Tag Archives: teaching poetry

Poems under the Microscope

I have started a new blog with a different purpose, to run alongside this one. The new blog is called Poems under the Microscope. It will feature close readings of favourite poems from across the ages or more contemporary, of any style and persuasion. I am looking for contributions for it, though I cannot offer fees.

I am hoping this new blog will prove a useful, free rescource for students, teachers, poets and readers. You will find a link to this blog in the side bar. Please pop over and have a look.I fear that in the current educational climate poetry is being taught in a clinical and box-ticking way, which is not the fault of teachers nor exam boards. The blame lies squarely with the government, who set unrealistic targets and instruct Ofsted to compare schools using league tables and computer programmes to determine targets, without reference to students as human beings with messy human lives.

When I was first teaching in secondary, my GCSE class told me with utter conviction that they could not understand poetry, that it has to be translated for them line by line. Nonsense, I told them, you can understand it perfectly well. I put together a booklet which included poems by Sylvia Plath, Craig Raine, Philip Larkin and others, and we studied the poems, my way, which involved them being encouraged to think for themselves, explore a range of interpretations, visualise imagery, create short plays about the poems’ content, and so on.

The essays about poetry which they wrote for their coursework were stunning. Pleased, I mentioned it to my then head of department, who was somewhat incredulous that these middle set year 11s could get A grades for poetry. He asked me which poets I had done with them, and his chin dropped when I mentioned the poets I had included. He said they were ‘A level poets’ and these kids would ‘never be able to understand them’. I showed him the essays and he agreed my marks. The students had begun to enjoy poetry.

At my second school, I continued to ponder why students come to secondary school loving poetry and leave feeling it is not for them. I began to read poetry to them just for pleasure, no essays involved, and to give them poems as gifts, five minutes stolen from lesson time just to read something wonderful. I think the problem with poetry is that the implication of tick-box teaching makes students think poetry is too hard for them, when all that has to be done with poetry is to listen to it.

The new blog is about listening to poetry, and feeling the wow of it.

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Paul Hughes’ review of my schools readings in Reading

Paul writes on his blog Jake the Cake:

“And so I had the pleasure of watching her perform a variety of these poems to children (aged 11-14) in two local secondary schools.  Her performances are interactive, entertaining, educational and full of nuggets of poetic brilliance and inspiration for the poets of tomorrow. She has a lovely way with students and they warmed to her personable manner. I intend to visit schools in the future and watching her perform was a wonderful demonstration of what can be achieved when a skilled poet, with a warm personality, meets with students.

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She is currently willing to perform for free, particularly to schools local to her Cheshire home, and I’d advise any teachers reading this to have her visit ASAP!”

I am still offering these promotional readings and Cheshire schools are welcome to contact me. I am equally comfortable in primary and secondary, have a full CRB and plenty of enthusiasm. It is important to me to make my book accessible to children and the best way is through readings. They can be as short as ten minutes or as long as a hour.  In return I expect schools to inform pupils that the author coming in has books for sale, and the cost of them, which is £6.99. Travel expenses are appreciated, or enough book sales to cover my outlay.

I do workshops at £250 per day (and pro-rata) plus expenses.

A school in Kent said this about my workshops:

‘Every girl and boy enjoyed the poetry workshop with angela.  From Kennings to collaborative poetry, we were all given the opportunity to write and explore our own thoughts and feelings.  each child recited at least one poem to the group and they were all well received and appreciated.
My girls were desparate to share what they had learned with the rest of the class.  Even I was motivated to twrite possibly the best comparative, descriptive verses I have ever done!  Thank you’
Wayne Rhodes (Year 6 classteacher)

If any parents or grandparents reading this want to suggest me to schools their children or grandchildren attend, I would be very grateful. I am also interested in doing inset work with teachers. I did do some leading of inset days when I was teaching, which were very well received, and I have written GCSE textbooks on how to teach poetry. I am also an A level moderator for a leading board and have led A level workshops and written critical works for A level and undergraduate students. I have led teacher training sessions for trainee teachers and given talks for OUP on the new GCSE specifications.

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Filed under Children's Poetry, Education, poetry, Poetry Collections, Salt, The New Generation