Aim: To raise the profile of poetry in the school and to create a ‘Resident Poet’.
Background: Poetry was stigmatised among students as being boring, negative and inaccessible, so the project aimed to show pupils the relevance of poetry in their lives from a range of sources.
Year 1: An annual poetry competition was begun and received many entries from both students and staff. Students’ views on poetry and on poetry schemes of work across the key stages were collected. A poetry club was started, focusing on understanding, and those that attended were seen to do better in their GCSE through developments in their confidence when writing and sharing their analysis of poetry.
Year 2: The poetry club was established to help develop analytical skills, and pupils felt more confident in the poetry elements of their exams and coursework than in previous years. The higher profile of poetry saw students discussing and enjoying poetry in class. A published poet visited the school and conducted workshops with Year 7 students. There were then performances of her and students’ work, and a Q&A session. The year group was then well prepared for a newly developed scheme of work with some interesting and challenging poems. Assessments for this unit demonstrated students’ confidence in writing their own poetry and writing about other people’s work.
Year 3: The poetry club was expanded to all year groups and members were truly developing a love and understanding of poetry. Students of all abilities were encouraged to attend and work together, and to take more responsibility for leading the discussion and ideas. Older pupils are taking on the role of Poet Laureate and a number of them have entered national poetry competitions. The best work from competitions and classes is shared on a poetry webpage. A visiting poet worked with Year 10, and for the first time a number of Year 11 students produced their own poetry for their creative writing coursework. From internal moderation, this work is potentially A* standard.
Evidence: Feedback questionnaires and discussions with staff and students.
Impact: Poetry is now seen as a more engaging topic and is not met with the usual groans. Boys are engaging with poetry in the same way as girls. Staff have enjoyed working on new schemes of work for KS3 and development has started on new GCSE schemes of work using only ‘modern’ poetry to make the topic appear more relevant to students.
School poetry competitions see a large turnout of entries, mostly of very good quality, and students’ progress in lessons and assessment has been good, with some interesting interpretations of difficult texts.
Reflections: My initial concerns were unfounded and staff were open to change. Students have welcomed challenges to their understanding and interpretation. The project has shown that poetry can be seen as relevant to students today, and that we can find new ways of teaching it.
Contact: Jane Adams, firstname.lastname@example.org