It was a Wednesday morning in Ireland Wood Primary School, and as it turned out, a very special morning. I was sitting in the school hall and behind me [in front a display of their fabulous work] sat sixty year 6 pupils. We had an audience of two Year 5 classes and approximately fifty parents and grandparents.
Some of us were a little nervous.
Class teachers, Mrs. Amos and Mrs. Stringer introduced the morning, talking about the learning objectives achieved by and the inclusivity of the project. Mrs. Amos observed how when the project first started in the school seven years before we had only half a dozen parents in the audience, and how interest had grown every year.
We were there to share our writing about the Great War and to explain our writing journey. Every pupil read some of their work, some their complete poem. Their empathetic writings of what it meant to be a soldier at the front, or one of those left behind waiting for news, provided a moving commentary to World War One. Poems like ‘Dear Valerie’ and ‘White Feather’ will stay with me for a long time.
I explained what we did in my first two mornings with Year 6, an ideas session in the first week, with an editing and redrafting workshop in the second week. I took away my ideas from the first session and wrote a first draft of a poem which I was then able to share with the pupils, explaining what I had done, and how they might edit and redraft their own poems.
In between my explanations we heard individual recorded clips of children reading favourite lines from their poems, interspersed with live readings of complete poems. And then all of Year 6 stood and read from memory the poem. ‘In Flanders Fields’.
We finished with everyone singing, ‘It’s a long Way To Tipperary’. I looked into the audience and was moved to see parents and grandparents joining in.
The young people had a chance to talk about what they had learned from working on the poetry project and amongst others observed that ‘a poem doesn’t need to rhyme’, ‘how to be more confident about writing a poem’ and ‘how to work on and polish their work’,
Mr. Blackburn, the head teacher, spoke a few words of thanks to the audience, and said how the writing project had become very much part of what the school did.
I continued to sit in my chair as parents came forward to read from the display of children’s work. Many of them said how their children had enjoyed the project and how much they had been inspired and learned from it.
It was as ever a brilliantly interactive experience, both working with staff and pupils at Ireland Wood and then sharing our writing with parents.
James Nash, 18th November 2019