Poetry for Kids? Seriously?

I’ve spent enough years teaching kids English to know that, as soon as you Image result for school kids horrified facemention the word ‘poetry’, faces wrinkle. Mouths distort, as if under onslaught by a particularly bitter taste; eyes avert, chairs shift. Teenage discomfort, locked up in one tiny word.

Maybe that’s the reason why poetry for young people doesn’t tend to sell (broadly speaking) and therefore rarely gets published. So much better then, that there is a whole new opportunity out there: the www.literacytrust.org.uk/poetryprize

In partnership with Bloomsbury Publishing, they want poems on the subject of reading and literature, a maximum of 16 lines long and in any format, but – crucially – aimed at children and young people. The winning entry will be printed on posters and distributed to schools nationwide to foster a love of reading.

The winner will be selected from the short-list by a judging panel of:

  • Tony Bradman, award-winning writer and co-author of the Space School series for A&C Black
  • Sarah Crossan, children’s poet and author of The Weight of Water
  • Hannah Rolls, Bloomsbury Commissioning Editor
  • Jonathan Douglas, National Literacy Trust Director

All entries must be in by 31st August.

I’m certainly planning to have a go.

Hitting the Road…

s2370043[2]No blog posts for a while? Yes, you’re right – for the simple reason that this is one of these times of the year when the day job takes over.

Yes, I’m a teacher! So – a new timetable has begun, I’m putting the finishing touches to teaching materials I’m about to use for the first time, we’re doing a whole school show next week and I’m taking my puppetry club on the road. Yes, you heard right: puppetry club.

It’s literally a drama company in miniature: eight teenagers and my colleague and me, and we’re having a blast! During the years I had a puppetry business  I rediscovered how much I enjoyed writing short, snappy plays which children would love. But that’s not all – you’re acting, but without anyone looking at you. It’s set design on a shoe-string, its crafty prop-masking and music and sound and lighting, all rolled into one and squeezed into a narrow booth 2 metres high. What’s not to love?

Three groups, three plays, performed one after the other to nurseries and P1 classes in our feeder primaries.

How very rock’n roll!

World Book Day: Bliiiiiind Date (with a book!)

You all knew it was World Book day today, right?

I knew you would. Just in case you need an idea for a book-themed activity, I went into my children’s school this morning to do a Book Blind Date game show. The kids, all upper primary, really loved it. Here’s how it worked.

  1. Pick a contestant in search of a book to fall in love with. Send out of the room.
  2. Have three other good readers pick a book each from a selection. They will speak on behalf of the book in their hand.
  3. Prime the audience to cheer as you put up a screen and invite your contestant back in. A theme tune of sorts helps. The audience should be able to see the contestant and all three readers, but they should be separated by the screen.
  4. The contestant asks three questions (best scripted) which the readers will answer for their books.
  5. On the basis of this information, the contestant should choose the book he/she thinks sounds most attractive. Audience to clap and cheer as they come face to face for the first time.

Here are a few questions I wrote to get you started:

Book Blind Date questions:

Game One

  1. I am easily swayed by first impressions. I like a book that grabs me right from the off. How would your first paragraph persuade me to read on?
  2. I normally go for _________________ books. How would you describe yourself in one or two words? What kind of book are you?
  3. It is said that you should never judge a book by its cover. But I do. In a few words, describe your cover and explain why I should choose you.

Game Two

  1. The blurb on the back should give me some idea if you’re my kind of book. Read your blurb out in a way that will tempt me!
  2. I do like a bit of action in the books I choose. Are you action-packed, funny, informative? Choose a word to describe yourself.
  3. Books can take me to other times or places. Are you such a book? Where will you take me?

Game Three

  1. Some books help you learn something. What would you teach me?
  2. Some books are quick to read, some take ages. Are you slim or a bit of a heavyweight?
  3. I’m open to persuasion, even if you’re not the book I’d normally go for. In a sentence, convince me to choose you!