If you’re a teacher, this post may be of interest to you; and perhaps even if you’re not! It’s about my plans for next term’s poetry workshops, which I provide for children of all abilities, aged 3 – 13.
Wonders, real and imaginary, will shape my workshops next term, with birds, leaves and giants over our heads!
The sky is far from the limit! Fired-up by a term’s thrilling poetry workshops with schools across the UK on all things from ocean mysteries to jungle jitters to jewel-bright dragonflies in eye-blue skies, I’m now looking ahead to next term! My eccentric art teacher of decades ago advised me and my fellow A’ level pupils to look at the sky as we walked to school – a risky thing to do, perhaps accounting for some of the falls she suffered, but an inspired one nevertheless. I’ve looked upwards ever since, in fact, when safe to do so, and never looked back – as it were. The ever-shifting lights and tints, patterns and shapes, moods, times, weathers, and travellers of our sky form a backdrop to much of my writing and many of my workshops, and I can hardly wait to see how children bring its magic into their bird, leaf and giant poems next term! After half term they’ll be enthralling me with their skies for fireworks and winter woods too, no doubt, with the fancy-free flashes of imagination that only kids can kindle!
‘Birds’ as a theme for poetry: wonderful, but ‘where to start?’ is the question. We’ll be on the look out for big and small, local and far-off, cloud-high and lake-low, common and exotic. We’ll be celebrating the beauties of a peacock’s tail, and trying to put a finger on the floatiness of a robin’s feather; we’ll be chatting to cheeky parrots and chuckling at gormless penguins, and we’ll be remembering, as we go, the worlds around these birds of such differing feathers.
But what can you get kids write about leaves? you may ask. But the question I’d ask is ‘how stop them writing about them, once you’ve got them started?’ After all, if their leaf has taken off on a world tour, they naturally want to see it safely home again, or at least follow it to its sad/absurd/fascinating/spooky/hilarious end. Especially when they can send their leaf poems sailing round the page and even onto others (Sellotape provided!). Nor do young writers like to leave a sweep of leaves hanging in mid-air, or a recipe for their colours stuck at the wide open ‘Leave to set [where?]…’ stage. As for the delicacy of that leaf just rescued from the playground at the start of the session – its fragile, ephemeral, lacy beauty – a child may be hungrier for a phrase to fit than for their waiting dinner! It happens, often to the surprise of teachers. Able young writers may be encouraged to think further still, and find ways in which an autumn leaf could reflect the season, time, end and renewal, and more.
Giants in a poetry workshop? Well, that depends if they can squeeze in, or if we can expand our poems enough to accommodate them. We’ll need to allow, of course, not only for their XL, multiply-multiplied sizes, but also for their amplified sounds and vibrations, and the mind-boggling repercussions of their – oops! – movements. Not that giants need be scary, nor even clumsy. We’ll be inviting gentle ones into our poems too: calming, reassuring, even graceful giants – gods and goddesses perhaps, or hints of. In older year groups, we’ll be looking at other big things too, like the sea, the wind, the weather, space, time… and asking if they could be thought of as giants.
Poetic adventures: as ever, we’ll be probing the possibilities of language, rhythm, rhyme, and word-arrangement on the page – and off it too, through music and acting out, for instance. Imagery and rich description will feature in each session, with delves into a range of poetic forms and techniques, especially at higher levels. I’m not a teacher, and do not, in fact, believe that poetry-writing can be ‘taught’. Rather, it can be triggered, fired, guided, helped along, launched and set on course, through the opening of doors and lighting of paths, with armfuls of encouragement and sparkler-swirls of celebration along the way, and this approach will, as always, be my aim.
Door-openers: picture displays, artefacts, support poems and anecdotes all contribute, in my workshop intros, towards enthusing my writing groups and spurring their creative potential. Inter-class chat, whole-group physical activities (mime, sounding-out, imitation) and brain-storming challenges all add in too, along with – for younger children – a word-building song with ukulele and a clapping rhyme or two. Yes, poetry-writing through fun, fascination and excitement is my aim! I suppose I must be a ‘big kid’, because I love it all myself, and enthusiasm is catching!
For more information, please see my Workshops page, or contact me direct @ email@example.com / Tel. 01446 760124.