I have just realised that I never blogged about the culmination of the Well Versed project!
It was really fantastic. We were working with Hannah Walker and Martin Figura, two local performance poets.
In the first session, the children each had to wear a name badge with their name on and their favourite word. This led to excellent discussions about why we like particular words and enabled the children to add interesting words to their vocabularies. Some words were chosen because they liked what they meant (chinchilla) or how they sounded (blob). The idea of choosing a word for the week on a name tag continued in every session. and I think is a great idea. (I now have 4 name tags on my door saying intrinsic, incandescent, myriad and possibility as these were my words)
We then heard some metaphors about what a poem is. Martin had some great suggestions such as “a giggle in assembly” or “an orange in a box” and the children came up with their own. It took a while for them to get going, but then it suddenly seemed to click and they came up with things like “a detached house in a city”, “a pebble on a beach”, “juice in a lemon”.
Our final activity was writing a poem based on “In a girl’s head” and “In a boy’s head”, steering clear from stereotypes as much as possible. The children went on to perform these and they were excellent! I filmed them and put them up on our class blog: http://avenue5d2010.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/well-versed-in-poetry/
In the second session, the children were given an orange in pairs. They had to describe what it reminded them of, how it looked, how it moved, put it to their ear and peel a bit to see how it sounded when amplified, feel it, and then eat it and say what it tasted nothing like!
The results were some really excellent poems. Here’s a lovely example: http://avenue5d2010.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/orange-poem-by-syrie/
And here’s the link to my blog about the session: http://avenue5d2010.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/oranges-riddles-and-fantastic-journeys/
We also were given objects and asked to write riddles, using metaphors as much as possible. All this work really helped the children get a very secure grip on metaphor.
In the third session we focused on editing. I wasn’t sure how well the children would take to being asked to rewrite their work, but Martin explained it extremely well. He’d taken a poem and added lots of padding to it, so that the children could then look at his “bad” version (which I still thought was really good!) and could trim it back down to size. One of the children even suggested an improvement by adding the word “incandescent”, which Martin liked so much he added in – we had then succeeded in editing the poem and making it even better than it was to start with!
After this the children were very happy to edit their poems, making some excellent improvements.
In between the sessions I worked on more poems with the children, using the work Martin and Hannah had done with them as the basis and giving them more ideas for types of poems, such as praise poems and poems based on Fishbones Dreaming by Matthew Sweeney.
Praise poems are great fun – I modelled one based on my well-known love for coffee, including phrases such as “Oh milky goddess, you complete me!” The children loved the idea and went off writing wonderful creations.
Here are a few: http://avenue5d2010.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/praise-poem-shark/
In the final session, it was all about our showcase. That afternoon the children were all going to stay back after school, and at 4pm the parents were invited in to watch a showcase of the poetry that had been written over the 4 weeks. It was very exciting! They all worked incredibly hard on it, using projection and tone of voice really well.
We decided that before the event we would have “Poetry Stalls”, where the children would charge 20p to perform one of their other poems to the parents. This went down really well – one of the parents told me that they were very impressed with the performances they saw. The children decided that all the money from this would go to East Anglian Children’s Hospices (EACH), who cared for one of the children’s former classmates when she sadly passed away last year.
After the stalls, the showcase began. The children started off in amongst the audience, then performed their “What is a poem?” metaphor poem, standing up one at a time, reciting their line then coming out to the front – very effective!
Each child then performed their chosen poem, and everyone did brilliantly – I was so proud! They spoke clearly and the quality of the poetry they had written was fantastic.
At the end we performed a final surprise poem – we had written a poem about what it was like to work with Martin and Hannah! I think they were really pleased.
I had a really lovely email from one of the parents thanking me for the showcase, and saying how inspired her son had been by it and how she had never seen him write anything so profound or be so proud of his work. It made my day to hear that!
I’ve seen it in the children too – they had to write feedback forms afterwards and all of them said they had throughly enjoyed the session – it had changed their opinion of poetry, that they now love poetry, or feel more confident to write it themselves, they understand it more – all the outcomes that we wanted from the project.
All in all, this was a really excellent project to be involved in and I’m so glad that I was the person handed the enquiry form about it way back in July last year! I hope that they can secure funding so that even more primary teachers can be involved next year, and I look forward to passing on the ideas to my colleagues.
And I hope that some people reading may be inspired to try some of the ideas, too!