Category Archives: Able Writers

The Monster Family: Riverside, Tadcaster

We had a really fun day at Riverside, and some of the pupils who were there now have their own poetry blog.

Collectively we decided to write our group poem about a strange family:

The Monster Family

When Medusa and Count Dracula were married,

he loved her sly dangerous elegance;

she couldn’t resist him:  so tall and manipulative.

So they made their vows and took up residence

in Dracula’s dark cobwebby castle.

Their first pet was Percy the purple hedgehog

in his cute kitchen cupboard, his feeding bowl

full of dead people’s noses. For a lawnmower

they had a two-headed ginger sheep called Spice.

At night-time he slept on the bed, always keeping

one head awake in case Dracula got thirsty.

Their first born son was the Bogeyman.

As a teen he was addicted to The Monster Book.

He loved playing pranks on everyone.

Next they had Cyclops, a spoilt brat

because of his one eye. His bed is a cot of bone.

The third child is the worst of all, a smelly

red troll who sucks all of her six thumbs.

She screams all day long and sprouts orange horns

when she’s angry.

Medusa’s brother turned people to statues

and he looked like a worm, so Aunti Gemma

acidentally ate him. Oh well.

Grandfather Time steals people’s youth

to keep himself young forever.

So when he comes to stay, Dracula

sends the kids outside to play.

Medusa is the breadwinner: she’s a natural assassin.

They all live happily together, just like your family.


Filed under Able Writers, Children's Poetry, Education, poetry

At Smallwood school, Tooting.

A group poem written by year 5 & 6 pupils from London primary schools Smallwood and Beatrix Potter on 22 March 2012


The Incredible Monster Inside


In winter dark, I see a flickering light,

an old abandoned house with cobwebby windows.

I move towards the candle flame,

slowly opened the door in the cracked brickwork,

as floorboards creak, a monster emerges from the dark!


First I make out a green slimy face, withered eyes, a black tongue.

It roars a loud roar and spits phlegm. Its wide mouth

has massive yellow incisors. Its mouth is purple.

I see it has green legs, black feet, brown horns.


It smells of burning wood and disgusting dirt.

It’s rough to the touch as it pushes past me.

It eats ten humans a day or animals when people can’t be found.

It’s eating a cat now, chomping its bones and spitting out pink gloopy mucus.


The monster hasn’t noticed me, so I move on into the house.

Then I discover its nest, a stinking rotten mud-bath

surrounded by a moat of dirty water. Through a window

I see a flock of baby dragons. The mother feeds them and keeps them safe.


I hide. The monster returns to its nest and sleeps an evil sleep.

Suddenly to a sound of blasting music, pumping beats, the hero enters.

The hero chants: ‘Look into my eyes, just look at my eyes…’
The waking monster is hypnotized, under a spell. The hero from Ancient Greece

has another slave. The world is safe once more.


As I creep away, I see the baby dragons have all gone to sleep

curled around their mother, free to enjoy the abandoned house in peace.






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Filed under Able Writers, Children's Poetry, Education, Poets in schools

Group Poem from Able Writers Day at Whitby Heath Primary, Ellesmere Port

Save Our Animals

Have a care, be aware,

soon our animals will be extinct.

Giraffes are chomping juicy green leaves

Cheetas run swiftly and lazy zebras lie in the shade.

Elephants spray water with wrinkly, floppy, muscular trunks

while hippos yawn like caves in the water.

Have a care, be aware,

soon our animals will be extinct.

Creatures of the turquoise sea flash like diamonds

the great white shark thrashes through a plume of spray.

Turtles fly through water like dark angels,

rainbow fish illuminate the sea with their neon exotic colours.

Have a care, be aware,

soon our animals will be extinct.

Scaly, slithering snakes glide through the forest,

alarming squawks surround the trees where red-eyed tree frogs grip.

Furry but dangerous polar bears prowl the white wastes.

Arctic foxes scavenge, clever sleek penguins glide through water.

Have a care, be aware,

soon our animals will be extinct.

Enchanted exotic eagles swoop high and low

undermeath the blazing midday sun.

The fierce hungry grizzly bear comes round to growl,

scaring everything in its path – but hunters are coming.

Have a care, be aware,

soon our animals will be extinct.

Small newts paddle slowly through the ancient river.

Piranhas snap their teeth as they catch their prey.

A single dragon fly hovers over the muddy bog.

Frogs leap from the pond’s surface and blow bubbles in delight.


Have a care, be aware,

soon our animals will be extinct.

We may have to say goodbye

if we don’t watch where we put our feet.


I am very proud of this poem the children put together with my guidance. They had so many ideas and so many beautiful ways of celebrating the animals of our planet. We could have gone on adding more environments and habitats all day!

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Filed under Able Writers, Children's Poetry, Education, Poets in schools

Group Poem from Able Writers Day at St Mary’s, Middleton

A School Trip

Our class climbs into the massive orange spaceship

We’re all going to the moon today!

Mr Lavin says we can sing Happy Birthday

to our spaceship driver, Frank. We’re off! Yay!

The welcome centre is amazing! We are given

maps, jet packs, instructions, and are split into groups.

We set off into the ricky, bright, crater-filled landscape.

Stars are silver in the royal blue sky, boulders are red, yellow and indigo.

What’s that in front of us? It’s weird and it’s shouting

‘I want to eat you!’ Oh no, can our teacher save us?

Another alien, green with purple and blue spots, bounces up on a space hopper

and zaps the child-cruncher with its lazer finger.

It’s the end of our tour. Time for lunch and shopping.

We can go to MoonDonalds, Lunar King, Moon Pizzas or eat our packed lunches.

In the shop you can buy jelly aliens, flying saucers and haribou moon mix.

There’s alien rock and boxed astronauts. Buggies are good but too dear.

Our homeward trip is different. We’re all tired. We go

to sleep inside an egg, spinning back through strange skies,

watching a film of our wonderful day on the Moon. We land

near school, return to normal size. Our mums and dads are waiting

to take us home. We get our coats and bags, say thank you to the teachers.

This was the best trip ever!

To arrive at this poem, we decided on a topic incorporating as many ideas as possible, thought about how we could divide it up into groups and what order would make most sense. The groups came up with the ideas, fed it back to me and I drew it all together to show how to build up a poem.


Filed under Able Writers, Children's Poetry, Education

Writing Wonderland

As part of some events to tie in with the Alice in Wonderland exhibition at Tate Liverpool, The Development of the Arts in Northwich Community organisation asked me to plan and lead a three hour workshop for children themed around Alice.

I have loved this strange surreal story from childhood, when it used to give me weird dreams but confirmed my faith in logic and being true to oneself. Arguing with over-sized caterpillars and chewing the fat with disappearing cats were regular occurences in my life.

The workshop took place on 22nd December. Great fun was had by all as we wrote alliterating nonsense poems to introduce ourselves, such as:

Creative Kitty tickles and teases kittens

Magnificent Milly gives loud applause at a perfect pantomime

Rosy Roxana munches mince pies

Amazing Angela time travels with Doctor Who

Nibbling Nick groans at grim cracker jokes


We read the mouse’s tail poem on a handout with a wonderful Alice border, then wrote a range of Christmas Shape poems and then shared our work.

Next we tackled a story inspired by a key and its label, and I guided them through a structure until the first secion was written. Some of the participants promised to email me their work so it may be posted on the DAN blog. If so I will post a link here.

Moving on from writing, we did some role drama based on The Jabberwocky, which strictly speaking is from Alice Through the Looking Glass, but it’s still Wonderland! We had great fun, particularly with the freeze frames to create the setting  ’twas brillig and the slithy toves/ did gyre and gimble in the wabe’.

Everyone went home with an ALice in Wonderland character note to write a story about their own encounter with it.  We all had fun, there was warm squash and a lot of laughter. And some good work was produced. Thanks everyone.

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Filed under Able Writers, Children's Poetry, Education, Salt

Angela Topping’s Poetry in Education

My poems are being used in the classroom:

‘After the Earthquake’ is included in a Geography textbook as an example of how it feels to be an earthquake victim.

‘The Butcher’s Shop’ is a set poem in the anthology Food Glorious Food set for English Language and Literature Advanced Level.

‘ How to Capture a Poem’ is included in a GCSE textbook.

‘The Athlete’s Dream’ was quoted on this year’s National Poetry Day poem cards.


Primary schools study my book The New Generation (Salt 2010) and a free teacher pack is available to any school which books me for readings or workshops.

I am on a ist of poets recommended by OCR for study practice for the Unseen poem, a feature of GCSE English Literature examinations.

My poems have also been used in connection with Oxfam, The Samaritans and by the Open University.

I have co-authored several GCSE textbooks for OUP, and written several focus books for Greenwich Exchange.

I am a Teachit key contributor and have uploaded many popular resources over the years.


Filed under Able Writers, Children's Poetry, Education, poetry, Poets in schools, Salt

Death Door Dave, the Turtlejack

When I lead an Able Writers’ Day for Authors Abroad, I like to write a group poem with all the pupils working on a different stanza. I take ideas from the participants and try to incorporate as many as I can, discarding the ones that don’t fit. Then each small group works on an aspect of the topic, feeds back to me, then I shape it and write it up. This teaches them structure and consistency.

This is the most recent one, written last week at Mill Lane Primary. The pupils suggested we make up our own mythical creature. I split the topic up into things like physical appearance, habitat, diet, behaviour and so on. THis is what they came up with in half an hour!



Death Door Dave, The Turtlejack

His head is a barking jackal with orange eyes.
The wet-noser has a turtle body,
a creature with wire wings and green blood;
wolverine-clawed, its scorpion tail is green-flamed.

Invivible he can be, or camouflaged,
breathing fire, water or air. If he knows
you are coming he lies in wait.
He can fly high or low, scary in the sky.

You cannot hear him come, you cannot hear him go,
you cannot hear him run from all the things he fears.
He may look like a blood-thirsty savage
but his heart is a baby’s touch.
Diaphonous smoke curls around him
with a reek of gloom and loneliness.

At night he steals dinosaur eggs, seasons them with fairy dust,
eats with a salad of brussel heads, lettuce and carrots.
By day he kidnaps humans to make friends
and wonders why he fears them.

Death Door Dave used to be a happiness thief
a life crusher, a human eater, a dream disintegrator.
That was before pest control put him in prison.
Now he’s a changed monster, vegetarian, wise.

He was first created in a meteorite accident,
the only one of his kind. Now he lives in
a groovy flat, a moose-head on the wall.
candles lit, a massive double bed, waiting for a mate.

Written by the group on Able Writers’ Day at Mill Lane Primary School, Thame, Oxford


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Filed under Able Writers, Children's Poetry, Education, Salt, The New Generation

Winthorpe Able Writers Day 18 October 2011

Over the last two months, I have been shuttling from one end of the country to another (staying in many travel lodges en route!) delivering Able Writers’days for Authors Abroad. As part of the day, which aims to develop pupils’ writing by teaching them techiques in a series of fun but increasingly challenging exercises, I write a poem with them based on their suggestions for a topic, splitting the peom down into stanzas to teach structure, then giving 10 minutes group work to come up with ideas and phrases, which we fit together as a class.

These group poems usually surprise me as well as the children! Over the next few posts I will be sharing some of them, partly so that the children can access them easily, but mostly because they are all good fun.

Here is one:

The Werewolf’s Year

In winter I don’t need a coat:
my teacher thinks I’m cool,
but if she knew what I could do…
When it snows I make a snow wolf
and my carol singing is a charm for the unwary.

In spring, I don’t like chocolate eggs.
I’d rather have a spring lamb, so juicy.
The forest is an inviting misty playground
with tasty little creatures all around.
The moon is a glittering crystal ball.

The long days of summer make me sleepy.
It’s my worst season. too hot for furry skin like mine.

In autumn, the harvest moon is a giant pumpkin.
For Hallowe’en, no-one notices my costume’s real.
That is until they start to scream when I howl.
The bonfires show my silhouette, so beautiful am I.
Brown leaves of autumn make me a cosy bed.

In all seasons I try to keep
what I am a secret from my friends.

Group Poem written by Able Writers at Winthorpe Primary School, Newark, Nottingham on 18 October 2011, led by Angela Topping

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Filed under Able Writers, Children's Poetry, Education, poetry, Writing challenges

Much Wenlock Poetry Festival

Much Wenlock Poetry Festival was a delight. I wish I had been there on the Saturday to see the Wirral Alliance of Poets doing their street readings, but maybe next year I will go for the whole festival.

My two events were both on the Sunday. The first was a workshop in Wenlock Books – everyone’s dream of the perfect bookshop, full of cosy nooks to sit down and read, a splendid second hand section, real coffee and an enchanted atmosphere.

The workshop was primarily intended for children, but was also suitable for adults who write for children. So it was good to have one other adult there, as well as a granny who stayed to watch. The children were an absolute delight and they all wrote some amazing work. After we had got to know each other, using an alliteration game, and I had read a few poems to show the sort of thing I write, we got down to work. The first exercise produced a Kennings poem, followed by a sharing of work. One of the boys did his in the shape of a shoe, a girl wrote a beautiful poem about the sea. There were also poems about cats, a computer and penguins. An artist came and did a sketch of us while we were working, which I will share on here as soon as I have an electronic copy.

Over refreshments half way through we wrote a group poem:

Our Picnic

Spreading thick butter on the crispy crackling bread,
now things were ready we skipped merrily to the park.
As we arrived we set out the meal on a cloth.

Bread and butter, cheese and ham are all eaten
with lots more. We sip lemonade from plastic cups.
Everyone plays cricket. After the last wicket
we sit in the shade together.

We brush away the crumbs but some sandwiches are over
so we charge to the ducks, watching them fighting over the bread.
What a magical picnic we had with lots of fun today.

What a shame, it’s time to go home.

After break, we settled down again to write a mythical creature poem or story. The random generation of creatures with everyday locations game gave everyone some interesting combinations to work with. We had a werewolf in a left wellington boot, a frightened fairy, a vampire in a wardrobe who was obsessed with the colour purple (not the novel, but the shade), and many others. All the participants produced quirky and original pieces of writing. Some of the parents arrived back in time to hear the sharing part of the scond task. Everyone had fun and went home with two new pieces of writing – a lot to accomplish in two hours.

There was time for a quick lunch at the excellent festival cafe (all home-made food), a chat with the Welsh poet Liz Loxley, whose work I admire, a quick reconoitre with Roz Goddard, before moving off to my next event, which was a children’s reading.

The reading took place in a wonderful venue, the Methodist Chapel, which has wonderful acoustics and character – obviously a well loved building. The audience was small but I was able to hold them rapt for an hour and could interact with them individually. Reading at a festival is very different to doing a school reading to a full hall: the audiences are smaller but each child wants very much to be there.

I would have liked to have lingered in this picture-book town and taken in more eventsl, but we needed to get back. Before leaving I was presented with my copy of the festival anthology, to which every poet performing at the festival contributed a poem, most of them previously unpublished. I do urge everyone to purchase a copy of this book, reasonably priced at £7.99. Not only will it help support next year’s festival, but it is a really strong anthology. I spent a happy couple of hours reading through it.

Much Wenlock Poetry Festival has completed two years now, and we can only look forward to the 2012 one. Wonderful poets in a beautiful place set in stunning countryside – what more could anyone want?


Filed under Able Writers, Children's Poetry, Education, New books in 2011, Poetry Collections, Salt, The New Generation

Able Writers #7


A crocodile is a swimmer

a meat-eater

scaly sharp teeth

a hide in grass

a lie on sand

a slink in water


by Scout Terri Armstrong-Williams

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Filed under Able Writers, Children's Poetry