Resources on poetry by the poets themselves

Bad Numbers

Junior Workshops on selected poems

Bad Number

70 mice in a pillow case.
70 spots on a greasy face.
70 wasps in a jar of jam.
70 rats in a baby’s pram.
70 bones in an open grave.
70 skulls in an empty cave.
70 fleas on a mad stray dog.
70 shoes in a stinking bog.
70 teeth in a vampire’s mouth.
70 magpies flying south.

70 nails in a coffin lid.
70 pennies in a quid.
70 grey hairs on a head.
70 children in one bed.
70 eggs in a frying pan.
70 cops in a big black van.
70 prisoners in a cell.
70 rings on a funeral bell.
70 reasons all for NO.
70 arrows in a bow.

70 fake pearls on a neck.
70 sailors in a wreck.
70 holes in a fishing net.
70 gaols in the back of the net.
70 words on a toilet wall.
70 strangers in the hall.
70 wolves at a pig’s front door.
70 hours with a world-class bore.
70 kittens in a well.
70 devils down in Hell.

70 cows on an abattoir hook.
70 sums in a homework book.
70 teachers in a row.
70 footprints in the snow.
70 nappies in a sink.
70 types of tea to drink.
70 programmes on the telly.
70 chocolates in a belly.
70 dogs in the garden barking.
70 cars at the front door parking.

70 birthdays in one year.
70 earrings in one ear.
70 calls on the ansaphone.
70 tigers with one bone.
70 sheep on the motorway.
70 taxis going away.
70 candles on one cake.
70 children with toothache.
70 monkeys in a car.
70 astronauts on a star.

70 wrinkles on a face.
70 miles in a race.
70 gherkins on a plate.
70 maggots for live bait.
70 crisp packets in the gutter.
70 ants in yellow butter.
70 Brussel sprouts for tea
70 squirrels in a hazelnut tree.
70 moles on a putting-green.
70 heirs to the reigning Queen.

70 nuns in a taxi queue.
70 men in the ladies’ loo.
70 steps to the hangman’s noose.
70 flies in the apple juice.
70 ferrets in a pair of jeans.
70 schoolboys eating beans.
70 kisses on the nose.
70 thorns in a blood-red rose.
70 sandwiches filled with cucumber.
70 ain’t my favourite number.

Carol Ann Duffy

Children’s Observations

…the poet might be crazy to be thinking of 70 men in a ladies’ loo… a bit strange, like 70p in a quid!… The poem was very creative, and there were lots of rhyming couplets… it’s the first poem that I’ve read that’s funny!

Teaching Ideas

Using Carol Ann’s poem as a model, work with a partner to create a verse of ten lines (5 rhyming couplets) beginning with the number twenty. You will first need to brainstorm a selection of rhyming words, single syllable words might be the best. – pound/sound , crown/down, lawn/corn – and instead of your poem being about bad things, it could be about ‘good’ things, or even amazing things!

30 green rabbits in a field of blue
30 aliens smiling at you!
30 million lottery win
30 fairies on the end of a pin!
30 men in a crescent moon
30 hours in an afternoon!

Create a collection of simple acrostic poems, based on the ten-times table answers, ie twenty, thirty, forty. These will provide a link with maths, and demonstrate your ability to play with words and the structure of sentences.

Twice ten is
Yes it is!
Four times ten
Offers the
Your question, ‘What makes forty?’

Make a collection of words and phrases which contain one of the multiples-of-ten numbers. Some will be easier than others. Twenty is a good word to begin with. Here are some phrases to start your collection.

  • The 20th century
  • Nineteen, twenty, my plate’s empty
  • 20 shillings in a pound
  • The Roaring Twenties
  • A twenty pence piece
  • A twenty  pound coin
  • Twenty-twenty vision
  • ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea’
  • ……in your twenties….
  • The time is now seven twenty

You could create a collage poster including these words, with appropriate illustrations, and cut-outs from magazines, including lots of number 20s

Choose another poem from Carol Ann’s ‘Numbers’ section in ‘the oldest girl in the world’, and discuss how the poem works. Using the original as a model once more, create your version of the poem. For example in ‘4. What Mark did you get?’ you will need to realise that line 3 rhymes with your chosen number – so if you choose 83 you will need to have a choice of ‘ee’ rhymes – me, tree, see, country, valley, agree, degree, symmetry – to choose from. Although lines 1 and 3 don’t have to rhyme, they could do!

I wrote a thank you letter
It couldn’t have been better
To granny from me

I argued with my mother
Shouted at my brother
But now we all agree.

Examples of children’s responses in poetry

Good Number

(1/2 the lines!)

20 warriors fierce and bold
20 cats locked out in the cold
20 fluffy chickens laid six speckled eggs
20 men with hairy legs.
20 brains in one man’s head
20 floods and everyone fled.
20 fish swimming in a tank
20 sailors from a ship that sank
20 people writing to the queen
20 signatures all in green.

(Adam Davies – Year 6)

20 pretty girls doing the rumba
20’s certainly my favourite numba!

20 nights of peaceful slumber
20 is my night-time number!