Performance Poetry Workshop (Part 3) – My brother…

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By Paul Cookson — Literacy Time PLUSpoet-in-residence

In this final part of our poetry workshop films, we see Paul Cookson working with Year 3/4 children to create a class poem on a Families theme.

Themes like Families and Home are great choices for poetry writing because children don’t have to invent ideas, they can use memories – eg: Mum embarrasses me when she…; I wish Dad wouldn’t…; Dad thinks he’s funny because…; Mum is the boss because…


Here, Paul moves the children on to a creating a more thoughtful poem. The workshop draws on common memories, shared experiences. You’ll find the children saying, “Yes, my nan does that.”, and will get a range of moods in the poems, from the funny to the poignant.

Shared writing

Ask the children to think of a parent, step-parent, grandparent, auntie or uncle figure – someone older, whom they know lots about. Tell them you are going to ask some questions and they must write a list for their answers. They can then turn the list into a poem.

The questions

  • How would you describe this person? Use obvious words/phrases – eg, short, tall, no hair, blue eyes, big hands, glasses. (For my granddad I’d say: Bald head, long sideburns, glasses, four chins, beer belly.)
  • What habits do they have? It’s all about the little details. Bite their nails, whistle, play with their teeth, crack knuckles, pick their nose. (My granddad used to walk round with his glasses on his bald head and say “Has anyone seen my glasses?”)
  • What do they ALWAYS say? Eg, ‘It weren’t like that in my day, we didn’t have computers!’ ‘Were you born in a barn?’ ‘Haven’t you grown?
  • What clothes do you always picture them in? (My grandparents lived in Eastbourne so I only saw them once a year, usually in the summer. So I picture my granddad wearing his big Hawaiian shirt that he couldn’t tuck in and sandals with socks!)
  • Do they have any hobbies/interests/things they always do – eg, crosswords, gardening, watching/playing sport, bingo, cooking?
  • Is there a place you associate with this person – eg, the shed, kitchen, a favourite chair, or a place you went on holiday or visited with this person?
  • Do you have any other special memories of this person? Favourite foods, TV programmes or a song that makes you think of them?
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