Sally Bavage writes:
Listening to poetry at Spring Bank Primary School
We were all Listeners as year 5 performed their original poems based on the ghostly phantoms of The Listeners, by Walter de la Mare. As James Nash - the writer and poet commissioned by Headingley LitFest to work once again with the pupils at the school – said, “If you are of a certain vintage you will probably remember having read this at school!” Nods from a number of us in the audience, who had turned out on a distinctly chilly afternoon to receive a warm welcome from the youngsters and the staff.
An air of excitement prevailed as they got ready, then absolute disciplined silence as they gathered themselves and read out parts of their work – a single favourite line, a micropoem, even the whole thing. First, ideas about the stimulus poem had been shared, then original work created, shared, edited, redrafted and reading practised for performance. Great respect was shown for each other in the final session of sharing and performing their work with parents, carers, other classes and other school staff. They went through scared to triumph and pride. Pretty daunting but a great life lesson.
The wind is whistling; I am waiting impatiently
This is the house where my family died
The cry of lost souls
I dream to be let out of this dreadful world
I hear the echoes of the past
Wolves howl against the moonlit sky
My dog is digging up my grave
Very atmospheric as we watched the snow swirling over the rooflights!
As Mr Brawley, headteacher, said at the end: "Poetry keeps you in touch with your feelings and enables you to really see the world."
Parents comments included:
Fantastic event. Children full of enthusiasm. More 'Poetry Please' (a reference to Roger McGough on Radio 4)
Great for the children to meet and work with a poet. Very inspiring for them and encouraging. They enjoyed the topic and the chance to perform
A very valuable event. Wonderful to see the children engaged and create such wonderful work
The children read their poems really well and confidently
A lovely sharing of poetry. Fabulous ideas spoken with confidence. Thank you
Great to hear kids. Confidence boost to read out loud and use voice – good/interesting use of language and clear appreciation of poetry and narrative
And staff at the school also had their say:
Really encourages the children to think about language and create a picture
Caroline Mitchell, year 1 teacher
Thank you to James Nash for some excellent workshops with my class. The children have been inspired by the sessions and have enjoyed writing and performing poetry.
Christina Johnson, class 5 teacher
The workshops have been fantastic! The level of engagement for all the children has been great – even our reluctant readers have been enthused and wanted to share their poetry with the class.
Vicky Loulie, year 5 teaching assistant
The assembly performance was excellent once again. I taught the class last year and it was great to see every child reading their poetry with confidence. James achieves a lot in a short amount of time!
Luke Wrankmore, year 4 teacher
My year 2 class worked with James on Superhero poetry last year -the confidence the sessions instilled in children was wonderful to see and had lasting effects in the weeks and months that followed. One little boy who had arrived very recently from Syria was thrilled to be able to read his poem.
The whole school looks forward to James coming and each class clamours to work with him. The quality of the language year 5 were able to use in their poetry this year was excellent. It's wonderful for them to have an insight into how poets create poetry and it's made them very excited about learning more about poetry in the future.
Jo Ward, class 2 teacher
And finally, what of the children themselves?
The best thing? reading out my work
What I have learned: editing and redrafting
Why it's good to share: you grow in confidence; you're proud of your work
What I will remember: the life and work of a real poet