Bringing a writer, poet, illustrator or storyteller into your school is a great way to inspire children and bring reading to life. The Book Trust, who organise Children’s Book Week, which is this week, have some tips on their website with simple steps for planning your event http://www.booktrust.org.uk/programmes/arranging-an-author-visit/
But reading is for every day not just special weeks so the same principles apply for any time of year. Bringing in a guest writer/performer, who can give the kids and teachers a boost of energy and enthusiasm for reading and writing, is well worth the price.
Here’s the sort of day I have when I do a day workshop in a school. Before a workshop I usually perform some of my poems (some with guitar and participation) and then give writing ideas based on what they’ve heard me do. This can result in poems for the page and/or performance.
Some are very simple – I read one, for example, (When To Cut Your Hair) which uses each day of the week and show how that can be used for any subject. For example, using football:
When To Play Football
Play football on Monday
Score a goal
Play football on Tuesday
Fall down a hole
and so on.
Another I read (they join in with this) is Brilliant, which begins
Today Mum called me brilliant
and that’s just how I feel
I’ll run a race
I’m bound to win
I’ll take up golf
Get a hole in one
Because today Mum called me brilliant
so that’s what I must be
I give ideas and examples of how they can use this structure, like this:
Today I’m feeling noisy
So that’s what I will be
I’ll run up the stairs
And stamp on the floor
I’ll run back down
And slam the door
Because today I’m feeling noisy
So that’s what I will be
I use simple choruses and repetition during the performance and show how these can easily be incorporated in their own poems, if they want to write something that is for performance.
I do find, that having heard me, they pick up the ideas very quickly, and those who need less help can use my ideas if they want to, but also have the opportunity to go their own way. And there’s scope for writing funny and serious poems.
If there are any classes where the teacher would prefer to have a go at a class poem, we can do that too. I often use guitar on the class ones and we can usually come up with a finished poem in about 30 minutes.
Usually teachers jot down my examples based on 3 or 4 of my poems and then discuss them back in the classroom.