My participation in the ‘Well-Versed’ poetry project has finished. Phew! After a bit of a shaky second session last week (yes, I know, I kept that quiet!), today’s final session with the lovely (lively!) class of 6 and 7 year olds went really well.
So, what went wrong last week?
It wasn’t lack of planning (I spent hours!) – more lack of experience. I hadn’t realised the difference in the levels of many of the children and that writing of any kind, even for the brighter ones, is a slow process. I’m more used to teaching adults. I tried to do too much, too quickly and when I wanted them to start writing a poem about themselves they just couldn’t do it. I’ve realised now the importance of pacing the sessions and building up the steps that will eventually allow the children to do what you want them to do.
Today was much better. After another of Moqapi’s excellent ‘warm-ups’, which involved ‘call-and-response’; a song about a moose called Fred; a drum and a ‘Urrgh!’ poem (about all the things the children find horrible. Needless to say, bodily functions were involved), I read them my ‘rap’ poem about an alien coming to school and got them to click their fingers and clap, to make a beat while I read it (fun!) and then, using a framework to help them, they wrote poems about aliens, in groups of three. The final half hour was the ‘performance’ when all the poems were read out and, in many cases ‘acted’ by the children too.
They seemed to enjoy themselves. They’ve certainly all grown in confidence (as have I) and they wrote – and performed – their alien poems with great enthusiasm!
The most important thing I’ve learned about trying to inspire, interest and involve children in poetry, is to throw yourself into it. You can’t be too self-conscious or precious. If you want them to ‘give’ something of themselves, then you’ve got to lead by example. You’ve really got to be an entertainer and make it FUN! The poems you read can be as simple and as silly as you like – but say them (shout them!) with gusto and get the children involved with clapping, chanting, identifying rhymes, repeating lines, finishing lines… you get the idea! Moqapi was an expert at all of that and the children loved him. (One little boy asked him, “How did you get to be so funny?”).
It’s hard work though. We had to ‘seek the silence’ by waiting until they all calmed down and stopped talking, several times. I take my hats off to the teachers who are doing it every day, not just for a total of 7 hours, which is what we did. But I still think I’ve earned my present (a box of Roses! Yum, my faves). Thank you, Year 2. You know who you are…!