Hanging on every word

9th February 2007 at 00:00
To be a writer involves entering the world of the text. But many children hate writing, getting little pleasure from composing. Maybe writing is too difficult with its checklists of reminders about dropping in clauses and goodness knows what else. And all of this, to produce non-fiction writing, which is exactly the same whether you are in Norwich or Nottingham.

Poetry "coat-hangers" act as useful devices for liberating writing. They provide a repeating pattern on to which the children hang their ideas. The form liberates creativity.

The best known of these coat-hanger poems is Kit Wright's The Magic Box which led Emily to write: "I will put in my boxthe mast of a mossy shipwreck, sunk beneath the Atlantic Ocean,the lungs of a lonely lake,slowly breathing before death."

Initially, ideas are borrowed. The poems are shadows of an admired writer.

Eventually, a child's own voice appears as they invent their own patterned coat-hangers. Running a writing workshop in a Southampton school, I noticed a skeleton on the wall: "Late one nightthe skeleton sawa greedy goblin galloping by,a slithering serpent in the wizard's cellar."

Pie Corbett is a literacy consultant. For more poetic coat-hangers, see The Works Key Stage 1 or The Works Key Stage 2, edited by Pie Corbett, Macmillan Children's Books

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