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English - It's not a crime to rhyme

Why not stick your neck out? Get your pupils to do a poetry slam

Why not stick your neck out? Get your pupils to do a poetry slam

It's more like Madison Square Gardens out there than our school hall. The sense of anticipation is at fever pitch as pupils grow restless for the action to begin. Staff, arranged around the perimeter like security personnel, look worried. Recent riots have left those with authority over the young feeling edgy. Then just as the tension threatens to become unbearable, the doors swing open and the combatants enter the arena. They shadow-box their way through the crowd to whoops and cheers.

More competitive than the Thriller in Manila! More bellicose than the Rumble in the Jungle! More furious than last week's jumble sale at our local Methodist church! This is the main event. Ladeez and gentlemen, welcome to the one, the only, the greatest . Arbourthorne Community Primary School Poetry Slam!

Wait . do I sense a lack of excitement out there? Do I see disbelief rolling like tumbleweed across a silent landscape? Are you thinking: "Poetry? The man must be insane."

I admit the idea of children writing and reciting poetry doesn't immediately cause an adrenaline rush. It didn't in my day. Back then, it was mostly girls describing flowers that bloomed like jewels across fragrant meadows; or skylarks that didst defy gravity to trill sweet summer melodies. In fact, boys didn't get much of a look-in at all. I remember Miss Crotchford vetoing my animal limerick. It was about an Antarctic ostrich that looked exceedingly glum because the absence of sand in a hard frozen land meant it had to bury its head within the confines of its own anatomy.

But with National Poetry Day on 6 October looming, perhaps it is time to give your children's writing a swift kick up the implied anatomical region by organising your own class, year group or whole-school poetry slam.

Do I sense some excitement now? And are you thinking, "I could get excited about this if I knew what a poetry slam was?"

Quite simply it is competitive, freestyle, no-holds-barred, all-action performance poetry. Children are invited to write group or individual poems and perform them in front of an audience. Judges selected from the audience score poems across three areas: quality of writing, how well the poem is performed, and the response it gets from the audience. To quote one of our young teams: "Slamming is wicked but it's not a crime; it's like WWF with words and rhyme."

So if you want to turn National Poetry Day into a lively celebration of words, expression and audience participation, don't emulate that Antarctic ostrich; just get slamming!

Steve Eddison is a primary teacher in Sheffield.

What else?

Check out joelly's planning for year 1 Autumn term. It's full of ideas for poetry and narrative texts and is a big hit with teachers on TES Resources.

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