National Poetry Day: Edinburgh and beyond

30 Nov

Last month was National Poetry Day and my busiest day as a poet yet. I spent the morning running workshops with 10 classes at Flora Stevenson Primary School, Edinburgh. Then I whizzed over to West Lothian to run the final ‘Tree of Life’ workshop with a retired arts group, Generation Arts. Here are photos of the ‘Tree of Life’ at Howden Park:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Tree of Life, posted with vodpod

I’ll share a few of my favourite poems from the Children at Flora Stevenson.

First a bit of background. The theme for National Poetry Day was games. Children like having fun and playing games so I based creative thinking activities around that. One of our games was guessing objects in a feely bag. We described the objects and talked about what they reminded us of, we were thinking like poets. The key messages I wanted children to take away were:

  • Poetry is having fun with words, today’s workshop is about having fun.
  • This isn’t about spelling, it’s you ideas that make you a good poet, it’s what’s in your head.
  • You have a unique way of seeing the world, unique memories and imagination and that’s what’s fantastic about you and will make your poetry different to anyone else.
  • Enjoy being you, enjoy the way you see the world and enjoy expressing it. Differences are brilliant!
  • Encourage one another, you might be sitting next to a future J.K Rowling, Ronaldo or Matt Smith.

Each workshop was half an hour with lots of short fun activities and challanges. I worked with two classes at a time and altogether worked with four Primary 1 classes, two Primary 5 classes, two Primary 6 classes and two Primary 7 classes. That was five workshops in total. We focused on riddles to tie everything together and I set the older groups a riddle writing task to do following the workshop. Here are some of their riddles:

I walk a bit slack,
I can’t run back,
I hang like a bag
on someone’s back.
What am I?
Chris Peden, P6

I cost a small sum
I melt in the sun
I taste yum-yum!
Stella Soutar, P6
I hang onto trees,
I walk on land,
I float on air
and I love shiny things.
What am I?
Ethan Gillespie, P6

I was impressed by the children’s creativity and enthusiasm and the work they produced is excellent too. Primary 1 had only been at school a month or so and yet they were fantastic at listening and participating. My last group of the day were Primary 6. We neared the end of the workshop and I checked to see how we were doing for time. The pupils and teachers said they didn’t want the workshop to end, neither did I and since I didn’t have anywhere to be right at that moment I agreed to 15 minutes more. They guessed some more riddles, persuaded me to perform a couple more poems and asked me lots of brilliant questions.

I’d like to thank everyone at Flora Stevenson for a fantastic day. It was a lovely surprise to see one of the teachers, Miss Broadly at my West Port Book Festival performance later that week. I also met a P6 teacher’s Mum. Mr Jackson couldn’t make it to my performance but told his Mum to go along and see me, she’s a writer too.

Finally, I wanted to tell you I met with Elspeth Murray to talk through my workshop ideas at the planning stage and she gave me some great suggestions, feedback and encouragement. Thanks so much Elspeth, here’s what one of the teachers said:

“It was one of the best workshops I’ve attended.  The children were drawn in from the start and the way the sense of touch was used to kick-start their imaginations was inspirational.  The whole class returned to the classroom fired with ideas to start writing, some examples of which I enclose.”

Simon Jackson, Primary 6B teacher, Flora Stevenson Primary School


Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Banana me beautiful, Education, Events, poetry


Tags: , , , , ,

4 responses to “National Poetry Day: Edinburgh and beyond

  1. Elspeth

    December 2, 2011 at 12:31 am

    I’m so pleased that the session went so well. Brilliant writing from the kids. Way to go, Emily! 🙂

  2. auntyemily

    December 8, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Thanks Elspeth! (:


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