THE KEY STAGE 2 POETRY PACK. By Alan Peat pound;12.99. Questions Publishing Tel: 0121 212 0919
I know a boy called Michael. He does headstands on aunicycle.
Fred Sedgwick is wrong - there is a rhyme for the name "Michael"! But he gets just about everything else right in Jenny Kissed Me illustrated by Jilly Wilkinson. This is an anthology of poems about love, together with teaching resources for key stage 2. Love? Could this book be soppy, embarrassing for boys? Not as Sedgwick handles it. He stands in the great tradition of valuing poetry because it "instructs by pleasing". And learning about love includes learning that we love-in-spite-of as much as we love-because. It includes love and longing, love and loss and loving ourselves, which is, maybe, a condition for loving others unconditionally.
The selection of poems is varied - mostly contemporary, mainly written for or by children, but including poems by, for example, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Leigh Hunt and Christopher Smart, who are treated a much as contemporaries as anyone else. In the activities, Sedgwick encourages critical discussion, but generally believes that children learn more from creative imitation that writing criticisms.
Alan Peat, in The Key Stage 2 Poetry Pack (a book), also encourages creative imitation, but sticks more closely to the specifications of the National Literacy Strategy, objective by objective. In relation to this, he provides writing frames for criticisms. Such Zimmer frames inevitably produce stilted writing in the first instance ("A further feature which is dissimilar is..."), but have their place, if not used uncritically as crutches by teacher and child.
One limitation of Peat's book is that virtually all the poems are his own, of an unrelenting jelly-belly humourousness. Fine as a treat, but not as a diet. Unlike Sedgwick's book, this one may teach children that poetry is essentially trivial playfulness. Nevertheless, it will earn its keep in the teacher's armoury, so long as we remember that poetry can also have heart and soul.