LOCK DOWN POETRY

A FEW THOUGHTS

The ideas listed below have all been test driven literally dozens of times with real children in real schools…unlike so many of the “How to get kids writing” books I read as a teacher Apart from either being “worthy” and dripping with “outcomes” they were frequently deadly dull. So that’s the first thing. I believe in creativity for its own sake. I despise the utilitarian school of art that sees poetry and writing generally as a means to an end as opposed to an end in itself: that kind of approach kills creativity stone dead. When I used to visit schools I was often asked “what’s your main objective?” My response was always: have fun, build self-confidence (the lack of which is the main cause of under-achievement) and gain a real sense of self-worth.

SPELLING 

In the first draft (i.e. rough copy) DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT! – just let the ideas flow and sort out the spelling  later. Shakespeare couldn’t spell…’nuff said.

NB With very young children don’t be afraid to do the physical writing for them by adopting a “you tell me what to write and I’ll put it down while you think.”

WRONG ANSWERS

Most of the time, there aren’t any.

WARMING UP

This one never fails. Write down the title

In the Treasure Chest

And then make a list of all the things you’d like to find inside a teasure chest which is bigger on th inside than it is on the outside….no prizes for guessing where I nicked that last bit from: put each new thing on  a new line – DON’T  try to rhyme although if it happens all well and good. You can include real objects, imaginary ones, sounds, smells….there’s no wrong answer.  For example

                        In the Treasure Chest

                                                I found a brand new bike,

                                                A unicorn,

                                                Laughing,

                                                The smell of baking bread

You can add as many things as you and the child(ren) can think of. In one school I worked in the children were encouraged to add new things to the list as they thought of them over the next few days….the result was an epic!

Finally, when the poem is finished and written out, add some artwork and put it up on the wall.

THE ALPHABET GAME

This one is pretty self-explanatory and only needs a couple of points emphasising. The first being that it is not an exercise in the “A is for apple” mould: the idea is to see Upper Case letters as simple pictograms and see how many you can come up with.  So a capital letter A might be SNOW IN A MOUNTAIN or  A WITCH’S FINGERNAIL  or THE SIDE OF A SWING and so on…so the only rule is: the letter must look something like the comparison you’ve used  so  H  might be rugby posts but it’s definitely not  a frog.

NB Some letters are easy (like H) and others are hard (like G) but DON’T make a child sit and stare at one they’re stuck on: let them leave it and go on to the next. Cognitive research has shown this is a valid method of problem solving and encourages divergent thinking. Again, take your time, don’t worry about spelling and don’t be afraid to help.

And it is possible to come up with at last one image for every letter of the alphabet.

FINALLY: this game was taught me by the late Matt Simpson – I always acknowledge that so if you are another writer, feel free BUT if you pass any ideas I post as your own I will sue for plagiarism. Thanks.

Kevin Patrick McCann

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