During November and December I have been involved with a poetry project called “Well Versed”. Its aim is to improve the way poetry is taught in schools by bringing poets and teachers together and coming up with innovative new approaches.
I was able to attend 4 sessions, which covered a range of subjects:
1) The other side of the fence – We took part in a writing workshop and tried out some different games and ways of writing poetry. One I particularly liked was being asked to write a poem in which something opened in the first line, then closed on the last line, with a colour in line 3 and a sound in line 6. Structure and freedom linked – very helpful and I could see this being very good for children to try.
2) What I didn’t do on my holidays – My favourite part of this session was learning about the Oulipo, which you really must look up on Wikipedia! They were a group of mathematicians turned poets who believed you could apply mathematical structure to language. We wrote poems called Lipograms which miss out a vowel (or any letter), and univocal lipograms which only use one vowel! I have seen this before in the book “Eunoia” (this is the shortest word in the English language which uses all 5 vowels, and means “beautiful thinking”) by Christian Bök, in which every chapter uses only one vowel. It’s great fun and challenging to write! We also played N+7 where you choose a passage and replace every noun with the noun 7 entries down in the dictionary, resulting in such gems as “To be, or not to be – that is the quiche”, and “We are all in the gymnastics, but some of us are looking at the starlings.” My class LOVE N+7 and I read on their blogs that they have been playing it round at each others’ houses!
3) Dr Techlove – or how I learned to stop worrying and love the gadgets – I missed quite a bit of this session, ironically because I had left my phone at work and had to meet my friend at the local garage to pick it up. Gadgets eh! But there were some very good ideas about using technology such as Wordle, Prezi, etc to enhance poetry teaching. I have really loved using Moviemaker this term – I will come onto this shortly!
4) From typeface to chalkface – here we got to meet the two poets that we will be working with in class next term! We worked together to plan how they are going to work with my class in order to get them excited about poetry and creating lots of it. It’s going to involve performance, music, games, and lots of guerilla poetry tactics such as hiding poems around the school for people to find etc. Very exciting!
I really enjoyed the course – the only thing I would have changed is to have teachers working alongside poets all the way through, as I feel both sides would have had a lot to offer and share. This was the pilot project so I hope it returns next year and maybe this will happen!
The other great thing about the project is that we’ve had writers in the classroom. We had “Strangers and Canaries” early on in the first half term, learning about Norwich’s role as a City of Refuge, and then we had a session called “Letters to Europe.”
I have rarely seen children as highly motivated and enthused about a piece of work before! We wrote letters to Europe, imagining Europe personified and ourselves as refugees hoping to live in Europe. The children’s writing was fantastic, and we went on to record them reading out their poems and then fitting images to match their words using Moviemaker. It was a really rewarding and fantastic project, even more so because we could share their work with parents via the blog. So often these filmed pieces are only ever seen by the class then left to rot on the server. Not any more! The work was shared and enjoyed with the world!
So next term sees my class taking part in the “Well Versed” sessions in class with our two poets. I can’t wait!