Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Superheroes at Spring Bank - with Poem Powers!

Sally Bavage writes:
James Nash and Jo Ward      Photo by Sally Bavage
Well, I could be describing the staff and visitors who worked so hard with a class of six-year-olds to get the Headingley LitFest poetry workshops and final performance assembly ready for the whole school, staff and a fantastic turnout from 40 visiting parents/grandparents to enjoy.

James Nash, local poet, has a superpower himself – the ability to get strong commitment, enthusiasm and joy from children in schools all over Leeds. Here, he was supported by Rachel Harkess, LitFest volunteer, both working with an age group new to LitFest. They got each of 27 young children, nervous and excited, to use a microphone with confidence to read out excerpts – or micropoems - from their original writing. Which they had typed out themselves to make reading out loud easier. At six. Crumbs. As James said: “I have loved working with my youngest-ever group. Their writing is less developed at this age, so the work involved more discussion and the ideas really flowed.”

Headteacher Michael Brawley was delighted that the poetry workshops “engage children with their learning and give them a love of poetry.” A sentiment heartily supported by the office staff, including office manager Miss Bonner: “Such a good thing; it inspires their creative writing which we then see them tackle more and more.” Lunchtime supervisor Juliette James agreed “it was lovely to see the poems they produced.” And as Margaret Ellis, on reception, commented: “We see the mundane every day, it's so good to see their imagination and confidence take off.”

Jo Ward, class 2 teacher, was also really really positive about the effect of the work that takes off way beyond the classroom. Like a superhero. Many of her class now wanted to be writers or poets, and they had felt privileged to be working with “a real writer” who taught them something about the process of writing.

Supermarket Trolley Man. Popcorn man. Diamond Girl. Chuckleman. Wolf Girl. And these superheroes had intriguing superpowers – shooting biscuits into milk, microwaving their enemies, capes that give you superspeed. Some funny, some beautiful, some expressive but all highly imaginative writing.

“This has inspired my son to use poetry and language; we have spent the past week writing limericks every day at home.” “This has made the children really interested in poem power. And, oh, the confidence with using the microphone!”

And to the children: “Best bit?” “Writing my own poem.” “Reading in front of the whole school.” “I enjoyed it all.”

Now that really IS super.

Spring Bank Primary School, Spring Road, Headingley, Leeds LS6 1AD

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