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:
World Poetry Day (21 March each year) celebrates and promotes the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry worldwide. The day was declared an official observance day by UNESCO in 1999. But as many countries already had established traditional National Poetry Day’s around October time (in UK 2 October 2014), this worldwide celebration receives very little publicity in those countries, including the UK. But I say, the more poetry days, the merrier.
You could celebrate World Poetry Day in your school by learning about poems from different cultures, including from pupils’ own cultures. Or investigate different forms of poem, such as the Japanese Haiku or the Arabic Ruba’i.
Here are some teaching resources online that you may find useful:
Bringing a writer, poet, illustrator or storyteller into your school is a great way to inspire children and bring reading to life. The Book Trust, who organise Children’s Book Week, which is this week, have some tips on their website with simple steps for planning your event http://www.booktrust.org.uk/programmes/arranging-an-author-visit/
But reading is for every day not just special weeks so the same principles apply for any time of year. Bringing in a guest writer/performer, who can give the kids and teachers a boost of energy and enthusiasm for reading and writing, is well worth the price.
Here’s the sort of day I have when I do a day workshop in a school. Before a workshop I usually perform some of my poems (some with guitar and participation) and then give writing ideas based on what they’ve heard me do. This can result in poems for the page and/or performance.
Some are very simple – I read one, for example, (When To Cut Your Hair) which uses each day of the week and show how that can be used for any subject. For example, using football:
When To Play Football
Play football on Monday Score a goal
Play football on Tuesday Fall down a hole
and so on.
Another I read (they join in with this) is Brilliant, which begins
Today Mum called me brilliant and that’s just how I feel
I’ll run a race I’m bound to win I’ll take up golf Get a hole in one
Because today Mum called me brilliant so that’s what I must be
I give ideas and examples of how they can use this structure, like this:
Today I’m feeling noisy So that’s what I will be
I’ll run up the stairs And stamp on the floor I’ll run back down And slam the door
Because today I’m feeling noisy So that’s what I will be
I use simple choruses and repetition during the performance and show how these can easily be incorporated in their own poems, if they want to write something that is for performance.
I do find, that having heard me, they pick up the ideas very quickly, and those who need less help can use my ideas if they want to, but also have the opportunity to go their own way. And there’s scope for writing funny and serious poems.
If there are any classes where the teacher would prefer to have a go at a class poem, we can do that too. I often use guitar on the class ones and we can usually come up with a finished poem in about 30 minutes.
Usually teachers jot down my examples based on 3 or 4 of my poems and then discuss them back in the classroom.
I hope the advice on the Book Trust website and the ideas I have given here will encourage some schools to book a writer. If you are interested in booking me, please do get in touch.