Some children gaze at the little pictures I put up at the start of a workshop. Others go more for the class chat and story-sharing. It might be the most restless child in the group who sits the stillest as I read out my poem. Often, it’s the quietest kid who gives the loudest roar, or does the fastest gallop, when we act out our theme. As for the singing, I can never guess, as I reach for my ukulele, which children will sing and swing with the most tangible enthusiasm, and who will be too spell-bound by the music to join in at all.
If anyone’s bored by any stage of the introductory input, well, none of them last long, so there’ll be something to appeal in a minute or two.
But as for the poetry-writing that follows, I’m forever amazed at children’s zest for it! And quite right too! There’s nothing like good old pencil-and-paper for self expression of the most refined, personal and versatile sort! No matter the hurdles of letter-forming, word-spelling, phrase-forming, or even of catching and pinning down the wonderful words that were whirling around our input session just now! Once children are fired up to write, nothing seems to put them off.
Some will reproduce the rhythm of our word-building song, or invent a new one of their own – and even a new tune perhaps! Others will be more absorbed by the language-delving opportunities, or by the fun and games of whichever poetic techniques we’re looking at. Some will write within my poetry frame, using it as a secure base for trying out new words and images; others will use the sheet as a springboard for quite a different sort of poem, perhaps one that popped into their head as they sat down to write. Often children will work in rhymes, entirely unprompted – on purpose? Sometimes, but more often instinctively. ‘Rhyme?’ they’ll echo, mystified, ‘Oh, yes!’ Aren’t children amazing!
True, there are always one or two who need a little nudge, but there’s always a good reason: they have too many ideas in their head and want to write them all down at once – that’s a common one; or they think their writing has to be perfect and they’ve already made a mistake; or they think their poem has to rhyme.
More often than not, when someone is stuck, the cause turns out to be incredibly basic: a broken pencil tip, a ripped sheet, a wobbly chair, sunshine in eyes, funny little insect wandering across table that deserves study… Once these matters have been addressed, off they’ll shoot with the rest of the class!
And the results are always heart-warming in their fresh, natural expressiveness. I’m fascinated, every time, by the innate sense of poetry that children reveal! Where does it come from? I often wonder as I think back over all those marvellous contributions on the journey home.
I’m taking bookings now for summer workshops, with loosely seasonal themes such as Sea, Insects and Summer Woods. For details, please see my Workshops page, or contact me to discuss.
Tel. 01446 760124