Below is the list of the poetry class writing projects we provide on our website and to our Writing For Pleasure affiliate schools.
You can see how children are introduced to early poetry anthology making through picturebooks in KS1 (Young & Ferguson 2022). This includes writing their first ever poetry anthology and a collection of Haikus.
In Lower Key Stage Two, children are invited to write poems about Animals, The Natural World and Sensory Poetry. The focus of these projects is to begin embedding key poetic craft moves, moves which will not only enhance children’s poetry writing but also their non-fiction and narrative writing too. In Upper Key Stage Two, children are invited to write Inspired By… Poetry, Poetry That Hides In Things, Anthology Of Life and Social & Political Poetry. Not only do these projects have a positive impact on the quality of children’s non-fiction and narrative writing but they also provide opportunities for children to learn more sophisticated and lesser-known poetic craft moves.
Particular attention needs to be paid to the Anthology Of Life project as this links beautifully to our Autobiography project for Year Six. Our Social & Political Poetry project works well in conjunction with our Community Activism project. Finally, Sensory Poetry and Poetry That Hides In Things gives teachers wonderful opportunities to make connections between narrative and non-fiction description with certain poetic techniques.
What’s wonderful about this progression is that, by the end of their time at primary school, children will have written hundreds of poems and learnt a whole-host of poetic craft moves. In the process, they will have learnt to paint with words and understand the reasons poets are moved to write.
Suggested class writing projects
For more information on these specific Class Writing Projects, click the link next to the project title.
My first poetry anthology [LINK]
This writing project is based on a couple of mentor books: The Puffin Book Of Fantastic First Poems edited by June Crebbin and Here’s A Little Poem: A Very First Book Of Poetry by Jane Yolen. With that said, it’s not necessary to have a copy of these books to undertake this project with your class – it will just help. It’s great to show a collection of poems to children (or a collection you’ve written) before inviting children to do the same. This is a classic: ‘Hey, I saw this book and thought it was cool – why don’t we make one like it?’ kind of writing project. You might want to explain what Edited by… means and perhaps ask the children to be the editors of their own class anthology of poetry.
My first haiku book [LINK]
This writing project is based on a mentor book called Haiku Baby by Betsy E. Snyder. With that said, it’s not necessary to have a copy of the book to undertake this project with your class – it will just help. Haiku Baby is a collection of haikus written for babies. It’s great to show this collection (or a collection you’ve written) before inviting children to do the same. This is a classic: ‘Hey, I saw this book and thought it was cool – why don’t we make some like it?’ kind of writing project.
Writing a series of haikus gives children the opportunity to write an impression, to capture a moment, to use poetry as a symbol and to make something familiar seem unfamiliar.
The natural world poetry [LINK]
The poetry of the earth is never dead – John Keats
Children enjoy writing about the world outside. British poetry has a long tradition of connection with landscape and nature. We cannot separate ourselves from the natural world, and young people are increasingly concerned about it. This project allows you and your class to bring into sharper focus the joyful, healing, subtle, delicate or terrifying aesthetics of nature. Children can share their experiences of nature with others, and this is the most important aspect of the project. When writing a nature poem, children are aiming to share a particular experience, and we have to resist the temptation to write generally about it. It’s about choosing a diamond moment. We are lucky enough to have many experiences with nature, in urban jungles, streets, allotments, gardens, weather, woods, parks, beaches, rivers, seas, peaks, hills and playgrounds. Many of these experiences will be enjoyable – some may not!
This poetry project gives children the opportunity to write an impression, to capture a moment, to use poetry as a symbol and to make something familiar seem unfamiliar. Perhaps the children could even produce a literary magazine showcasing the power and fragility of nature.
Animals and pets poetry [LINK]
Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains un-awakened – Anatole Frances
Children love animals. They often ask each other what their favourite animals are and why. Many have pets. Regardless of where we live, we see a variety of animals, and they are important to us for many reasons. Poets write about animals in various ways, and many people enjoy reading or hearing such poems.
Writers sometimes simply focus on an animal in order to be playful and descriptive with language. Others use animals (such as snakes, wolves and foxes) as a metaphor to describe human behaviour, psychology and even philosophy. Some write odes to a particular animal. Poems can be memoir-based (prose poems). Of course, others will write about mythical creatures, as Lewis Carroll did in Jabberwocky.
Finally, if you read nonfiction texts about animals, you may notice that writers often use figurative language, or what we call painting with words, to classify and describe animals. With this writing project you can begin to introduce the idea that poetry and non-fiction can work in harmony.
Sensory poetry [LINK]
Poetry: the best words in the best order – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
All poetry is in some way sensory, and much narrative text is sensory too. Writers use the senses to express a feeling that is very personal. The feelings may be quite specific but are often also universal in that others will recognise them and relate to them. Writers might draw on their senses as they reflect on objects that bring back hidden memories. They might use their senses to bring nostalgic moments to mind. The senses can also be used to evoke a mood, to deliberately show things or to explore experiences in different ways.
This poetry project will give children opportunities to practise using sensory description; showing, not telling; observing and expanding on small yet significant details; making comparisons; and painting with words for the pleasure of the artistry.
As this writing project is similar to a writing exercise, it will help children to see the benefits of techniques that writers often practise and use. Children will absorb these techniques as part of their repertoires and will be able to draw on them again in all kinds of future writing.
Inspired by… poetry [LINK]
Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of learning – George Bernard Shaw
Writer Michael Rosen says the easiest way to write a poem is to read a poem by someone else and then say to yourself ‘I could write like that,’ and this is what this writing project is all about.
Sometimes it can be hard for writers to generate original ideas all the time, and it doesn’t represent how they always work. Poets and story writers alike find themselves inspired by things they see, read or hear from other writers, whether consciously or not. This is called ‘intertextuality’ or ‘found poetry’. You only need to look inside a writer’s notebook to see that they are forever collecting, investigating and imitating little diamond moments that they have found lying around in other texts.
The best way to understand poems is to read a lot of them and to read them often. Children begin to think about what writers are writing and why.
Alongside this writing project, you could read Love That Dog by Sharon Creech as your class book. It is written in a free-verse diary format, from the perspective of a young boy (Jack) who initially resists poetry assignments set by his teacher. As time moves on, Jack’s confidence grows, and he is able to respond to and take inspiration from poems with increasing sophistication. This book makes for an engaging, child-friendly and incredibly valuable demonstration of intertextuality.
Poetry that hides in things [LINK]
Why else are we here if not to live with unreasonable passion for things – poet ‘butterflies rising’
This project focuses on poetry that hides in things. It provides children with an opportunity to showcase sensory detail in poems about ‘things’ that can often be touched, smelled, observed, tasted, heard and thought about. The things children own, find interesting, or are disconcerted by will also tell them a lot about themselves. This personal connection makes for a great writing project.
Writing about things can lead children to share and suggest something they might have in common with their reader. They might notice the same things or show something in a new light. The familiar can suddenly become unfamiliar.
Children will learn about symbolism. They will understand that the things we hold at a distance or the things we love can be a symbol for something else – once we dig a little deeper for those diamond moments.
Objects often carry within them memories that can be shared through poetry. This project could culminate in an exhibition for families and the local community to visit. The exhibition could be a great opportunity for others to reflect on and reminisce about things from their past.
The project also has strong connections to memoir. Children will be able to bring what they have learnt about writing effective memoirs into their poems.
Anthology of life poetry [LINK]
Memoir is a unique opportunity to revisit yourself… You have to find the poetry in it. You have to find the poetry in yourself – Joshua Mohr
This project seems somehow fitting for children in Year 6 to mark an important time of transition from primary to secondary school. Children are going to create anthologies of poems about growing up and childhood. We highly recommend that you read What I’ll Remember When I Am a Grown Up by Gina Willner-Pardo with your class throughout this class writing project.
Poetry is a wonderful medium for looking back on our lives because children’s impressions and memories can be captured in a shorter, simpler and more natural way than in prose.
Not only is an ‘anthology of life’ a means for children to connect with themselves, it can also bring the writing community in your classroom together. This is a purposeful project. It is something that will be cherished and great care will be taken over it.
Children will achieve an anthology of personal poetry based on their memorable experiences. This writing project will give children the time and space to draw on their experiences of the past four years of writing poetry, to look back at poems already written and to write lots of new ones. They will select the best and publish them in any arrangement they choose.
Social and political poetry [LINK]
In the very end, civilizations perish because they listen to their politicians and not to their poets – Jonas Mekas
Throughout the history of this country, there have been radical ballads, songs and poems written with the aim of publicising and protesting against certain social and political issues.
They have been shared and performed publicly to create a sense of communality and to be an inspiration for radical action and change. They have been about class oppression, race, gender, war, injustice, inequality, disability, freedom, poverty, religion – whatever have been the preoccupations of the age in which they were written, so that a particular piece of history could be passed on from generation to generation and not lost. Spoken word poetry is also becoming increasingly popular amongst young people, and this project can harness that interest.
We all know that today’s children are very concerned about many social issues – human, animal and environmental. They learn about social injustice through the media; it may also affect their lives in a personal way. Writing political and protest poetry is important because it gives children a way of expressing their feelings and worries, asking questions about the world and their dreams and hopes for the future. Sharing their fears and concerns, challenging those who have responsibility and influence, and using their voice for social change can feel empowering and maybe even a little reassuring. And of course it’s a perfect example of the whole idea of writing personally, persuasively and for a purpose.