Posted in Poetry in Education, Poetry Review, Poetry Teaching Book

Catalysts, by Pie Corbett: Review

Pie Corbett is an excellent poet – but he is also an excellent teacher of poetry and from poetry, and is a fount of imaginative teaching ideas that WORK to help children express themselves in poetry or prose. He created the Talk for Writing approach to learning, which is widely used in UK primary schools.

This is more than a manual for teachers – it is a book full of magic and wonder, it shines with Pie’s enthusiasm for poetry, teaching and inspiring children as writers – his dedication in the front to his wife states: “We have striven to develop storytelling, creative writing, art, music and dance. Our belief is that the creative arts bring joy, enhance who we are and how we live. The arts bind us together in our common humanity, helping us to take a step out of the darkness of ourselves and let in the light.”

I don’t really need to say any more than this book really is brimful of catalysts, laid out clearly with poems, ideas, examples, and instructions that are easy to follow – which will make Pie’s own triumphs with inspiring children’s writing replicable.

It’s a book I heartily recommend – not only to teachers but to poets, and anyone wanting to be a poet. Five stars from me!

Only available here: TalkforWriting

Posted in Poetry in Education, Poetry Videos

Why We Love Poetry – a Video!

As part of the Bristol Poetry Festival one year I was asked to provide a poetry exhibition for young people. This expanded with the aid of an Arts Council Grant I applied for into a family exhibition. I decided it would be great to include all my poetry friends who had met recently and produced a poetry book. Poems and illustrations by the poets from that book were enlarged and exhibited on the walls.

I also wanted to include shape poems and so we also wrote, found and shaped other poems, and this was a great success.

Hanging from the ceiling on mobiles were reversible poems – they could be read upwards and downwards.

My husband (a film editor in his work-life) and I interviewed, chose and directed children from ITV Television Workshop to learn and read poems written by the poets, and these performances were intercut with poetry films we had made of all of us at various meetings. These were shown on two screens with headphones, one for older children and adults and one for younger children.

There was a two-sided giant jigsaw puzzle which everyone had fun doing and then reading – we even had timed races to see who could build it quickest.

The best thing was the giant magnetic poetry, on three giant magnetic boards set at different heights. This nearly finished me off – making it was very time consuming, but it still survives and it’s a wonderful prompt for poetry writing. No-one could resist picking up the pieces and playing with the words – which is what poetry is, basically.

It was so easy to find a poem on the boards from a little play and it encouraged expansion of the original words into many, many poems written on the tables, illustrated sometimes, and hung on the poet-tree. Our youngest poet was three and our oldest – well, very old. She was excited to learn that poetry did not have to be about ‘special subjects’ but could be about anything, and set off home to write more. Even if it was just that one lady, it was  worthwhile endeavour… but it was a whole lot more than that.

If anyone wants to employ us with this exhibition any time, let us know! The 250 feedback forms were wonderful, full of praise and delight, and the only lament was that perhaps there would never be another.

Posted in Poetry in Education

Write a Colourful Simile or Metaphor poem!

A poetic and crafty way to use similes and metaphors.

When you say something is ‘similar’ to something else you mean they are very ‘like’ each other.

We use a similar word, ‘simile’ when we are writing. Similes COMPARE two things. If I were to say a flower was ‘like’ , or ‘similar to‘, or ‘as yellow as‘ the sun, I would be using a simile.

The flowers were like little suns = a simile.

The flower’s petals were as pink as Barbie’s house = a simile.

The flower petals had edges similar to saws = a simile.

If you say something IS something else, then you are using a metaphor. If I were to say the flowers are suns, I would be using a metaphor. Metaphors are a more exciting and energetic way to describe something. If I say ‘Julie is like a tiger’ it doesn’t sound quite as exciting as ‘Julie is a tiger’.

The flowers are suns, burning my eyes = a metaphor.

My heart was a bird trying to fly from my chest = a metaphor.

The market is a jungle, filled with bright and noisy people = a metaphor.

How about using colours to write some simile and metaphor short poems?

Small simile colour poems:

Pale blue

like the sky

on the horizon.


Orange as a

hungry baby

bird’s beak.


Red as a

Valentine’s Day

card shop.


Small metaphor colour poems:

Blue is the day

above the tree.


Mum’s sheets

are white tents

in the wind.


The air

waved with

green leaf hands.


Now the crafty bit!

Write your one line poems on things that are the same colour as the subject of your poem.

Here are two I have done – my ‘blue’ metaphor poem is written on blue paper. I could have drawn a blue sky as well, or stuck collage pieces of blue onto a white background and stuck the poem on top.

I have used collage on my second example -my ‘red’ simile line poem.

If you have written several simile or metaphor lines you can combine them into one poem – you might want to adjust one or more of the lines or change some of your similes into metaphors or metaphors into similes, make something singular or plural or add or take away a word:

The Colours of the Day


The day was

blue sky on the horizon

blue as the sky above the tree,

the flowers were suns

burning my eyes,

orange baby birds’ beaks,

and red as a Valentine’s

Day card shops,

while the air waved

with green leaf hands.


Notice that I have left out some of my lines. I could have called the poem ‘The Garden’ and included mum’s sheets on the line, but I wanted to keep the images to nature, so I left it out.

If I hadn’t had enough lines, I could have added more!

Read your poem out loud after you have put it together. Does it sound right? Could the rhythm be made better by removing a word or adding one?

Perhaps you think you could make the images better, by changing one of the similes or metaphors. I could have changed the white sheet line to: ‘the clouds are white as sheets in the wind’.

Have fun! Send me one! You could use similes and metaphors to write a Covid19 poem. If Covid19 was an animal, what animal would it be? If it was a type of weather, what weather would it be? What sound would it be? What type of smell? Which colour would it be?

If you write Covid19 poem, enter it for my Covid19 competition – details in the link, side bar or a few posts under this.

Posted in Poetry in Education


Do you want to enthuse your pupils with a love of words and give them ways of expressing themselves and extend their vocabulary at the same time as giving them a fabulously entertaining day?

There is one way to do this – invite a poet in to your school to read, perform, excite, enthuse, inspire and do workshops with them!

In the tabs at the top of the site is an A-Z of poets working in schools. Most are working in this country. Have a look! There may be one near you… including me!

Posted in Poetry in Education

Poetry Book for #InternationalWomensDay!

This is the one I’d recommend (unsurprisingly!). It was written by me, Jan Dean, and Michaela Morgan to chime with the 100th anniversaries of the work by suffragists from every walk of life.

Here’s the review in Lovereading4kids:

New poems by three of our brightest and liveliest poets are gathered together in this anthology which celebrates women and girls, lots of them. The lives of the really famous – Malala, Frida Kahlo, Amy Johnson, Hillary Rodham Clinton – are discussed, the roles of women in fairy tales debated, and the achievements of women whose names we’ll never learn acknowledged too. The poem styles are as varied as the book’s subjects, and there are poems to make you laugh, to make you angry, to make you think. It’s a sparkling collection, inspiring and empowering. Buy copies for all the young people in your life. ~ Andrea Reece

Since then it has won the North Somerset Teachers’ Book Awards for Poetry.

Poetry Mad Libs for Children from National Literacy Trust’s Words for Life

What a fabulous idea!

Mad libs are fun word games that allow you and your children to create silly stories or poems by filling in the gaps on a template, while also learning about different types of words (nouns, adjectives, verbs and more).

Go to the Literacy Trust’s page HERE to see and download the mad libs version of the popular poem The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear to create your own twist on a classic! The original is included too.

Follow Literacy Trust on Twitter

Never Such Innocence Children’s Poetry Competition

Never Such Innocence invites all 9-16 year olds to send poems or artwork inspired by the events of the First World War.

To sign your school up for the 2017/18 competition please email or sign up to the newsletter here .

Never Such Innocence publishes a resource to stimulate responses to the competition – it provides an overview of the Great War and is split into sections. The resource is free to download and they will post copies to your school free of charge!

Details here: Never such Innocence.

Why not write poems on the theme of Freedom and combine it with National Poetry Day?

Posted in Poetry in Education

Pie Corbett – Reading Poetry in School

Below, Pie Corbett has kindly written an article for us on reading poetry in school – and how to inspire a love of poetry in the listeners! I was lucky to have several good readers among my teachers, and can still hear one of them reading us The Listeners by Walter de la Mare, and remember the delicious goosebumps that the poem, and the reading of the poem excited. Pie has been a teacher, Head Teacher, lecturer and OFSTED inspector, is an author and poet – and a brilliant champion and provider of creative approaches in the classroom. 

Reading Poetry in School


Poems are experiences

Good poems are experiences and, like music, may not be readily understood. It is the conjunction between the sound of the poem, its music, and the meaning of the words that creates an effect. The poem creates echoes of meaning for each reader; words triggering memories, images, ideas and emotions. I remember years ago hearing John Agard reading Blake’s Tyger. A woman in the audience cried and later I asked her why. ‘It was like hearing the earth speak to me,’ she said.


Choosing poems

As a school, agree on and resource a poetry spine with key poets and poems for each term. Establish ‘poem of the week’ at Key Stage 1 and ‘poem of the day’ at Key Stage2 to ensure that children hear lots of poetry. For working on in class, first choose a worthwhile poem. Much of the poetry published over the last 20 years is easy to understand and whilst the poems might be fun to read, their impact will be brief. Poems for use in lessons should be worth spending time with; they have to earn their place. In The Works Key Stage 2, I collected all the poems that I would wish for in a class (organized by year group in the index). There are poems here that have bite and challenge. Look too at Bob Cox’s Opening Doors books for classic poetry with teaching ideas.


Read it aloud

To be experienced, the poem must be read aloud by both the teacher and, most importantly, by the children. Only through reading a poem can you feel the experience. The first encounter with a poem may be through a teacher reading to the class or putting the children into groups to prepare a choral reading. As the groups work together, they will naturally begin to try and interpret the poem, thinking about how it should be spoken. The key is to ‘vary’ – pace, rhythm, expression and volume in relation to meaning. Capture performances and create class CDs, film clips or perform for other classes or in assembly. We may never fully understand Tyger but we can have it by heart and love the mystery. Bring poems alive with great reading and do not be afraid to use percussive instruments to provide a simple backing or to use illustration or film to enrich the experience. Make the poem live. The more it lives, the more they will love poetry.



Discussion is essential as it is through talk that we may begin to bring into being what we think about a poem. Exploratory and tentative ‘Book Talk’ helps a class grow understanding and deepen appreciation. The teacher triggers the discussion with an open question such as, ‘what can we say about this?’. Then show an authentic interest in the poem and what the children say, relinquishing control over the meaning and helping the class focus and deepen their understanding. Coax out initial ideas, including what the class enjoyed or what the poem made them think about. Remember there is no ‘wrong answer’, just their thinking. If the comments leave the poem behind or become ‘wild’, get them to back up their ideas by referring to the poem.


Interact with poems

Help children dig under the skin of a poem, with some form of interactive activity. Try missing out the title– the children read the poem and then decide in pairs or threes what it might be called and provide evidence for their thinking. Cut up a poem by words, lines or verses and the children have to reassemble the poem. Omit key words from a poem, creating a cloze procedure, and the children have to fill in the blanks thinking about rhythm, meaning and style. Rewrite a poem as prose and the children have to put the poem back into lines, considering where each line or verse break might fall. Ask children to illustrate the key image from the poem. All these activities will encourage children to talk about and engage more deeply with the poem.


Write in response to poems

Try using writing as a form of response. Children could advertise a poem, write about the poem discussing likes, dislikes as well as what intrigued them. Some poems lend themselves to writing in role as a character or responding with a diary entry, letter or news item about a dramatic event. A key method that helps children appreciate a poem and to look and read more closely is through imitating the poem. Certain poems make this invitation obvious. Everyone knows Kit Wright’s Magic Box which always provides a skeleton for children’s own ideas.  A careful reading of his poem will stimulate possibilities and techniques to try out. Google Miroslav Holub’s The Door, read by Joseph Fiennes, which is another fabulous list poem. A more demanding model would be Philip Gross’s ‘Dreams of an Inland Lighthouse-Keeper.’ In the poem, different boats are created such as the boat made of stars. Here is a year 6 writing in response, taking up the invitation to create your own boat made of unusual materials.


The Boat made of Stardust


The boat made of stardust

floats over the echoing waves

As living stars

Jump on to the boat

Hitching a moonlit ride.

Celestial bodies

Are concealed

Under towering piles of

Silver and gold.

Delicate grains

Hide in cracks

In the floorboards of the boat.

Heavenly particles

Hang from cobweb threads

Like grotesque decorations.

Bejewelled stars

Glisten in the moonlit sky

And reflect on the

Silver studded surface

Of the boat made of stardust.


By L.E.R.-Y6


Other poems contain a poetry idea rather than an obvious pattern. For instance, Tyger can be viewed as a poem in which the writer talks to animals, asking questions. Here is an example of this idea used by another year 6 pupil.


Snail, snail, why are you so frail?

Snail, snail, why do you leave a silvery trail

Wherever you go?

Snail, snail, why do you carry your house

on your hunched back?

Snail, snail, why do you appear when it rains

And everyone else has gone home?


Don’t torture poems

The key to turning children on to poetry is to not be overly concerned about children totally understanding a poem. Good poems are not the same as sums. They do not always add up. But we can enjoy them in the same way that we can enjoy music without really understanding why. If you want to turn children off poetry then the simplest way is to read a poem to the class. Get them to find the 5 similes and the metaphor. Underline the verbs. Then answer 10 questions (which if you not get right then you fail). That is how to help children loathe poetry. The aim is to develop an inclination towards poetry with its joys of surprise, emotion, music and beauty. Try to avoid strapping a poem to a chair and thrashing a meaning from it with the implements of grammatical torture!


© Pie Corbett 2017