Slice of Life Story Challenge March 18 - Time Spent With Young Poets

Today I spent a second day sharing aspects of poetry with various groups of young writers in Grades 4 and 5 at St Francis Xavier Primary School in Wynn Vale South Australia. We read poetry. We discussed poetry and some of the questions surrounding it. The children raised questions such as:
How long does it take to write a poem?
Where do you get ideas?
When did you begin writing poetry?
What is your favourite poem?
I shared some different poetry forms and asked them to notice patterns in the poetry. One group examined the poem, Instructions For Giants, by John Rice:

Please do not step on swings parks, youth
clubs, cinemas and discos
Please flatten all schools
Please do not eat children, pop stars, TV
soap operas, kind grannies who give us
50 cents
Please feel free to gobble up dentists
Please do not block out the sunshine
Please push all rain over to France
Please do not drink the public swimming pool
Please eat all cabbage fields, vegetable plots and anything
green that grows in the countryside!
Please do not trample kittens, lambs or other baby animals
Please take spiders and snakes, ants and beetles home for your own
Please stand clear of the jets passing
Please sew up the ozone layer
Please mind where you put your BIG feet
And no sneaking off to China when you’re playing hide and seek.

They noticed the list like structure, and the please/please don’t pattern of the poem. They noticed the strong last line of the poem. They enjoyed the humour of the poem as well. I told them I had tried writing a poem ‘in the style’ of John Rice’s poem and asked them to critique my poem, Instructions For Crocodiles using the guiding question, ‘Have I demonstrated through my writing, that I have written in the style of the mentor poet?’

Instructions For Crocodiles,  Alan j Wright
Please stay out of the swimming pool
Please don’t get snappy when things don’t go your way
Please close your mouth when eating
Please consider becoming a vegetarian
Please stay away from my backyard
Only go after nasty folk
Please consider becoming a handbag
Please clean your teeth swamp breath
And don’t be so thick-skinned about things
I have never, ever smiled at you

Fortunately, they saw my poem as meeting the criteria we had identified. I then invited the group to discuss with a partner how they might try to write a poem of their own. They shared their writing intentions and rehearsed their words as part of the pre-writing processes.

They then set about enthusiastically writing their poetic responses. We later shared the pieces generated during the independent writing phase. These ‘raw poems’ possessed some excellent ideas. They have much potential. The humour was effective and well placed. They had written with their eyes, their ears and their hearts as I had asked them to do.  To conclude, I encouraged these young poets to come back to these pieces in the near future and examine them through fresh eyes.

I hope they will continue to polish these poetic pearls and develop a vision for how and where they might publish their poems. I have left them with this challenge.
‘Well, what did you learn about poetry from this lesson?’ I asked.
One boy, sitting near the front of the group, spoke frankly and informed me, ‘I didn’t think I would enjoy this session about poetry, but I have changed my mind. Poetry is fun.’
This remark made my day. I shook his hand and smiled. ‘Thank you, young poet. I added.


  1. Thank you Thank you for sharing!! I hope you don't mind if I share this poem on my school blog!! We just finished our poetry unit, but I don't feel I did the topic justice. Poetry can be your whole life--how can I contain it in a unit. I think I focused too much on the figurative language vocabulary and rhythm and rhyme words . . . This poem is so much fun and lets the reader start to ask questions about the choices you made in it.

  2. Sounds like a great day, poetry and kids. I love the honesty of the boy, but you did open their eyes to a new way to see poetry and writing. I love that structure! Now I'm wondering what I could write. Thanks for inspiration!

  3. I love the way you give concise descriptions in your writing. Thanks for sharing this lesson - it bears repeating! And I will remember to tell students to "continue to polish these poetic pearls." when they write.


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