Category Archives: Children's Poetry

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.

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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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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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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.

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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

etc.

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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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.

Games_Postcards_A

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.

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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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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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Bonfire Night

Bonfire Night

Fireworks blossom on
the black sugar paper sky.

The spicy smell of first frost
makes nostrils tingle.

The bonfire burns like a furnace.
My face is as hot as an iron.

My fleece jacket is snuggled
Round me to keep me warm.

I write my name in air
with my white hot sparkler.

Before bed, there’s hot chocolate,
floating cushions of marshmallow.

From The New Generation by Angela Topping (Salt 2010)

This poem was based on my own memories of Bonfire Night as  a young child and also as a parent when the girls were younger. We used to have a small bonfire in the back garden and a few fireworks lit by my dad or later, my husband for our children. I always loved Bonfire night, it seemed to me magical and comforting, though the notion of the guy used to upset me, particuarly as I knew Guy Fawkes was a Catholic who has been killed horribly for trying to blow up Parliament. I now know he was a mercenary employed as a pyrotechnics expert by the plotters. He was very brave: to avoid the cruel death of being hanged, drawn and quartered, he jumped when hanged, effecetively breaking his own neck. I cannot understand why he became the focus of such hatred, especially as James I was an unpoplar king and the laws against Catholics at the time were horrific. It is only now that the law against Catholics marrying into the royal family is considered to be outdated and might even be changed.

Although I loved bonfire night, I uset to be traumatised the next day by items in the news about children who had been badly burned. As teenagers, we used to build our own bonfires and cadge combustible materials from houses near us, save up pocket money for fireworks and beg spuds to roast in the fire. I wlecome, therefore, the growing trend of organised bonfires, put on by the council in parks and so on. Much safer and a lovely act of community bonding. Ever since the Millenium, though, fireworks have been set off on almost any occasion. I don’t like this trend. Once a year is enough to traumatise pets and disturb neighbours, and worse, overdoing things can soften their impact. In a society that demands and gets strawberries in winter, for example, we are blurring the lines between the seasons with our excesses.

Where I live now, and have lived for the past 25 years, I have a good view of other people’s fireworks and prefer to recreate a favourite memory of when my oldest daughter Laura was around three years old. We had just moved to this house and I sat on her bed with her, having finished the bedtime story routine, opened the curtains and spent a happy half hour with our noses pressed to the pane watching the sky flash orange, white, blue and green, shooting stars swim by our window and sparkle off into the navy blue above our trees. It was unplanned, the baby was asleep in her cot in the next room, full of breastmilk and my husband downstairs.

The best pleasures are the simplest by far.

 

Happy bonfire night everyone! And remember, light the blue touch paper and retire. Keep the fireworks in a tin and drop our sparkler on the ground when you have finished writing on the night.

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Hallowe’en

Hallowe’en is a festival I feel strongly should be celebrated. It is based on the Celtic festival of Samhain which honoured ancestors and marked the passing from summer to winter.It then became subsumed into the Christian festival of All Souls, which serves to remember people who have died. November is the month of the dead in Christianity.

There is a wealth of Literature, much of it from the Romantic Movement, which concerned itself with the world of the imagination, among other things. From this period we have texts like Dracula, Frankenstein and many more. This period also saw a revived interest in the traditional tales and ballads from the past. We love the thrill of being scared, safe in the knowledge that it is not real.

I fear that, in the increasing commercialism, the festival itself is being lost. Dressing up (in home-made costumes), carving a turnip lantern (nowadays pumpkins are favoured), bobbing for apples and telling stories were all delightful ways to have inexpensive fun. Trick or treat is a fairly new idea, but there is a misconception about it: as the dressed-up children come, the idea is to give them a treat or show them a trick. It is a pity that visiting each other has almost died out and people lack the ability to interact with their community, seeming to privilege the internet over flesh and blood friends.

When I was teaching I always used to tell my classes the wonderful Hallowe’en story of Tam Lin and Janet. It’s a Scottish ballad and tells how Janet meets a beautful knight in the forest and falls in love with him. She has to free him from the Faery Queen on Hallowe’en before he is sent to Hell as a tithe. The Queen turns him into several scary things but Janet holds fast as he has told her and eventually the Queen gives up.

There are many poems and short stories too, which are worthy of reading aloud by candlelight, to create magical memories for children, friends and family. Here is one of mine:

 

White

 

White Face at the window.

White face in the hall.

White sounds in the garden,

seeming to call.

 

White skin in the glooming.

White teeth in the night.

White moon in the darkness,

a world–weary sight.

 

White bones of the forebears

buried in clay.

White tomb stones standing

against the day.

 

White Face in the garden,

white hands scrape the latch.

White Face coming closer

with sharp nails to scratch.

 

White feet are mounting

the stairs one by one

searching for something

or maybe someone.

 

White fingers feeling

for the key and the lock;

White Face is greeting

white veil and white frock.

 

White two united,

they join their white bones

their faces meet lightly

to silence their moans.

 

White lovers meeting-

their time apart done,

they drift away hellwards

before the first sun.

 

 

This poem appeared in Kids’ Stuff, my Erbacce chapbook for children.

 

 

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