You’re not alone. In 2023, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education published the outcomes of a survey that asked teachers to share their experiences of teaching reading post lockdown. Poetry was frequently put to the side in favour of other genres seen as more valuable for post-pandemic catch up. Time, lack of training and poor investment in poetry books were also cited as barriers yet 89% of the pupils asked said how much they enjoyed listening to it.
It features on the curriculum, so it is our statutory duty to teach it. However, it is also about hooking that enjoyment and engagement and harnessing the impact it can have on confidence, reading, performance and writing ability. Poetry allows children to express themselves creatively as there are fewer restrictions. As they hear and feel the rhythms of different voices and dialects, see the different forms and realise that poetry can be written by a range of different people, children are inspired to find their own voice, to find figures they can relate to and find stories that reflect them, their language and their experiences.
We don’t need to re-do long-term planning or add it to lists of things to do. It is about embracing the opportunities. Class assembly coming up? Create a class poem and practise speaking lines audibly and fluently, changing tone, pace and volume to see the effect. Mothers’ Day card to write? Try a kenning, listing all the jobs our mothers do for us. World War II unit? Use personification techniques to help describe the smoke or have a go at blackout poetry. Consider how useful poetry is for precision of language and vocabulary. Share a poem related to your topic. Tell pupils they need to select five words -and five words only. Ask pupils to justify their choices. Then watch those five words appear in the next piece of written work you do.
And then there’s fostering a love of reading. Share poems because you heard them and they made you smile, or they summed up how you felt this morning or because the autumn leaves look gorgeous today.
You’ll find a poem for every celebration, mood and technique online but also get yourself a small stash together to grab in those rare unplanned moments. Better still, watch how the professionals do it. The CLPE website is a treasure trove of poets reflecting and reading their poems aloud. Cheaper than buying a poet in for the day – but if the budget will stretch that far, why not? When was the last time someone like this visited?
Take a moment to explore what’s out there – and when you find a poem you like, share it. Chances are others will enjoy it too.
Take part in our FREE fully resourced 2023 Poetry Project following the theme ‘This is Me!’.