Poems with familiar settings, poems with predictable and patterned language, poems from other cultures and poems by significant children’s poets.
by Carol Ann Duffy, Helen Taylor and Gillian Clarke
In what follows, all of the above are covered in ONE general section using the theme of NIGHT. Working through the section in class and with homework/extension work will take up one fun term!
Familiar settings include bedtime, going to sleep, the dark and waking up.
The theme of NIGHT will be helpful when children begin to make their own class anthologies. It can also fit into other parts of the curriculum, such as art, science, the natural world.
Here are three poems about NIGHT by Robert Louis Stevenson- a very significant poet for children!
The moon has a face like the clock in the hall;
She shines on thieves on the garden wall,
On streets and fields and harbour quays,
And birdies asleep in the forks of the trees.
The squalling cat and the squeaking mouse,
The howling dog by the door of the house,
The bat that lies in bed at noon,
All love to be out by the light of the moon.
But all of the things that belong to the day
Cuddle to sleep to be out of her way;
And flowers and children close their eyes
Till up in the morning the sun shall arise.
ESCAPE AT BEDTIME
The lights from the parlour and kitchen shone out
Through the blinds and windows and bars;
And high overhead and all moving about,
There were thousands of millions of stars.
There ne’er were such thousands of leaves on a tree,
Nor of people in church or the Park,
As the crowds of the stars that looked down upon me,
And that glittered and winked in the dark.
The Dog, and the Plough, and the Hunter, and all,
And the star of the sailor, and Mars,
These shown in the sky, and the pail by the wall
Would be half full of water and stars.
They saw me at last, and they chased me with cries,
And they soon had me packed into bed;
But the glory kept shining and bright in my eyes,
And the stars going round in my head.
BED IN SUMMER
In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.
I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.
And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?
Make an overhead projector transparency of each poem if possible- or put on board.
If possible, photocopy the poems for each of the children.
Divide the particular poem you are looking at today into couplets or 4-line sections. Divide the class into the same numer of groups and give each little group a couplet or section to read aloud.
Talk with your class about bedtime, getting off to sleep, being scared of the dark, the night sky, names of stars and planets. Talk about the words in the poem which help to make pictures. Is “glittered” more descriptive than “shone”?
Find and discuss similes together.... “The moon has a face like the clock on the wall”.
Practise reading the poem aloud. Pick up the life and the rhythm of the poem! Be energetic!
See if the whole class can learn the poem off by heart as a choral group.
Ask the class for ideas how best to perform the poem.
Perform the poem in assembly as a class!
INDIVIDUAL WRITING (Night Creatures!)
Have a look at Carol Ann Duffy’s poem MOTH, which is in the ANIMALS section for YEAR 4. You might want to read it to your class!
This next poem was written in a workshop by a class of primary school children who had been working with the poet Gillian Clarke:
Daring and skilful
determined to dazzle
he performs his tricks on the rope,
turns cartwheels on his wire.
He rides his delicate bicycle
a tumble drier
He perfects his tricks
walks on stilts on wire.
It shines like silver
strong as gold.
He balances to music
as he walks
on his hands.
Llannon Primary School, Dyfed
Text of the poem “Moth”(and/or “Spider”) on board or projector.
Pictures of different types of moths (or spiders). Eek!
Pictures of creatures that come out at night.
Why are some people afraid of moths but not butterflies?
Think of ways to compare moths and butterflies in favour of the moth!
Why are people afraid of spiders?
What is clever or good about spiders?
Pass around the pictures of night creatures- eg. bats, spiders, slugs, daddy long legs, owls, badgers etc.
Ask each child to choose a creature.
Use the model poem (Moth or Spider) to make a short poem- individual writing- which makes the creature less scary!
Perhaps a bat is a mouse going to a fancy dress party!
If you are good at art as a class, you could make your own web! And hang poems in it!
GOING TO BED
Here are three poems about going to bed:
I wonder as into bed I creep
What it feels like to fall asleep.
I’ve told myself stories, I’ve counted sheep,
But I’m always asleep when I fall asleep.
Tonight my eyes I will open keep,
And I’ll stay awake till I fall asleep,
Then I’ll know what it feels like to fall asleep,
A CRADLE SONG
Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
Smiles awake you when you rise.
Sleep pretty wantons, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby:
Rock them, rock them, lullaby.
The sun descending in the west,
The evening star does shine;
The birds are silent in their nest,
And I must seek for mine.
The moon, like a flower
In heaven’s high bower,
With silent delight
Sits and smiles on the night.
Choose one or two of the poems to read to the class.
Talk about bedtime- routines, getting to sleep, dreaming.
Is anything scary about night time? Are you afraid of the dark? Why?
(In THE JUNIOR POETRY LIBRARY you will find two fab NIGHT poems! AULD DADDY DARKNESS by JAMES FERGUSSON and DREAM-SONG by WALTER DE LA MARE. These poems also use rhythm, line pattern, simple alliteration and assonance!)
Sometimes we use a routine (Vespers) to get us to sleep or a lullaby like Golden Slumbers (which was used in a song by The Beatles!)
In traditional African society, the Fang tribe worshipped the Sun as a symbol of God. The Sun is visualised as a hunter or warrior who rises every day in the east to fight and conquer the night.
HYMN TO THE SUN
The fearful night sinks
Trembling into the depth
Before your lightning eye
And the rapid arrows
From your fiery quiver.
With sparkling blows of light
your tear her cloak
the black cloak lined with fire
and studded with gleaming stars-
with sparkling blows of light
you tear the black cloak.
As a class, try to collect poems from other cultures and countries about the night. This would make excellent homework and could involve parents and grandparents.