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The Power Of The Kenning

Click here to download a free poetry ebook for your primary class and get your children performing!

norseman pic

Kennings are a form of poetry invented by Norsemen/ Vikings hundreds of years ago. They are a simple compound phrase that describes an object/ animal or person in an unfamiliar way without naming them. They are great fun to read and write and perfect for using in a primary school poetry session.

Here are a couple written by children during some of my poetry writing workshops:

kenning crockkenning rhino

I approach a poetry writing session focussing on Kennings in the following way.
After exploring different kennings I ask the children to make 3 lists i.e. a list of animals: elephant, giraffe, shark, beetle, peoples’ jobs: teacher, dentist, model, doctor, nurse and real/ fictional people e.g. Mum, Dad, brother, sister, David Beckham, The Queen, Henry VIII, Harry Potter. After thinking of as many as possible I then shift our focus to writing a kenning together:

A Kenning For My Cat

She’s a…
Sofa sleeper
Ear twitcher
Tree climber
Fence balancer
Dog scratcher
Paw licker
Tail swirler
Mouse catcher
Radiator snorer

Now we have lots of ideas and they have seen how to construct their own kenning I let the children choose an idea from the previous list and proceed with writing their own original piece. A fun poem about your Mum could be:

She’s a…

House cleaner
Car driver
Hug giver
Music dancer
TV starer
Homework helper
Loud shouter
Chocolate muncher
Magazine reader
Make up wearer…

The beauty of kennings is of course their simplicity. They are suitable for children in KS1 and 2 and are easy to write and great fun to perform. I encourage the children to keep the subject of their kenning secret so that the other members of the class can guess what it’s about when they perform it. Many children use actions as part of their performance and this greatly adds to the overall effect.

kenning tiger

More able children could be challenged to make their Kenning rhyme on consecutive lines like in the example above about a tiger. Keeping the sense and making it rhyme is a difficult skill and I have seen it achieved with great aplomb by many children in KS2. Many teachers produce a class anthology of Kennings complete with illustrations sometimes produced on laptops. In my experience, antholgies produced by the children and placed in the class library often turn out to be the most popular books read by the children themselves as they have a great sense of pride and ownership invested in the work.
So, if you are looking for an easy, accessible way into writing and performing fun and meaningful poetry, Kennings could be just the type of poem you are looking for.

Happy writing and performing!

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10 Comments

  • hannah pinfield wells

    this is my poem

    shes a
    paw eater,

    whisker cleaner
    book reader
    cat hater

    hope you liked it:) ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Josh

    A Ginger Growler
    A Rightful Runner
    A Hairy Howler
    A Crazy Killer
    A Mice Muncher
    A Sneaky Stalker
    A Human Hater

    This was josh’s Kenning it’s a Dingo!

  • niamh taylor

    hi ian.
    i hope you like my kenning.

    it is a
    tree hugger
    a soft cliker
    a ucaliptas eater
    a fat climer
    a lazy sleeper
    a small crawler
    a loud yawner
    a friendly creatcher

    i ope you like it

  • Muhammad Patel

    Hi Ian

    This is my kenning hope you like!

    It is
    A big beaker
    A featherd flyer
    A sky slicer
    A mouse muncher
    A shrimp swallower
    A large kingfisher

  • Mary-Jane Carey

    Freddie Mercury the Cat

    He’s a
    Chair scratcher
    Toe biter
    Head bumper
    Back massager

    Toad catcher
    Treat lover
    Scary starer
    Loud meower

    My cat is all that

  • Khadija

    He’s a

    loud roarer,
    bird scarer,
    back round camouflager,
    gazelle chaser,
    prey catcher,
    carnivore muncher,
    blood drinker
    fast runner

    Guess what it is.I’ll give you a clue,it has a shaggy mane.

  • Muhammad Rehan

    He’s a

    tree climber
    peel thrower
    hard wacker
    fruit hunter
    fruit eater
    rope swinger
    hard slapper
    baby player
    peanut lover
    tail swinger

    What am I?

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