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Monday 22 December 2014

HANDS - Writing Activity/Idea for KS1

My Hand

It claps
It waves
It misbehaves

It clicks
It flicks
It plays with sticks

It holds
It scolds
My clothes it folds

It cares
It shares
It tickles bears!!

Start off by performing this poem, using actions suggested by the children.
Next, have a discussion: what are some of the different things that hands can do? Jot down some ideas on the board. Each child then goes to their table, and has a go at writing down some of the things they like doing with their hands (reading books, hugging teddies, eating crisps, etc). Each child then has a go at drawing an outline of their hand, and copying their writing so that it follows the outline. They end up with a lovely shape poem!!!

Friday 19 December 2014

Christmas Poem

I’m in Love with the Fairy on Top of the Tree

I’m in love with the fairy
on top of the tree.
The way that she stands there
and smiles at me!
Her wand is amazing,
her hair is fantastic,
her dress is made out of
the finest pink plastic.

I’m in love with the fairy
on top of the tree.
She fills me with pleasure,
she fills me with glee.
Her arms and her legs
are so dainty and sweet.
What wonderful fingers!
What magical feet!

I’m in love with the fairy
on top of the tree,
the loveliest creature
I ever did see.
She is my darling,
my one and only.
Standing up there
must get terribly lonely.

I’m in love with the fairy
on top of the tree,
but I don’t think she feels
the same about me.
I blow her big kisses
which she just ignores...
I think she’s in love
with Santa Claus.

(not the best poem I've ever written, but thought I'd have a crack at a Christmas poem anyway)

Wednesday 3 December 2014

IF ONLY - workshop idea + students' poems

If Only

people spoke of the living
like they speak of the dead.

Just imagine:
we would all go around declaring
how wonderful everyone else is;
how kind they are;
how, even in spite
of outward appearances,
their hearts are made of gold.

People would cherish urns
of dandruff and nail clippings;
forgive each other almost anything;
treat each bad word as sacrilege.
Everyone would go out of their way
to attend the birthday parties
of distant relatives, declaiming it
the right thing to do.

Just think:
living itself would become an achievement.
The news would be a rolling dispatch
of everyone who made it through the day,

and when they died
we’d realise
that they weren’t that great anyway.

by Joshua Seigal

In the light of the poem above, ask students to write out a list of their own 'if only...' statements. These could be as heartfelt or as whimsical as they wish. This could form a list poem in itself, or students could take one of the ideas and develop it further, imagining the consequences if their desired scenario came to fruition. Here are some interesting approaches taken by students in one of my workshops:

If Only (By Naqeebah, Year 11)

If only…
We were able to go back in time,
Like how they do in the movies.
Go back into our past
But only our own past.
Just imagine:
We could change the sad times
Into happy times
We could stop the pain
We could change our actions
If only we were able to
Go back in time
We could change our past.

If Only (By Omaima, Year 7)

If only I could make good wishes
If only I had friends like fishes
If only I was the best
If only my house was near the west
If only I could fly
If only I could see the entire sky
If only I could cover the east
If only I could have a ginormous feast
If only I was good at winning
If only I could make the earth go spinning
If only the world was only about me
If only I was the famous one to be
If only, if only
I don’t want to be lonely.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

MY FIRST - fab poems from students

Life is full of many 'first times', both good and bad'. My First...' is therefore a really good theme for poetry writing. I'd like to share some examples of 'My First' poems written by girls at my Spoken Word Club. The poems were written in the light of my piece 'I'm New Here' (shared below), and the girls were encouraged to use lots of sensory details. I have chosen the pieces not because I think they are the best (although they are very good!) but in the spirit of democracy - my last blog piece featured poems by Malaika and Misma; today's features pieces by Selin and Zahrah.*

My First Day at Secondary School by Selin
I’m alone, sitting in class by myself
People shouting at my back, having fun
Kids sharing sweets with their friends, none for me
It’s playtime. Kids are very happy, their eyes shining
The happiness of the kids is breaking my heart
Being alone is just so hard
Playtime’s over and my life’s over
Kids pushing and ruching into me being heartless
Again I’m alone.

The First Time Going to Hospital to Visit My Sister by Zahrah
The first time, the first time I walked in,
to the empty hospital sitting there
waiting for the call,
I see people miming
Help me! I don’t want to go!

As my mum comes out to see my agony
on my face, she smiles and
walks me to the room.

The delicate feather, waiting to be
touched on the woolly hand.
As I take her hand, smiling with delight,
I felt like I was touching a soft toy duck.

But my hand is pulled by the nasty nurse.
Grabs my elbows,
As my tears run down my cheek.

I’m New Here by Joshua Seigal
The students are lining up for lunch.
I don’t know whether to wait with them
or to push to the front,
like the other teachers do.
I’m new here.
It’s my first day of school.

The dinner lady tells me to step forward,
to the top of the queue.
She spoons me an extra large portion,
with four potatoes.
The students get two.

They sit in rows at long tables,
locked in conversation
like two sides of a zip.
I’m the only one who chose fruit salad
instead of chocolate cake.
I find an empty space.

I’m new here.
It’s my first day of school.

They’re prodding each other,
debating where to sit.
They eye the seats around me
and decide they’d rather stand. 
One of them cracks a joke,
then they all start laughing.

And I’m ten years old again,

no one to talk to, wanting to belong
more than anything else in the world.
I’m ten years old again,
whispered comments prickling at my back;
my very skin an ill-fitting uniform.

I’m ten years old again,
the new kid
on my first day of school,
my eyes searchlighting the exits,
desperate to run away.  

I take my tray
and eat in the staffroom.

I’m new here.
* other 'My Firsts' written about by the group were: 'my first pet' (Asilah), 'the first time I sang in front of people' (Tanima), 'my first day in Year 4' (Malaika), 'the first time I met my baby cousin' (Misma), 'the first time I went to the zoo' (Siqa) 

Thursday 13 November 2014

WAITING - Poetry Writing Idea for All Ages

Waiting for things constitutes an annoyingly large part of many of our lives, and is therefore ripe material for poetry. In the light of Michael Rosen's poem 'The Hardest Thing To Do In The World' (reproduced below), ask pupils to write down a list of times they have had to wait for something, and to say something about how it made them feel. This is Malaika's list (Malaika is one my Year 7 students):
  • Waiting for the bus (bored)
  • Waiting for my SATs results (excited)
  • Waiting for my grandma to arrive in England (bursting my head off)
Having written their lists, pupils need to pick one item from it, and develop it into a poem. They should think about their five senses, and ways to use figurative language ("bursting my head off", for example!). Here are a couple of poems, written by students at the girls' secondary school where I run a Spoken Word club, which can serve as useful models:

Waiting for my Grandma (by Malaika)

It feels like it’s been 3 years.
My grandma coming for the first time.
I couldn’t sleep properly through the night.
Rushing every morning, but no one there.
Maybe the flight was cancelled.
Maybe the visit was cancelled.
Wondering every day where she was.
My heart was crashed by a hammer.
Every second I was worried.
But one day, my dad came home.
He brought someone with him.
Finally, my grandma was here.
If I waited any longer I would have gave up.
It was only the luck who brought her.
It was like hell living without her.
For the first time, she came! She came!

School (by Misma)

Why can’t I just walk through time?
End the day before it actually ends.
If only I was the time keeper,
I would’ve forwarded the day,
Make it come to home time.
But the thing is that I’m not.
I’m just an ordinary school student
Bored out of my mind,
Waiting for school hours to be over.
School is a prison, trapping kids,
Forcing them to read and write.
School is an outrageous place.
School is a dungeon.
Waiting for school to be over
Is the worst thing you’ll experience
In your life.
(Very good luck to any of those
Who go to school!)

The Hardest Thing to Do In The World (by Michael Rosen)

The hardest thing to do in the world
is stand in the hot sun
at the end of a long queue for ice creams
watching all the people who’ve just bought theirs
coming away from the queue
giving their ice creams their very first lick.
(Incidentally, Misma's poem should sevre as a reminder of the importance of working with poetry in a sometimes oppressive school atmosphere.)

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Lovely Little Poem, for Discover Centre's 'Catching Words' Project.

I was privileged last year to work as a poet on Discover Children's Story Centre's Catching Words project, a literacy intervention project for Year 2 children. I am delighted to say that it is once again that time of year, and I am looking forward to working on poetry skills with a new batch of Year 2 children, this time at various schools in Hertfordshire.

Catching Words was devised in part by poet Joe Coelho. Joe has invented an acronym - MORERAPS - to explain some of the poetic techniques that help children (and everyone else!) to write effectively. The letters stand for Metaphor, Onomatopoeia, Rhyme, Emotion, Repetition, Alliteration, Personification and Simile. As my first contribution to this year's project, I have written a bespoke poem, which I hope to use to introduce Year 2 to each of these techniques. I will perform the poem, and see if they can identify where I have used them.

Lovely Little Poem
I’m a lovely little poem.
I’m as timid as a mouse.
I’m squeaking and I'm creaking
through the pages of my house.
I’m a lovely little poem.
I’m asleep inside your book.
I’m like a dainty dragonfly –
come and have a look.
I’m a lovely little poem.
I help you when you’re sad.
I’m a cute and cuddly kitten.
I’m the friend you never had.
I’m a lovely little poem.
I’m a whisper in your dream.
Come on in and wake me up…
listen to me SCREAM!

Here is a video in which Joe explains MORERAPS:

Tuesday 11 November 2014

'My Country Needs Me' - Poem to Commemorate WW1

My Country Needs Me

The village and the shops
The barley and the hops –
My country feeds me.

The sisters and the brothers
The fathers and the mothers –
My country breeds me.

The grass on which I’m walking
Is whispering and talking –
My country pleads me.

The freedom and the glory
The never ending story –
My country needs me…

The poison and the screams
The haunting of my dreams –
My country bleeds me.

(250,000 underage soldiers fought for Britain in World War One)

Monday 10 November 2014

Poem About British Identity, Written by Year 7 Girls

I currently work as Spoken Word Educator at Plashet School, a girls' comprehensive school in East Ham, London. Last Friday Year 7 had a PSHE day, where the focus was 'British Identity'. The day kicked off with an hour-long assembly, which I curated and hosted. As well as fantastic performances by Kat Francois and Malika Booker, whom the girls found extremely inspiring, I wanted to perform a poem or two myself. However, I was much more interested in discovering the girls' perceptions of their own Britishness (or lack thereof) than I was in pontificating upon my own. In the days leading up to the assembly I asked a selection of girls to complete the sentence 'Britain is...', and collated the lines into a poem, which I performed during assembly. The vast majority of girls at the school are of Asian heritage. It was therefore interesting for me to gain an insight into their identity and views surrounding the notion of Britain. Here is their fantastic poem.

Britain Is

Britain is a world full of different people with different skills.

Britain is a new planet that everyone wants to be on.

Britain is a whole bunch of colours,

an enormous party.

Britain is a universe of people from different countries,

a jungle trying to escape the busy streets.

Britain is the smell of coffee all over the place,

and the smell of bunched flowers.

Britain is 2000 days of rain.

Britain is when you go out with your family,

and your little siblings ruin your day.

Britain is a scary place for new people from abroad,

a tough place forcing you to work more hours to earn a living.

Britain is a traffic light never stopping,

leaving everyone always crazy.

Britain is lights flashing everywhere.

Britain is all about school.

Britain is applications for jobs.

Britain is when David Cameron

makes his decisions towards Newham.

Britain is a place full of people with dogs.

Britain is a farm house, mooing, woofing, meowing.

Britain is a three course meal.

Britain is diversity.

Thursday 6 November 2014

A Poem About England v Germany, Euro 96

England v Germany, Euro 96.

For weeks our school had teemed with pride.
Teachers seemed to smile that little bit more,
and when we beat Spain on penalties
we wore our football shirts the next day.
The walls of our hall pulsated with Three Lions
during singing assembly, and in the playground
we were Shearer, we were Gazza,
we were Seaman, Ince and Adams.

My friend said it was the same at his school,
and when my dad wore his kit to work
I knew I was part of something big.
All that day cars rolled by like tanks,
with windows open and horns blaring
and little flags fluttering from aerials.
Strangers high-fived and hugged in the street.
The whole country had one heartbeat,
our lungs balloons of red and white
expanding with excitement.

The tabloids said it was World War Three,
and for ten year old me in my living room
it was hard to disagree.
The players sang God Save the Queen
and people clapped and cheered,
sending them off into battle.
My mum and I scanned the faces in the crowd,
hoping to find my dad.
He’d gone to the football after work,
and said I was too young to go.

Mum hid in the bathroom during the penalties.
She couldn’t take the tension, she said.
She’d always hated football, but we both knew
that this wasn’t really football anymore.
And even though I knew that it wasn’t really war –
that our lives would carry on exactly as before –
Gareth Southgate’s small white flag
hit me like a caveman’s club.

Dad came home later telling tales of defeat,
of discarded flags lying limp in the street;
of headlines scattered by dejected feet
and crowds shuffling home in silence.
A few, he said, tried to stem the tide
by singing all the old songs one last time,
but it no longer felt right.
Failure embraced them like an old mate.

It was the same in school the next day.
Nobody felt like going outside at lunch.
“I cried last night”, boasted Sam.
“Me too”, said Dan. "And me", said Joel.
Rick told how he sat with his head in his hands,
in his St George’s pants and England dressing gown,
wailing a lion’s tears into his football scarf.
James said he cried so much he wet himself.
Then we had a few second’s silence. 

Monday 20 October 2014

ABSTRACT/CONCRETE POEMS - fun workshop activity (KS2/3)

Home Is

Home is
a little dog
jumping up on you.

Home is
cushions, neatly arranged
in the living room.

Home is
your mum trying to talk
before you’re ready.

Home is
your brother with
the TV on too loudly.

Home is
the neighbours complaining
about the noise.

Home is
a place where
you’re always welcome

Step 1
This is a fun workshop, based on describing abstract concepts in concrete terms. After sharing my poem (above) with the group, perhaps along with the famous poem 'Love Is' by Adrian Henri, ask students for ideas about other important concepts. Write each of these down on a sheet of large paper. Examples of such concepts that I have used include Love, Home, Fear, School, Family, Friendship and Depression.

Step 2
Once this has been done, place each of these sheets at various points throughout the room. The students are now free to roam around the room as they please, going up to different sheets of paper and completing the sentences 'Home is...', 'Love is...', 'Fear is...', etc, on the sheets of paper. Each student should aim to have written something on all the sheets.

Step 3
Each student chooses a concept that they want to write a poem about. They go up to the relevant piece of paper, and use all the ideas written thereupon to write their own poems. The beauty of this is that they now have a bank of ideas from everyone in the class to draw upon. Here are some poems written by girls in Years 7 and 8, with whom I run an after-school poetry club:

You Are by Umerah
You are the sugar to my sweets.
You are the milk to my tea.
You are the fizz to my coke.
You are the soul to my happiness.
You are the answer to my problems.
You are the rubber to rub out my mistakes.
You are the pen to my paper.
You are the taste to my tastebuds.
Fear Is by Zahrah
Fear is when nightmares creep up on you.
Fear is when the spiders crawl around.
Fear is when people are bullied.
Fear is like a flaming fire inside you.
Fear can ruin the whole of your life.
Fear can be cramped up inside.
Fear is when your friends leave you.
Fear insults you in front of everyone.
Fear is when you are walked off the plank.
Fear is scary, but we can face it!

Friday 19 September 2014

REMEMBERING - Poem for National Poetry Day 2014


As the thunder rolls
I remember better times:

friends building castles
with my warm golden sand;

kids catching crabs
in my cool salty rock pools;

families lounging on me,
seagulls swooping overhead;

waves lapping lightly,
licking at my shore.

Now the cold rain tumbles
and the angry wind howls,

and I lie empty,

(National Poetry Day is on 2nd October, 2014. The theme is 'Remember'. For lots of fab resources, visit the official website.)