Cutting it Fine for Manor Green Primary Academy

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I really thought I was going to be late. At 9.15 a.m I was due to perform to KS2 at Manor Green Primary Academy and my 4 mile journey ended up taking 45 minutes to complete. But I did make it with a few minutes to spare and was, after signing in, immediately presented with a cuppa. A good start.

Obviously I performed Traffic Jam as well as Explode, Brilliant, Orange Socks, Lollipop Lady (plus many more poems) before finishing off with a lively rendition of Ref Rap. Thanks (pupils and staff) for listening so well and for the enthusiastic participation.

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The rest of the day was spent leading hour long workshops in the hall (two classes at a time) with children working on their own, in pairs or larger groups. They worked well and within that hour I shared writing ideas, they wrote and we ended each session by listening to many of their new poems. A massive amount of poetry was composed that day.

Thanks to all at Manor Green for being so enthusiastic. I enjoyed my time with you and hope to see you again. Perhaps KS1 next time?

‘Light’ Poems at Tithe Barn Primary School (Heaton Mersey, Stockport) on October 5th

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I spent a great morning with a fantastic Year 6 class and their poetry loving teacher. I performed some of my poems and then got them writing. We kept to the National Poetry Day theme of ‘Light’ (which complemented the work they’d been doing in science).

As their teacher regularly gets them writing poetry I found they needed very little stimulus. I began with a short exercise based on the senses (e.g. If you could taste light what would it taste of? If you could hear it and it spoke to you what would it say? One answer was I’m faster than you!).

I then gave them a few writing options and suggestions to trigger their poems.

Light Bulb Moment – If you had a bright idea what would it be? What might you invent?

Trick Of The Light – I thought it was a…..(table?, tree? )
But it was a….(dog?, ghost?)

Lights Out – When the light goes
What lurks in the shadows?

Before lunch we managed to hear their new poems and fitted in a Q/A session where they asked me about writing and my life as a poet. A very satisfying morning. Thank you Tithe Barn for such a warm welcome. I left feeling quite light-hearted.

National Poetry Day Thursday 8 October 2015

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UK’s National Poetry Day, the annual mass celebration of poetry and all things poetical, will mark its 21st birthday on Thursday 8 October 2015.

This year’s theme is LIGHT. Lesson plans and resources can be found on the National Poetry Day website here: http://www.forwardartsfoundation.org/national-poetry-day/resources/lesson-plans/

Here is one from me on that theme.

Image of bub copyright Bernard Young

Light Bulb Moment

you’re bright
white hot
turned on
tuned in
it’s a moment
of wonderment
and fulfilment
your filament
alive with electricity
you tingle
and something
goes ping
in your brain

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Koalas, Kangaroos, Pandas and Freedom in Thoresby

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What a hub of enthusiasm and creativity I walked into when I entered Thoresby Primary School, last week. It was great to be back in Hull and I spent three rewarding days in the school as part of their Kaleidoscope festival. This resulted in lots of new poems being written on the theme of Freedom, as well as poems about koalas, kangaroos, pandas (and a variety of other animals) and poems triggered by inspirational quotes from Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

OutdoorsWe also composed several class poems to my guitar accompaniment, and a Year 6 class performed theirs outdoors on my last day to an audience of parents and children.

So thank you to all the children and staff for such a warm welcome and for three exciting days (and three fine lunches!). I enjoyed my time in all the classrooms (and in the staff room). There’s already been talk of me returning to work there again, so I’ll be more than happy to do that if the call comes.

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World Book Day Week 2015

Teachers in fancy dress at Aldbrough Primary School
Aldbrough Primary School

These colourful characters are the staff at Aldbrough Primary School (East Yorkshire). I was there to help them celebrate World Book Day. It was a lot of fun. The children were all dressed up too and I enjoyed performing for them and helping them write their own poems. A selection of their superb work was shared at the end of the day. It was well worth the early start and the long drive.

“We were very happy to have secured a booking with Bernard for World Book Day 2015.  The children (and staff) enjoyed Bernard’s poems, especially the ones they could join in with.  They were all clearly inspired by Bernard’s poetry and produced some excellent poems of their own which they shared with the whole school in lots of different ways at the end of the day.”  K. Jessop, Assistant Headteacher, Aldbrough Primary School.

I was in schools the whole week. I spent two days in Acacias Community Primary (Burnage, Manchester) performing and leading workshops. I also led two after school sessions there, where children and their parents wrote poems together. I spent a day in Whitegate End Primary (Chadderton) and finished off the week with a visit to St Brigid’s RC Primary (Manchester).

So I’d like to say a big thank you to all the schools who booked me and made me so welcome and a big sorry that I had no other dates available that week for the many schools who wanted to book me. But, as I’ve said before, a poet is not just for World Book Day Week. I’d be more than happy to visit your school any time. If you’d like to know more please do get in touch.

Poetry’s Not Just For World Book Day, It’s For Life!

It was on the news - more poetry is needed!
It was on the news – more poetry is needed!

I am very pleased to be visiting a school in East Yorkshire on World Book Day and some Manchester schools for the rest of the week, but I had so many enquiries for World Book Day week that I had to turn bookings down. Frustrating for me and the schools concerned.

It made me think to write a blog post to say that poetry is not just for World Book Day (March 5th) nor just for World Poetry Day (March 21st), not even just for National Poetry Day (October 8th). I’d be more than happy to visit your school any day of the year (during term time, of course!).

Consider the benefits:

  • You’ll be getting ‘a real live poet’ – a specialist who knows his craft (and plays guitar!).
  • Someone who can generate a sense of fun with words.
  • Someone who can motivate even reluctant writers to write and give them the confidence to stand up at the end of the workshop and perform a new poem they can be proud of.

It’s not just me that thinks poetry should have a place in schools all year round. Elena Aquilar makes a good case in this blog post: “Five Reasons Why we Need Poetry in Schools”. She says “Poetry promotes literacy, builds community, and fosters emotional resilience. It can cross boundaries that little else can.” Read more

And the following benefits of reading poetry for older students are given in a blog post on synonym.com:

  • Improves Verbal Skills and Memory
  • Improves Critical Thinking
  • Develops Empathy and Insight
  • Encourages Engagement with other Art forms

Read more

So if you are a teacher looking for ideas for World Book Day, I hope you come away with the idea you could do the same kinds of activities on other days too.

Poet-in-school day at St Wilfrid’s CE Primary School in Manchester

Bernard on the timetable
Bernard on the timetable

On Monday I was happy to be visiting St Wilfred’s CE Primary School only 3 miles from where I live in Manchester. The day began in the hall where I gave a performance of poetry and music (great joining in from everyone) to the whole school. After that I joined Year 1 in their classroom where I played them ‘I Like What I Like.’ We then composed a version based on their likes and performed it together.

By the end of the day I’d spent time with every class in the school (EYFS through to Year 6). Loads of new poems got written – class poems, individual poems, poems written with a partner or in small groups (there was  a class poem by Year 3 about a big golden bird  – not sure where that came from! – which was performed to my guitar accompaniment).

Thanks to all at St Wilfrid’s for the fun and enthusiasm and for a well organised day that whizzed by. Hope to see you all again sometime.

Don’t forget National Poetry Day: It’s a tough job being a Poet!

Man at desk with title text It's a tough job being a poet

Tough

It’s a tough job being a poet.
I’m surprised it’s not better paid.
Perhaps there should be guided tours of workshops
so non-poets can see how poems are made?

There’s no respite if you’re a poet.
You’re working all the time.
You have to get on it if there’s a call for a sonnet.
And people expect you to rhyme.

It’s more demanding than being a surgeon.
It’s harder than digging a road.
We deserve much longer holidays than teachers.
It can be stressful writing an ode.

We sometimes work until lunchtime
if we need to complete a quatrain.
Yes, it’s a tough job being a poet
but you’ll never hear us complain.

Remember a poet can be an enthusiastic inspiring addition to your classroom all year round, not just for National Poetry Day. If you’d like to know what I can do in your school, please contact me.

Airy Hill County Primary School got their literacy lessons off to a good start first week back

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You know it’s going to be a good day when a member of staff arrives just after you with a homemade cake. And it was good. The day and the cake.

Thanks to everyone at Airy Hill CP School, Whitby, for giving me such a warm welcome on Thursday and for contributing to a very rewarding and creative day. I started off by performing to the whole school and then worked with Yr1 and Yr2 where we did class poems. Each class did their own version of my poem “I Like What I Like“. I visited all classes during the day and we gathered in the hall to hear a selection of new poems before school ended.

The poem photographed below, based on “Stig of the Dump“, was written by Year 4/5W, their teacher and myself. I played some music on guitar and said I needed some words to go with it, and this is what they came up with:

Poem about Stig of the Dump

Lesson Planning For Next Term? Inviting A Performance Poet To Your School?

Bernard Young in a school arms in air

A poet in your school? Why not? The right poet (I mean me! but there are lots of us) can offer an exciting start to your school day (I include guitar and just enough joining in during my morning assembly performances). The children head off to classes with loads of writing ideas already in their heads and I then work with all ages throughout the day.

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Teachers tell me that having an enthusiastic practitioner of the art in the classroom has a tremendous effect on them and the children. Together (teachers, children, poet) we produce fantastic new poems and usually share them before home time. After that we all go home (apart from the teachers who have yet another after-school meeting to attend).

For some ideas for bringing poetry in to the class room see my collection of blog posts on the subject – classroom ideas. Another way is to have a look at some of my videos on YouTube. They can be used for a sing along break during the day, or as a springboard for other poems using the same patterns. If you want to discuss what I could do in your school and what it will cost, please contact me.