One of my theme choices for this term is autumn leaves. I offer it every year. Here’s why.
I never tire of autumn leaves, and the children I work with don’t seem to either, even after a double session! Their poems never fail to thrill me either. There is just so much to explore, dream and do with this theme!
For a start, they represent the season, and the life-death-life cycle of nature, all in a nutshell. Even within an hour’s session we can see our freshly gathered leaf bundles change from crisp and bright to limp and dull. Their fragility can be felt in the palm of our hands and heard in the crunch of our shoes. Then there’s the range of gorgeous colours to investigate – hues as exotic as mulberry, copper, flame and lime. Nor can we ignore their plethora of shapes and symmetries, and the wreckage of blotches, crumples and rips! They’ll take us down other routes again.
Their fall from the tree offers yet another fascinating talking-point, especially after we’ve been outside to watch them and sent some flying ourselves. How do they fall? In a spinning spiral? A meandering waltz? Or do they soar upwards, in fact, and race away over the rooftops? Then where? How far can a fantasy leaf fly? Over an ocean, jungle, desert, galaxy? Or just into Mr Jones-next- door’s left trouser leg, hanging from the washing line? And what is a leaf, apart from a leaf? Is it a sky-diver, a wind-surfer, a warning of winter, a wand, acrobat, dancer, fish in a sea of autumn air? Or a sliver of gold? (Treasure-gold? Medal-, crown-, sunset-gold?)
And what does a leaf ride on? Just the murky, misty air? Or something else, unseen? A promise, hope, dream, or the turning world itself?
gold as treasure,
sailed for pleasure
on a billowing pillow of air…
Yes, there’s room for rhyme too!
But how does the abandoned, balding tree feel? Bereft? Or has it actually cast off its leaves as a Halloween trick and turned itself into a wizened old wizard in the process?
The creative potential of leaf poems is infinite. In my poetry sessions, we just fly with them for an hour or so, and see where they take us in that time.
Nor does the whirl of potential fizzle out there. When it comes to presentation, the theme opens more doors again. Their whispering, hushing, rushing sounds can be reflected in physical movements, sounds, song, or accompanying music, for instance; their sweeps and swerves can be portrayed through curved lines of text as well as pictures; their textures, through collage or ‘brass-rubbing’, and their colours through crayons, paints, inks, chalks, fabrics, mosaics – any colouring resource. Words can be written on a leaf or round it, or one letter per leaf, forming a necklace, arch or cascade. As for the leaves themselves, they can be drawn from imagination, copied or traced, or printed perhaps.
But where can the finished works be presented? Round the classroom, down from the hall ceiling in a curtain of strips? (Put a fan behind them and they’ll quiver!) But don’t worry about all that. The children will have some ideas up their sleeves: they always do.