for everyone to work with in whichever ways they choose.
  • Pupils are able to go as deep as they like. The ideas can be humorous and silly, deep and meaningful, or both. Pupils are given the space to explore meaningful, personal issues but are not forced to do so.
  • I reckon this workshop could even work with KS1 pupils. For KS1 perhaps given each table the task of coming up with an example in each of the categories mentioned above in the 'Warm Up' section. Then stick 'poetry is' at the beginning of each of them, and join them up to make a group poem! I'd bet that this will be an impressive piece of work from such young pupils!

Redefine By Joshua Seigal

Poetry is a one-eyed dog howling ceaselessly
at a moon of cats, and a turtle sleeping softly
in the silence of her shell.

Poetry is the dance of a twisting flame, flirting
with the match; it’s the four letters on the inside wall
of the train station cubicle.

Poetry lies in the frantic laugh of the playground
and in the throat of your nine-year-old cousin
finally able to talk.

Poetry is the picture on the back of the cornflakes box
after a long, hungry night; it’s your name in lights
on your school football shirt.

Poetry is standing on a street corner, spitting
your voice at the wind. Poetry lives unheard
in the pores of your skin.