Sally Andrews writes:
A cold coming we had of it … OK, wrong literary reference (The Magi by T S Elliot) but on a bone-chilling November morning we had a lovely warm welcome at Quarry Mount from Ms Aspin and her year 5 class. They had been studying Beowulf, another epic poem, but this one at least 1000 years old. The story told makes particular use of alliterative language and the youngsters took to the form with skill and imagination, retelling the story in their own creative writing. A new twist on a tale from another millennium.
Working once again with James Nash, local published poet - who has been reading his work to audiences for two decades - they even gave him some advice about the performances of their original writing. Reading out to an assembly of peers, parents, other school personnel and adult visitors, they convinced themselves the audience were just pineapples – and there was little evidence of nerves. Brio and confidence with performing, delight and pride shown in smiles and body language speaking volumes. Marvellous to see in nine-year-olds! Who amongst us wouldn't be nervous to perform in front of peers and parents?
This 'pineapple' was delighted by some wonderfully original work: battling Beowulf, gruesome Grendel, scared soldiers telling tales by the flickering flames of the fire – we got alliteration all right. Along with caves, magical swords, gushing blood , sharp yellow teeth … you got the picture very vividly from their work.
Some of the memorable lines of poetry from the children were:
Soldier slowly waking
Who knows what will happen every second we think
Mysterious man creeping at the door
His yellow broken teeth, his arms as big as trees
Sound like a bag being burst open
The mysterious door opened
His mother came for revenge, I snatched her head off.
One parent said of his son beforehand, “ He is really excited about it, despite being really nervous – it is an opportunity for him to express himself.” Another mum confided that her daughter spoke Arabic but that this opportunity had developed her writing in English and she was now much more confident with her writing.
Ms Price, the classroom support assistant spoke of the change in one young man who had really taken flight with his writing, learning how drafting, editing and redrafting were all necessary steps to the production of a final piece fit for performance.
Year 5's class teacher Ms Aspin said that the class had gained so much confidence in reading out loud and headteacher Ms Hendley added they had so enjoyed the breadth of opportunity that experiencing poetry with a professional poet had given them.
Curriculum leader Mrs Smith was so grateful for the opportunity to have a poet inspire creative literacy in children who didn't always have English as a first language, and recounted that one young man said the poetry workshops were “The best club I have ever been to.”
Comments from the youngsters when asked what was best about the project included:
“Learning how to do poetry”
“Seeing poetry books”
“Learning new things”
“It was fun!”
They will remember how proud they were of their work and how making your feelings obvious might inspire others to write honestly and with emotion.
Last words to the parents:
“I loved it, it was wonderful”
“I thought this event was a great idea as it helps the children build confidence to read out in front of people”
“I thought all the children did really well; they were confident and very brave; I love the way parents can get involved”
Thank you again to Leeds council's Inner North West Area Management Committee who funded the work once again. In difficult times it is good to see that creative arts are still supported.