Producing poets in the primary classroom

Roses are red, violets are blue. We love poetry – you should too!

In the 2014 curriculum, along with a greater emphasis on punctuation, grammar and precision in writing came a poetry push:

  1. In KS1, children need to listen to and discuss a range of poems; they need to learn to appreciate rhymes and poetry, and recite some by heart.
  2. In KS2, children should not only listen to and discuss poetry, but should also be able to express their own views. They need to be exposed to a range of contemporary and classic poetry, recognise literary language, learn poems by heart with appropriate intonation, and they should be able to write their own poems.

There are hundreds of poets whose works can be used in the primary curriculum, but in this blog, we’ll look at three brilliant poems and how they can be brought to life:


‘The Owl and the Pussy-cat’ by Edward Lear 

  1. Read the poem and discuss first thoughts: what do they like/dislike about the poem?
  2. Identify rhyme, repetition, imagery and other poetic devices.
  3. In partners, be the owl and the pussycat – act them out and show peers. Think about your tone of voice when delivering your lines. How would these characters say it?
  4. Watch an animated video of the poem, paying attention to how the images help the performance, and listening to the way the lines are spoken.
  5. Split into groups of six. Give each group the three verses, each of which has been divided into two. The children pick one half of a verse each and create an image which reflects that half a verse.
  6. Children take photos of their pictures and upload them. They will then type their half of the poem on to their picture. As a group, rehearse the poem to make sure the timings are all correct and then record them reciting the poem.
  7. Put all of these elements together to create their own video of the Owl and the Pussy-cat. Show the rest of the class their video.

‘Reading’ by Jacqueline Woodson 

  1. Give children the title of the book “Brown Girl Dreaming” and ask what they think the poem could be about – why do they think that?
  2. Provide children with a summary of Jacqueline Woodson’s life and her history. Does this change what they think?
  3. Read the poem together. Discuss opinions and thoughts on the poem. Do children have familiar experiences or different? How might other people reading this poem feel?
  4. Look at the structure of the poem together: identify repetition, how speech is shown, punctuation. 
  1. Anonymously, write down something that someone has said to you that makes you feel self-conscious. Let children know that these will be shared with the class but without names. Collect them in and read them out to the class, making sure nobody can be identified.
  2. Pick one example and look at how that negative comment could actually be positive: “you read too slowly” has become “I read carefully”.
  3. Children write a non-rhyming poem about something that someone has said to them which finishes with a positive message.

‘Walking with my Iguana’ by Brian Moses

  1. From the Poetry Archive, play the recording of Brian Moses reading his poem from 30 seconds in (avoiding the initial part about why the poem was written). Do not show the page.
  2. Discuss the poem: what do they like/dislike about it?
  3. Talk about how the performance helps to make it more interesting: the voice Moses has used, the drum beat, the speed at which he speaks etc. Look at repetition, rhyme and other language devices.
  4. Tell children about the fact that Moses was inspired by someone who had a pet iguana and how a funny poem was written because of it. Give children a sample of funny photos – talk about what could be happening in them.
  5. As a group, write a poem together using one of the photos as inspiration.
  6. Children write their own poems, considering which musical instruments would add to the poem. Explore the different options and create a repetitive beat.
  7. Perform poems to each other.

Happy Doodling!

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