LPoetry for the Totally Terrified


What were your experiences of learning poetry at school?

I don’t know about you but my experience of the dreaded poetry lesson at school was always a rather torturous affair. My memories are rather clouded nowadays but I distinctively remember the fear and humiliation of not being able to conjure up words quickly enough to appease my teacher.

I didn’t have the ability (at the time) to randomly pull from my brain – long, flowing prose like that of my very gifted peers. I definitely had the ideas but I didn’t have the ability to express myself. I therefore fell into the myth that poetry (like Shakespeare) was only for the posh or clever kids – of which I may add – I was neither!

There were a number of poets we learned about in school; all of them had very different and distinctive styles and approaches to poetry. What I did observe was that 99.9% of them were either – male; white or dead!

I remember the excitement of reading Spike Milligan for the first time. Spike was – dare I say it? Funny! It wasn’t until I got into my early thirties that I found such gems as:

Nick Toczek – The Dragon Who Ate Our School
Roger McGough – Mafia Cats
Michael Rosen – Chocolate Cake
Celia Warren – Chimpanzees in Dungarees
Benjamin Zephaniah – Pencil Me In

There are hundreds more I could mention consequently they taught me:

You could write a poem on any subject
The poem could be any length
It didn’t matter if it rhymed or not
The most important part being; that if the poem made you happy (as the author) well that was the main thing.

When encouraging children to learn poetry you only need to keep these four basic principles in mind. It allows freedom and encourages their creative to flow.

Another great tool for writing poetry is the use of Personification – ask the children
“What do the first six letters of personification spell?” ‘PERSON’
They love the idea of making inanimate items come to life; in others words giving non-living things ‘person-like’ qualities.

This does come with a health warning though! If personification is taught using the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century models it will invariably turn kids off! You know the sort of thing I’m talking about; where personification becomes entwined with simile and metaphor:

“Trees were dancing with the wind.”
“The cruel Easterly wind roared like a lion.”
“The Sun threw down his majestic rays of golden sunshine.”
To make it more fun and exciting use everyday examples.
If all the items of clothing in your wardrobe had a debate which one has the best job? The worst job? Think about a cake shop – who are the toffs? Which items are the down and outs. I’ll share some more examples and ideas in my next blog.

Sticking with the clothing theme my class thought a silk tie would have the best job as it is worn on special occasions and is on full view for all to see. Where as the title of the worst job goes to the pants (for obvious reasons) see the two examples below:

Personify the Tie
Pete the Dancing Pants.

I hope you enjoy them.

Cheers Lee & David (The Thought Weavers)


“Oh my!” Sighed the tie,
suspended from the collar white.
“All alone, no friends have I,
to sit and chat with through the night.”

Then a voice came from beneath,
Twas the yellow polka dot handkerchief.
“I wish I were you instead of me,
you are on full view for all to see.”

“You are lofty like the rocket –
I am crumpled and stuffed in pocket.
You are bought as a forget-me-not,
I am cold, damp and
full of SNOT!”

David Anderson – ©02.11.05


Peter Pants began to dance
around the bedroom floor;
the washing basket all looked on
and the clothes they yelled for more.

Fifi French the Flirty shirt,
Whispered “Peter I love you thing.”
Vin the Vest was dead impressed.
and he was completely made of string?

Peter spun and ducked and dived
Then flew backwards in mid-air.
Ian tie said “I’ll have some o’ that”
and slithered from the chair.

Jim and Jock the tartan socks,
began to Rock and Roll.
But Jock the Sock says
“We’ll have to stop – I think we’ve got a hole!”

The Sponge and the Flannel did the ‘Cha, Cha Cha’
The Hand Towel the Boogaloo.
Pete gave a wink to the lady in pink
And said “Madam, how do you do?”

Pretty soon the party parted –
In walked a Super-star.
She was white, she was lacy and rather racy
Her name was Barbara Bra.

Barbara sauntered up to Peter
And grabbed him by his ‘Y’
She kissed his cheek, his knees went weak
Then he began to cry.

“Oh Barbara, not again –
this is getting beyond a joke.
I don’t want to dance – I’m an old pair o’ pants
and I think my elastic’s broke.”

David Anderson- © 09.12.05 (8)

Fantastic website if you are stuck for rhymes

Brilliant YouTube clip demonstrating the rhyming patterns within an Eminem song:  https://youtu.be/ooOL4T-BAg0

Fantastic performance of ‘Chocolate Cake’ by Michal Rosen, demonstrating what one can do with poetry: https://youtu.be/7BxQLITdOOc


Personification Poems – about fences?


Following on from our previous blog – Poetry for the Totally Terrified – we’d like to share with you a great ‘practical’ idea to help you, to help the children, become more engaged within poetry. We have tried this idea with children from 7 to 17 and it works! It is also a great fun activity.

The first thing happens within the classroom. Tell the children that we (you as well) are going to write a Personification poem; ask them to read the first six letters of personification and they will soon realise that it spells ‘PERSON.’ Explain that we are going to make ‘seemingly’ inanimate objects come to life; like the toys do within the Toy Story movies.

Ask for a few suggestions of what we could use within our poem: The usual answers are pens, books, tables etc. Usually the items that they see before them. Tell them that today’s topic will be FENCES! The look of bewilderment and total confusion upon the faces of children is to be expected.

Next, take the children into the playground/yard and ask them to go and talk to the fences. You will get the usual: “But sir, fences don’t talk.” Or “This is a silly idea!” perhaps you may get “I’m calling parents because you’re loosing the plot!” Please be assured all these are natural responses.

Then explain that if they manage to hear the fences talk they will get house points, merits, extra playtime/recess etc. It is astonishing how relaxed the fences become and they begin to wax lyrically about their life and what it is like to stand there all day, watching and listening to the world going by.

In our school playground we have three very distinct fences one large, dark green, security fence that goes around the periphery of the school. Secondly a small multicoloured fence that surrounds our early years play area and finally an old wooden fence that that been there since the school first opened forty years ago.

I start with asking the children:

What do the fences hear?
What do they see?
When are they at their happiest? Loneliest?
Do they have any friends? Who are their friends?
Does your fence have a particular accent?
What are they scared of?

It’s amazing what starts to come out once the first child has spoken. ALL of the ideas below are genuine responses from different classes that we have taught over the years.

“My fence says that it hears all our secrets when we are talking to our friends!”
“She loves it when children tickle her tummy with sticks on they way to school.”
“She is scared of the fireworks on Bonfire night!”
“My fence says that the grass tickles her feet in the summer.”
“Mine says that she gets really lonely during the holidays when we’re not here.”
“My fence says that the morning rain is refreshing.”

Next it was decided that each fence had a very distinct personality and accent.
The large security fence spoke with a big, deep voice like a bouncer or a security guard and with arms outstretched says “Come on move back please, there’s nothing to see here.”

Where as the small multicoloured fence was a rather precocious show off. “Look at me and all my pretty colours I am by far the loveliest fence that anyone could ever meet!”

Finally, the old wooden fence was the wise old aunt or uncle that had seen it and heard it all. Always with a kind word and never once was disrespectful towards the other fences, realising that each one has its own place and purpose in life.

This is a great activity for a number of reasons:
A great speaking and listening activity; with the fear of getting it wrong is eradicated.
Gives the children the opportunity to show empathy.
It makes poetry real and accessible
It provides a great stimuli for writing.

Have a go – you and the children will love it and we’d really like to read some of the children’s poems when they have written them.

Cheers Lee & David
The Thought Weavers