Poetry’s not boring! Fun ways to ignite your child’s interest

National Poetry Day on Friday 4th October is a yearly celebration that inspires people to discover a love of poetry.  Poetry celebrates being human.  It draws out a whole spectrum of emotions – amusement, delight, joy, sadness, anger, fear, disgust and everything else.  Poetry can be silly or serious.  It can brighten up your day or change the way you view the world.  Here we talk about why sharing poetry with your child is worth your time, and how you can make it an active, fun experience!

Poetry is worth it because it…

  1. Develops your child’s speaking, listening and concentration skills as it’s often read aloud and then discussed. 
  2. Builds comprehension skills.  When reading a poem aloud children learn to read expressively and, in order to place emphasis and emotion into words, they need to understand what they’re reading.
  3. Introduces children to the playful nature of the English language which fosters a love of reading.  Poems can rhyme and have a catchy, musical rhythm.  They can use dynamic, noisy, joyful, luscious language like Michael Rosen’s Chocolate Cake.
  4. Improves children’s reading and spelling.  Children’s reading and spelling improves when they read the same material over and over again.  When a child loves a particular poem they will be happy to read it many times. 
  5. Builds vocabulary.  Through poetry children hear words they haven’t heard before.  Talk about meanings together and look words up in a dictionary.
  6. Inspires children to write and think creatively.  Poetry shows children how to choose the right words to create different images and effects.  As poems follow a pattern, their patterns can be used as a framework for children’s own writing.  Christina Rossetti’s poem What is pink? is often used by teachers who ask children to replace colours and objects with their own ideas.

Try these autumn-themed activities…

  1. Leaf poetry

Find the biggest, best leaf. What colours can you see when you look very closely?  What shape is it?  What does it smell like?  What does it make you think about? 

Find the biggest, best leaf. What colours can you see when you look very closely?  What shape is it?  What does it smell like?  What does it make you think about? 

With a dark pen, cover the leaf in your thoughts.  When the leaf is covered with words, repeat the exercise.  Make a leafy, poem picture by gluing all the leaves onto large card. 

2. Disgusting Halloween

Brainstorm all the disgusting things to eat at Halloween.  For example, ‘rotten fish’, ‘juicy eyeballs’, ‘slimy slugs’.  Then write a poem with the following pattern:

‘I went trick-or treating and I devoured…

One rotten fish

And two juicy eyeballs

I went trick-or treating and I devoured…

Three…

And four…’

3. Macbeth

Find Shakespeare’s famous poem Double, Double Toil and Trouble online.  Watch a traditional performance on YouTube, and also the Harry Potter version. 

Perform the poem with your child by reading a line each (perhaps dressing up and stirring a cauldron!).  Look at the words in the poem.  Are there any words your child doesn’t understand?  Use the internet to find meanings.

4. Funnybones

Funnybones is a picture book by Janet and Allan Ahlberg which ends with the poem, ‘On a dark, dark hill there was a dark dark town…’  If you don’t have a copy you can find readings on YouTube

Make a book by copying lines from the poem and illustrating them on black paper with white chalk.    Older children could change the places in the poem eg. ‘hill’ becomes ‘mountain’ and ‘town’ becomes ‘cave’.

5.  Acrostic Halloween

Hide Halloween themed objects or characters around the garden eg. pumpkin, wand, witch, wizard, ghost.  Children find an object and then write an acrostic poem.  For example:

‘Witch

Wicked

Impossible

Terrible

Crafty

Horrible’

6. Songs are poems!

Listen to and learn some classic Halloween songs like The Monster Mash and The Addams Family.  Change some of the lyrics and perform new songs.

7. Shape poem

Write an autumn or Halloween themed shape poem.  Start by thinking of an object (tree, leaf, woods/the park in autumn, Halloween party, trick-or-treating) and write all the words and thoughts the object inspires.  For example: ‘Halloween party: spooky, dark, dressing up, trick-or-treat, monsters, ghosts, scary’.

Draw or print out an A4-sized outline of the object and write words/sentences around the outline: ‘Cold, spooky night.  Faces concealed by masks.  Apple bobbing.  Dripping chin…’ 

For clarification, type ‘shape poem children’ into Google Images.

8. Adverbs alive!

Give your child an adverb, which could have a Halloween theme, and ask them to write a poem in which every line starts with that adverb.  Encourage use of adjectives and verbs to bring their poem alive.

‘Spookily ghosts creep around the halls

Spookily spiders scuttle

Spookily the night draw cold and misty…’

Find lists of adverbs on the internet.

9. Autumn alliteration

Write a numbered alliterative poem with an autumn or Halloween theme.  Here’s the pattern:

‘One slimy slug

Two spindly spiders

Three ghouly ghosts

Four wicked witches.’

10. Feeling emotional

Go for an autumnal walk.  Stop and sit quietly together.  Ask your child how they are feeling in that moment.  Write down the word they say.  Later, use that word to write an emotion poem:

‘Peaceful is sitting quietly

Peaceful is curling up with a book

Peaceful is not feeling worried

Peaceful is closing my eyes…’

Find wonderful poems…

Find poems your child will love! Visit the library or bookshop and choose anthologies together.  We enjoy:

  • Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen, Puffin, 2018.  (See Michael’s YouTube video too).
  • Kings and Queens, Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon, Puffin, 2015.
  • Michael Rosen’s Book of Very Silly Poems, Puffin, 1996.
  • Poems to Perform: A Classic Collection Chosen by the Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson, Macmillan, 2014.
  • Revolting Rhymes, Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, 2006.
  • The Day I Fell Down the Toilet and Other Poems, Steve Turner, Lion Children’s Books, 1997.
  • 100 Brilliant Poems for Children, Paul Cookson, Macmillan, 2016.

And finally…

Poetry is worth it because:

‘…it lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.’ — Percy Bysshe Shelley