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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.