Junior Workshops on selected poems
by Chris Stephens
Under stones, under sacks of potatoes,
fast asleep all winter they hunker
deep down under the coal in the bunker.
Then we come along with shovel and hod
to plunder their wonderful city. We tread
with great care, and then, one by one,
we lift them into the new spring sun.
They’re sleepy as children on Daddy’s shoulder
when nights were darker and days were colder.
But wake up! Warm up! Time to be stirring.
Spring is here and the whole world’s purring.
‘...Can you call a newt, cute?… This poem tells us all about newts, and their hibernation… it’s a bit like it’s a tongue-twister at the beginning… there are 3 kinds in Britain, but my Dad saw red newts in Egypt…’
Using the opening words of Gillian’s poem as a stimulus for creating a series of kennings to emphasize the characteristics of newts. Explain that KENNINGS are basically two-word descriptions of something, or someone, created without using its name; the expressions were first used in Old English and Norse poetry – to describe armour and weapons – or even chieftains themselves. There are lots of examples in anthologies such as The Works chosen by Paul Cookson.
Research the 3 kinds of newts which are found in Britain - the smooth newt, the palmate newt, and the great crested or warty newt. Discuss their Latin names ( Triturus vulgaris vulgaris, Triturus helveticus helveticus, and Triturus palustris palustris) and create a data base to classify their similarities and differences.
Create some CLERIHEW poems about newts or other amphibians. Clerihews are simple four line comic verses, with rhyming couplets, (aa,bb). The name of the creature written about must be included in, or actually be the first line.
If you’ve seen a palmate newt
You must admit they’re rather cute
Along males’ tails a blue fin grows
With blackened webs between their toes
To reinforce work on adjectives create a composite ‘string poem’. This involves dividing the class into groups of three; each group is responsible for thinking of three words to describe newts, based on given categories, such as rhyming words, words of one syllable, words beginning with particular letters or sounds. These words are written bold onto post-its by the children. Each group then comes up to the board in turn, and places their selection in front of the word newts, which has been written several times. Discussion can follow on the order of the three adjectives, and the order of the lines, to get the best effect.
Examples of children’s responses in poetry
Emily (Year 6)
Newts! Newts! Newts!
Small, swift, fast newts.
(1 syllable words)
Feeding, amazing, playing newts.
Fertile, mobile, reptile newts.
( -ile rhyming words)
Orange, spotted, warty newts.
(2 syllable words)
Nervous, natural, naughty newts.
( n- words)
Fluorescent, carnivorous, amphibious newts.
(4 syllable words)
Newts! Newts! And more newts!
Class poem : Juniors Years 3-6