by Mary Gahan, Year 2 Teacher, St Mary's Uxbridge
Since taking the role of English lead in my school in 2016 I have has the priviledge of attending lots of training at CLPE which have always been excellent and have had a positive impact on my teaching.
When I heard about the CLPE's CLiPPA Shadowing Scheme for poetry I had every faith that the free teaching sequences and resources that accompanied the scheme would be first class. The poet we ending up choosing for our age range was Eloise Greenfield (a remarkable lady) with her heart-warming book Thinker, My Puppy Poet and Me which was Highly Commended for CLiPPA 2019 (Tiny Owl).
When I began to share the poems with Year Two it was evident that this was a very special book of poems: they instantly took Thinker and Jace to their hearts and I knew this was the beginning of something brilliant. The year goup really enjoyed exploring the musicality, and rhythm of the poems. I shared the endpaper with the class in which Eloise Greenfield says: "About rap, some people don’t believe that it is real poetry. I say that it is poetry, absolutely. Like other kinds of poetry, it uses rhythm, rhyme, hints, humour, repetition and wordplay to come alive.’. Reading this I knew we would have to perform the poem chosen to music.
The CLPE's teaching resources accompanying Thinker suggested using some hip-hop songs. One of the tracks jumped out at me: ‘Can I kick it?’ by A Tribe Called Quest. When I played it to the children they immediately jumped up and spontaneously began dancing; the perfect reaction. The children and I agreed that they would perform ‘Thinker’s Rap’ as it worked beautifully with the chosen track. The CLPE notes also suggested that small groups rather than whole class choral performances worked better. So I split the poem into six parts and the class into five groups, each group performing one part each and then the whole class performing the final part as a class.
As soon as Year Two performed for the first time I knew that they had achieved something really special. They remembered the words incredibly well and their timing was superb. So we set about recording their performance and submitted it then waited impatiently for a response. Soon afterwards I heard from Jess at CLPE who shared the incredible news that Year Two had indeed been chosen to perform Thinker's Rap at The National theatre for the CLiPPA award-ceremony. I was so happy I actually cried. Sharing the news with Year Two was magical! And definitely one of the highlights of my teaching career.
Our day at The National Theatre was amazing from start to finish. The staff from CLPE made us feel incredibly special and helped to create many very special memories that Year Two and I shall cherish. Usually I have 30 very tired children on the way home from a trip but, on the day, the coach was buzzing. How many seven year olds can say they performed at The National Theatre and share the stage with incredible poets including Steven Camden, Rachel Rooney and Philip Gross, and the amazing Chris Riddell (who live drew the event and later sent us the personalised artwork)?!
So, would I recommend that you try the shadowing scheme with your class? YES! The teaching plans are easy to follow and the children really benefit from the immersive approaches. The whole Shadowing Scheme has created a real buzz about poetry in our school.
See highlights from the day below!