Poets in Schools
5 Great Benefits of Inviting a Poet Into School
Inviting a poet into school can be a valuable and enriching experience for both students and teachers. As a professional children’s poet I have worked with literally thousands of schools, libraries and festivals over the last fourteen years. It has been a wonderful experience, and I constantly marvel at the variety of children, teachers and educational establishments I have encountered. From the tiniest rural village primary school with perhaps only twenty children to the massive three sometimes four form entry leviathans you find in our largest cities and of course not forgetting some of the excellent schools you find in the private sector, the diversity has been breath taking.
Here are some of my thoughts of the value of bringing a children’s poet into school:
1. A poet’s visit can bring fun and enjoyment!
If a school is fully prepared for your visit then a poet can have a significant impact even before they walk through the door. Many schools plan a build up to the actual poetry day and you can often feel the energy and excitement when you cross the threshold. The children are excited about poetry because they are going to meet a real live poet! On countless occasions in the past, schools have approached me before a visit to ask if they can read and explore some of my work before I come in and it’s always a joy to walk into an assembly where everybody is familiar with some of your work and eager to listen to some more. It’s great when the children can link your creative work to a real person and this gives their experience a whole new dimension.
2. A poet in school can bring engagement and motivation!
If they are any good, an inspirational children’s performance poet will bring poetry alive. With use of rhythm, rhyme, interaction, metaphor, imagery and a sense of drama and fun the children will soon realise that poetry is genre of writing that they can fully engage in.
During my performances, I make the children part of the experience by allowing them to join in with choruses, actions and sounds. You know your work is having an impact when the children are fully absorbed and there is no better feeling for a performer than to have an audience of children and teachers hanging on their every word! It also pays great dividends to get the teachers involved in the performances as well, the children love to see their teacher getting up and having as much fun as they are enjoying.
3. A school poet can boost confidence and self-expression!
After a performance of my work in an assembly the majority of primary children are bursting with their own creativity and are desperate to have a go at writing and performing poetry for themselves. In the workshops that I lead, I like to give the children simple flexible frameworks on which they can hang their own original ideas. I give them tips on how to make their poetry more original and catchy and strongly encourage them to perform for the other members of the class. Teachers are often surprised at how the most hesitant of readers/writers in their class suddenly begin producing their own work and become desperate to share it with others. Sometimes, perhaps, a new voice in school can wake some children up to their hidden potential and make them realise a hidden talent that lurked barely beneath their surface.
4. A poet visit can provide professional development opportunities!
Having been a primary teacher myself in the past I know that any busy professional is always grateful for free resources and ideas. Through my visits and my presence on Facebook and Twitter I am in constant touch with hundreds of primary professionals who I keep up to date with new developments and free ideas on how to make poetry a powerful tool for enhancing our children’s learning. Poetry, surprisingly can be an area where some teachers don’t feel that confident, therefore a visit from a professional poet can be a real boost and give some the confidence to pursue poetry further as a genre for learning in their classroom. I also offer targeted CPD sessions for teachers and teaching assistants focussing on ideas for implementing poetry in the New Curriculum across KS1 and 2. Further details of the CPD I offer to schools can be found here CPD Training for Teachers.
5. A school poet visit can leave a lasting legacy!
Simply put, after a successful visit from a poet children just want to find out more. Most think “if I enjoyed this poetry guy coming in, I might just go to our library and find out more about this poetry lark!!” And they do! Sometimes, after viewing poetry as a precious and obscure area of literacy, children can be woken up to its wonderful possibilities and potential. Suddenly they see it as accessible, fun and something that can easily be shared with their friends, teachers and families.
After a visit to a primary school I strongly advise the children and teachers to strike up a dialogue and write their response to my work on my school poetry blog. Over the years thousands of children have sent me positive comments, new poems and general chitter chatter about the day they have experienced. I always reply to their messages and it is often clear that the profile of poetry within the school has been significantly raised.