by Jessica Arnold
On 20th March the CLPE Literacy Library opened its doors to teachers for our fourth Chartered College Network event all about the Power of Poetry. The evening explored the integral role of poetry in children’s literacy development and highlighted to the teachers attending how important it is to build poetry into their curriculum.
The event began with CLPE Chief Executive Louise Johns-Shepherd introducing the evening ahead as well as the work the CLPE does to support the teaching of poetry in primary schools. Louise spoke of the key publications that have helped develop our poetry research, such as A Year with Poetry edited by Michael Rosen and Myra Barrs, which helped start the discussion of poetry teaching in primary schools. As well as the work we do with our poetry award, CLiPPA and its schools shadowing scheme to raise the profile of poetry with primary children.
The first speaker of the night was Charlotte Hacking, CLPE Central Programmes Leader, who led and developed our Power of Poetry project as well as being a returning judge on our CLiPPA panel. Charlotte looked at the role of poetry in the curriculum and the importance of teaching poetry to children. She stressed the importance of providing time and opportunities for children to hear poetry read aloud and be able to respond to it. Charlotte spoke about the key findings from the Power of Poetry project including the empathy and emotion that poetry can teach children being a powerful tool for exploration of their own identity and the identities of others. Charlotte also bought the room close to tears at times by showing beautiful poetry being performed by children from previous CLiPPA shadowing scheme entries.
Next up was Sophia Masieh, who spoke about her former school, St Thomas of Canterbury, and its journey with poetry. Sophia took part in the 2017 Power of Poetry project and from this continued to instil a love of poetry within her school. Sophia discussed how she created a vision for her school from this project including wanting to raise the profile of poetry, build confidence in teaching poetry and to help the whole school find joy in poetry. Sophia’s school has won the CLiPPA shadowing scheme twice, but more importantly, introducing poetry has impacted children at all levels of literacy within the school. Sophia then discussed how teachers weaved poetry into many parts of the school and in doing so a created a love of poetry in all year groups, as shown to Sophia when she left in December 2018, with her leaving assembly being full of poetry performances from children across the school. Sophia really showed the impact poetry can have on a school and gave teachers attending many examples of how they too can achieve this with their children.
Finally, closing the evening was award winning poet and CLPE Patron Joseph Coelho who has had years of experience working with children in schools using poetry. Joseph expressed how important it is to allow children to experience poetry for the wonderful median it is. He described poetry as being a median which lends itself to truth, clarity and humour. Joseph spoke of his experiences working with children and the impact he continuously saw where they would become excited from seeing themselves reflected in poems or collections or when quieter children would build the confidence in just one session to perform in front of the class, when they usually barely speak. Woven into his speech, Joseph performed poems from both of his collections, captivating the audience and helping them to see the excitement and meaning that can come from reading poetry aloud.
All three of these speakers did an excellent job of highlighting the role of poetry in children’s literary development and sharing examples of how to do this practically. Participants left with a renewed love of poetry and an excitement to share this with their primary pupils.