Poetry: Get down with the kids

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By Brenda Williamschildren’s author, poet and literacy advisor

Celebrate poetry and get your class rocking to the beat of rhythmic rapping and lyrical lists

Funky kid illustration

Image © Christopher Joseph/www.istockphoto.com

Poetry is a wide-ranging and concise form of communication, but, for most children, its joy lies in the ‘three Rs’ of rhyme, rhythm and repetition. It has many forms and purposes, and can express every kind of emotion. By encouraging children to read poetry, we help them to enjoy the music of words, let them delight in creating imagery and give them a means of expressing themselves in a structured but stimulating form.

A child’s early encounters with poetry will include baby rhymes, nursery rhymes and action rhymes, but as children’s understanding grows, it is often used educationally to introduce a topic. At this stage there are so many styles of poetry available that children should be encouraged to explore and compare a whole range of different and exciting forms.

1. List poems

Making lists is an easy way to introduce children to writing poems. This form can be useful for topics, and includes shape poems, kennings or recipe poems. Look at online activity sheet ‘Recipe for a Fairytale’ together and use this poem to inspire the children to make their own recipe poem. Ask each child to write a ‘web of words’ about a topic for three minutes. Explain that they should not stop to think or try to make sense of their words, but just keep writing every word on the topic that pops into their heads. For example, a topic on winter might include ‘snow’, ‘ice’ and ‘cold’. Share the children’s ideas and group appropriate words, such as ‘rainy’ ideas in one list and ‘snowy’ ideas in another.

Work together to make the lists into a ‘Recipe for Winter’ poem, which might start with:

'Take,
One cold night
A garden full of snow,
Add
One bunch of children
And see the snowmen grow!'
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