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Where to find some fabulous poetry activities for kids

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One of the best websites I have ever found for inspirational kids’ poetry workshops ideas comes from the Poetry Society. I have used countless exercises via their downloadable lesson plans, adapting them as necessary to suit my needs. Recently, I used poet Roger Stevens’ Animal Menagerie activity as a springboard for children producing their own work. Now animals, in my opinion, are nearly always a winner. Nine times out of ten, children get enthused about animals, whether they have cats slinking up their stairs at home, chickens running round their yards or a pet spider they keep in a matchbox. Ever noticed the number of kids books that are written either from the perspective of an animal or about an animal? This is testament to the enduring connection that children have with our furry, winged or finned friends. Which is why it’s definitely worth planning some creative writing around the animal kingdom.

The poetry society, of course, came up trumps with Animal Menagerie. Not only does this activity get kids working together, but it can get them focusing on alliteration and writing brilliant, fun poetry without them even realising. In brief, here’s what you do:

On the board, write In Mr Magoo’s Amazing Zoo you will find… (or substitute zoo for safari park / pet shop /farm etc and find a rhyming name)

Now, draw two columns. On the right side, ask the class to give you ideas of six animals. Don’t be tempted to change them, just write down whatever comes up. Next, it’s time to ask the class for different adjectives that can go with each animal. Here, you can stretch the children. For example, if they come up with a ‘tall giraffe’, challenge them by saying we all think of giraffes as being tall and what else comes to mind?

Before you know it, you’ll have your first group poem! For example:

In Mr Magoo’s Amazing Zoo you will find

A lazy lion

A mischievous monkey

A ferocious tiger

A cunning snake

An eight-legged octopus

and a grumpy rhinoceros.

Yes, it really is that simple to write a poem. But now it’s time to put the children into pairs and small groups and ask them to come up with their own poem. For very young kids, they can do something similar to the above, for older or more able students ask them to add some alliteration in (a languid lion, a sinister snake, a rambunctious rhino). They can set their poem in whichever place they like and, in a more able or older group, really get them to play with and stretch their poem out. Some ideas for this:

– Thinking of more than six animals

– Finding multiple adjectives for each animal

– Get each animal doing an activity (e.g. a languid lion licking her cub’s fur)

– Use rhyme

– Use metaphor and / or simile (e.g. a rhino like a runaway tank / a boulder of a bear

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Animal Menagerie really is fun and light-hearted and is sure to get children scribbling away, even the most reluctant of writers. Of course they don’t need to work on the final version in pairs or in groups, this can also be a focussed independent activity. You just need to play around with it to see what best suits your group.

Enjoy!

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