Thursday, 25 February 2016

Brudenell Primary School - Malika Booker and Year 6

Sheila Chapman writes:
Poet Malika Booker with Headteacher Jo Davies
I was welcomed into Brudenell Primary School hall for the presentation by the enticing smell of coffee, a table full of cake and the cheerful hospitality of the staff. What a wonderful way to start what proved to be a most enriching experience!

The children of Year 6 had written their own original poetry on the theme of ‘Emotions’ and I was there to hear them perform before an audience of parents, teachers and other children from the school. Some of poems were performed by groups of children who tackled themes such as Love and Jealousy – not easy to write about (even adult poets struggle with these large themes) but  Year 6 made a great job of them. I particularly remember the description of Jealousy - burning paper flaming and crackling ... it smells like poisonous gas making it hard to breath.

Individual children had written poems about how they felt about members of their families. After they had finished there was hardly a dry eye in the house! Memorable lines included:

A smile like a golden necklace
Steering wheel encased by his gentle hands
Skin soft as a swan’s feathers
Without her darkness would fall
She clicks her fingers like a machine gun
Her smile is blossom

What lovely poems and fabulous children! Thanks go to Malika Booker who coached the children and to the staff of Brudenell School for making me feel so at home.

Richard Wilcocks writes
Some pupils looked astonished, others a little bemused, when Malika first walked into their classroom to make them feel that they were poets too - alongside herself. Their enthusiasm was awakened soon after she began talking about herself, her work and her interests. Questions came from just about every one of them. After reading a couple of her poems, about her mother and her mother's shopping methods in the food market (back in the Caribbean), she talked in general about what poetry is, the five senses, similes, metaphors and clichés. This led to writing and speaking exercises in groups sitting at tables. She moved on to take a detailed look at two poems - My mother's hands by an anonymous Kurdish refugee, and I remember my father's hands by Palestinian poet Lisa Suhair-Majaj. All of the pupils' observations were written on the whiteboard.
Photos by Richard Wilcocks

After a session on fitting imagery, pupils were asked to focus on the hands of a favourite family member. What had they done and what did they do frequently? The class chose plenty of mothers, but there were plenty of others - like a taxi-driving uncle. What is their voice like? Suggestions included violins and a shrieking parrot. 

We moved on. We had fun with the round-up of repetitive sayings uttered by adults at home. Emotions were named and considered, one by one: anger, joy, jealousy... and what would it be like if you never saw that person again? What would it feel like, smell like, taste like?

By the end of the first session, the pupils had become deeply engaged, shyness and any doubts fading. Poems were improved and lengthened in further sessions with Malika and class teacher Kath Giles, so that when the time for the performance came, they were significantly more confident, able to deliver well-wrought poems and to move a large audience. Transformed by poetry! Read two of them below.
Audience Comments
I would like to thank the poet who spent three weeks helping my daughter and her peers to write their own poems. My daughter’s poem is really an amazing piece of writing and I am proud of her. I wish you can do that again with my son who is in year 4 now

It was deep, beautifully presented. The emotions were brought out through words so beautifully. Children could be themselves and express their emotions.

I worked with the class and, over the three weeks, they improved all the time. Their vocab. + confidence + ability to show/share their emotions was incredible. Brilliant experience.  

It was touching and really tearful. It is so cute and lovely to know what my daughter feels about me. And how much she doesn’t express in everyday life. I love my daughter so much.

Impressed by the power of words. Emotional and compelling words. Great confidence brought out by the facilitator. Good work!

Wonderful emotional event showing the children’s enthusiasm for learning and poetry.

Two poems by ten year-old pupils whose home languages include Arabic, Panjabi and Urdu in addition to English:

Summer’s light

Cobbled street-like hands curl around me.

His voice is as if he is scratching bark,

You can compare it to a cacophony of violins.

On his finger, an eye-watering ring encircles it.

The steering wheel encased by his gentle hands.

His smile like the light of a thunder bolt.

If he left me, I’d cry a river of blood.

This is how I think of my dad.

by Ihsan

My Favourite Person
She gives me presents with her gentle hands.
Her skin is as soft as swans’ feathers.
She swipes her hands like the conductor of an orchestra.
She says ‘Don’t be so LOUD!’
Her hands smell of buns from the baking.
If I never saw her again, I would be a lonely person in a neverending desert.


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