Friday, 24 January 2020

Seeing the Wood for the Trees at Shire Oak Primary School

Sally Bavage writes:
James Nash with class teacher Ian Martin
No rain this time to dampen the enthusiasm of the 25-strong audience of parents, no snow to chill nor wind to find the chinks in your coat.  Makes a change!  How refreshing for this latest visit to hear the poems written by 28 youngsters in year 3.  But the elements played their part in the poems that we heard.

The theme this year – Trees.  Very apt, when you consider both the school name and its proximity to the site of the Headingley 'Shire Oak. The name may refer to an oak tree that was a meeting place for settling legal disputes and raising armies.' (Wikipedia).  We didn't raise an army but certainly raised a storm of applause for the joyous and talented recitations of original poems the seven- and eight-year-olds had carefully crafted. 

James Nash, local published writer and poet and regular visitor, commissioned once again to work with Ian Martin's year 3 class, completed a series of writing workshops with a final assembly for all the school's pupils, 25 parents, a dozen or so school staff including headteacher Jane Devane, and some other visitors.  So not daunting at all then for the youngsters!

The class had imagined that they were a favourite tree and explored ideas around characteristics, events and the effects of the weather and the seasons.  Pines, silver birch, apple trees, willows, beech, oak, even magnolias all made an appearance. Early uncertainty had given way to an increased confidence in their ability to write, to rhyme (or not – they enjoyed that poems don't have to), to share and perform.  No shaking of leaves of paper here; all read out their selections in strong and confident voices. 

Lots of smiles at the clapping of their parents at the end, pleasure at showing their work to family and laughs as James explains that he had been tempted to 'borrow' the odd line or so for one of his own poems.  No, not at all unlikely when you read selected lines like some of those below.

It's winter, I'm sleeping
A tiny tiny robin lives in these branches
I've always dreamed of children playing with me
I don't sleep in the night, I listen
I wish more people took selfies of me
I hate it when squirrels eat my nuts
In spring I cuddle in my thick leaves
Someone woke up and grabbed something out of the shed. 
It was a saw. 
All the trees shook.
When they went to the ill old tree,
Sady he made a cross where she will be cut down
Owls and woodpeckers peck and make a home in my trunk
Ants are eating my flowers
Magnolia trees dream and wish
Foxes and hedgehogs live nearby
Worms eat my juicy apples
I have my birds, they tweet a nice tune
A silver birch reminds me of my grandpa
I am dreaming to live in a snowy forest,
Not beside the noisy road

My favourite weather is windy
Because I love getting swept across the world

I dream of having another owl in my tree branches
I'm very popular in winter
When people hang their shiny decorations on my branches
Other trees are jealous
My favourite weather is the breeze
Because it makes be blow and creak

My vines hang low and proud
Woodpeckers give me a roaring headache
I see other trees having fun with the bees
A woodcutter comes and chops down a tree
He won't cut me, he takes an apple all glossy and red
My arms are full with red apples
The leaves are my clothes
My favourite days are sunny
Because families can camp uner my roof of vines

Dear Reader, could you have conceptualised and written  that at seven years old?!

As headteacher Jane Devane said, “I think it's a great start to them writing in key stage 2 to have such an opportunity to play with words, enjoy working with a Real Poet and to take pride in performing their work. Mr Martin is able to refer back to their achievements over the coming months and even future years.”

Grateful thanks to Rachel Harkess, Headingley LitFest volunteer (and former teacher), who helps with the workshops.  Thanks too, of course, to the local councillors on the Inner North West community committee who provide the funding for this valuable work to continue. 

Feedback from Year 3

What has been the best thing about this project?
Getting to know about poetry
It was fun
Something new
When we got to do the word list

What have you learned?
Poetry doesn't have to rhyme
Learning how to write a poem
Reading stuff is good

What will you remember?
Reading out my poem
More than one way to write
Pretending to be a tree

Feedback from Parents

Very expressive and heartfelt

Continue the excellent work please

Listening to all the seasons and colours being described

Conquering her fear of reading it in front of others

It's encouraged his reading and writing

Very confident performances

Encouraging creativity and confidence-raising

Should this collaboration be encouraged? Absolutely, with bells on!

Well written, great humour, descriptive and imaginative

Brilliant assembly, very proud mum

She has been talking for ages about meeting a real writer

Fantastic imagery

A very well-thought-out and delivered project

It gives the class the chance to meet and hear from a real artist and feel inspired

It has given my child an opportunity to think more deeply about writing – she is inspired!

Children were proud to read their poems

Growing his enthusiasm for poetry

A wonderful experience to use our language so creatively, especially learning from a poet

I didn't think she had written it! She's been telling me about alliteration. Thank you.

My daughter has loved the experience and grown in confidence with writing.

Wonderful, such creative pieces. My daughter was bouncing with pride about her work.

Great for him to feel there is a purpose to his writing.

Sometimes children's imaginations are better than adults!

A different approach to writing that goes beyond stories, reports, etc

Well done to everyone! Amazing assembly.

My son was absolutely gutted to have missed the first session through illness and has loved doing something new.

Opportunities to explore and produce poetry – and to work with a poet – must be kept in the curriculum

My granddaughter projected her voice very clearly and well. Well done to all of them.

Different creative perspective that supports humanity.

There was much more; this is just a selected line from each form.

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