Enthusing kids about poetry

Writer Joseph Coelho had a blast reading out funny poetry to primary schoolchildren – and getting them to come up with their own rhymes and rhythm. 

Writer Joseph Coelho at Burley St Matthias school

The Year 2s are entering the hall at Burley St Mathias primary school, on a sunny day in Leeds. I'm here with BookTrust as part of their Booktrust Represents project. I'm sharing poems from my poetry collection Werewolf Club Rules, which means starting with a poem to get all the Year 2s joining in, a poem about something that unites us all... Food!

Soon, the children start calling out their favourite foods to be included in the poem. Fortunately, no one insists on a rhyme for orange!

I next get them to come up with some disgusting food poems (inspired by my school dinners). The Year 2s do not disappoint, joining in and saying 'Errrrrrr' in all the right places. One of the great thing about the Booktrust Represents project is that all of the students get a copy of the visiting writers' books and it was lovely to see the Year 2 students diving straight into their copies. 

'The students' poems were inspired'

For the second day, I was at Greenmount Primary but this time with Year 5 students, providing me the opportunity to share some of the older poems from the collection, such as Miss Flotsam: a poem about all all the wonderful things teachers do that are not part of the job description, such as helping families through difficult times.

I had the pleasure of leading Year 6 through a writing exercise – a simple one I often use in the classroom as it gets students creating a poem from the simple act of drawing a spider diagram.

The students' poems were inspired, with one student managing to create a poetic world combining both animals and gases... 'If all the world were animals and gases, cabs could breathe out ozone.'

Full of questions at the end

I was honoured to have poet Ruth Awolola shadowing me (another great aspect of the BookTrust Represents project). Shadowing is so important for artists working in schools as it is a particular skill which can't easily be taught or ever really described, seeing as it is linked so much to the individual's work and "voice". Shadowing enables new writers/illustrators to get a chance to think about their own education practice through observing that of others. I certainly learned in this way by shadowing and observing fabulous poets like Aoife Mannix and Jacob Sam La Rose.

At the end of the session, students had time to ask questions and they did not disappoint as they asked not only about the intricacies of making books but also the particulars of plagiarism!

My two days with the schools were brilliant and BookTrust Represents is such a super project.

Writer Joseph Coelho 

BookTrust Represents

Our project promotes and supports children’s authors and illustrators of colour, so young readers find the books that represent them.

Learn more about BookTrust Represents