Poetry Builds Students Life And Literacy Skills in 2020

    As seen in The Land Poetry Is Still Relevant For Today’s Kids.  By Jenny Atkinson Littlescribe 3/12/2020

    We share how poetry builds life and literacy skills, modelling techniques, samples of student poetry and our number 1 poetry engagement tip.

    What is perhaps less known is she wrote and published this poem at the age of 19.

    It is unlikely there is a better-known line in Australian poetry than “I love a sunburnt country.”

    The poem, My Country, by Dorothea Mackellar is inspired by her time on family properties and life in Gunnedah and the Hunter Valley.

    The Australian landscape is so diverse and unique, it is our greatest gift and provides endless inspiration.

    I love a sunburnt country,
    A land of sweeping plains,
    Of ragged mountain ranges,
    Of droughts and flooding rains.
    I love her far horizons,
    I love her jewel-sea,
    Her beauty and her terror -
    The wide brown land for me!

    How to model poetry with students

    In July 2020 during the Littlescribe Mini-Writing Festival, we experienced first-hand just how deeply children respond and love writing poetry

    Kirli Saunders, a proud Gunai Woman and award-winning international writer of poetry, plays and picture books, had thousands of students connecting to the land as a source of inspiration to write poetry.

    Kirli led students in a three-minute Zoom session, where they closed their eyes, reflected and connected with their favourite landscape, from the bush to the beach.

    Thousands of students were asked to quietly connect to what they saw, felt, smelt, and heard in relation to the landscape.

    How would your favourite place feel? Or think? Or move?

    Student In The Mini-Writing Festival writing poems with Kirli Saunders
    Kirli Saunders in a live interactive workshop modelling and exploring poetry with students.
    Kirli Saunders models techniques for personification during The Mini-Writing Festival

    Together the students brainstormed playing with words, language, including first nations’ languages, and used personification to bring their poems to life.

    Children have an innate ability to connect rhyming words and ideas to create stories. Kirli evoked in each child the desire to personify the land just like Dorothea Mackellar had more than 115 years after My Country was first published.

    Far from being a dying art, poetry’s resurgence in slam poetry, rap, and lyrics in songs provides real relevance and application for students today.

    Educators can access, a series of resources and activities for students to work alongside Kirli Saunders in the Littlescribe Megascribe Program.

    Why is poetry relevant today?

    I often hear parents and students ask what’s the point of poetry? Is it still relevant today? The answer in short is yes.

    How we engage students can help build complex, powerful literacy and real-life skills. How so?

    Jobs of tomorrow involve the ability to cut through and create memorable moments, such as jingles on the radio, so being able to evoke emotion and increase memory by using rhyme and rhythm are techniques that sell.

    Poetry is also a building block that deepens literacy skills and concepts like alliteration and onomatopoeia.

    The rhyming of words is fun, joyful, and provides scope for students to experiment and stumble across concepts they can use later in life, perhaps not as a poet but rather as an effective communicator.

    Emotionally poetry allows students to express themselves in a unique and personal way. The door is wide open for interpretation. Like the use of short sharp sentences. Or elongated lengthy lines lazily running on and off the page, like a river finding its natural flow.

    Poetry requires the ability to connect the mind and emotions.

    There is much focus on critical and creative skills being fundamental for our children as they move into the workplace.

    Poetry requires interpretation and connection to the human experience.
    Exposure to both reading and writing poetry is one form we can use to build these intangible, yet crucial life skills.

    Below we share students poetry from Bowral and Caringbah schools. We believe you may just be reading the next Dorothea Mackellar, enjoy.

    Will I make it a poem by Felix from Fatima Carringbah.
    • The Bush Poem by Lachlan Moxey-Highland of St Thomas Aquinas Primary, Bowral NSW
    • Will I make it? by Felix Lonergan. Our Lady of Fatima Primary School, Caringbah NSW

    Our No# 1 tip to spark a love of poetry

    How do you get children to connect with poetry?

    Show them seriously clever young people performing slam poetry, such as The Australian Poetry Slam, it’s readily available and inspiring.

    What is slam poetry?

    Slam poetry is designed to be accessible for everyone it combines, rap, stories, monologue, poems and focuses on clever engaging delivery. Typically 2-3 minutes is all the time given to wow an audience.

    Think of weaving, rap performances, stories, monologues and poems on stage, each performer has just two minutes to wow the crowd. Topics are current, designed to spark thought and ask questions.

    Great example of students poet.
    Start, with Solli Raphael at age 12 he was titled the youngest ever winner of the Australian Poetry Slam held at the Sydney Opera House after he performed ‘Australian Air’ – a poem about political wisdom, environmental awareness and the importance of social consciousness. He then rose to fame when his online performance was viewed over four million times in 24 hours.

    Harry Baker from the UK is the youngest World Slam Poetry Champion at age 20. The first poem he wrote won the event and weaves the seemingly impossible subject of maths. It’s extraordinarily clever, he describes it as a love poem about prime numbers, called “59.”

    I would encourage you to watch his performance on Ted-X as he provides a good model for students both in how he writes and delivers his poem.

    59 by Harry Baker

    ‘59 wakes up on the wrong side of the bed.
    Realizes all his hair is on one side of his head.
    Takes just under a minute to work out that it’s because of the way that he slept.
    He finds some clothes and gets dressed.
    He can’t help but look in the mirror and be subtly impressed
    How he looks rough around the edges and yet casually messed.
    And as he glances out the window, he sees the sight that he gets blessed with of 60 from across the street.
    Now 60 was beautiful.
    With perfectly trimmed cuticles, dressed in something suitable.
    Never rude or crude at all.
    Unimprovable, right on time as usual, more on cue than a snooker ball but liked to play it super cool.
    59 wanted to tell her that he knew her favorite flower.
    He thought of her every second, every minute, every hour.
    But he knew it wouldn’t work, he’d never get the girl.
    Because although she lived across the street they came from different worlds.
    While 59 admired 60’s perfectly round figure, 60 thought 59 was odd.
    One of his favorite films was “101 Dalmatians.”
    She preferred the sequel.
    He romanticized the idea they were star-crossed lovers.
    They could overcome the odds and evens because they had each other.
    While she maintained the strict views imposed on her by her mother
    That separate could not be equal.
    And though at the time he felt stupid and dumb
    For trying to love a girl controlled by her stupid mum,
    He should have been comforted by the simple sum.
    Take 59 away from 60, and you’re left with the one.
    Sure enough after two months of moping around,
    61 days later, 61 was who he found,
    He had lost his keys and his parents were out.
    So one day after school he went into a house
    As he noticed the slightly wonky numbers on the door,
    He wondered why he’d never introduced himself before,
    As she let him in, his jaw dropped in awe.
    61 was like 60, but a little bit more.
    She had prettier eyes, and an approachable smile,
    And like him, rough around the edges, casual style,
    And like him, everything was in disorganized piles,
    And like him, her mum didn’t mind if friends stayed a while.
    Because she was like him, and he liked her.
    He reckoned she would like him if she knew he was like her,
    And it was different this time. I mean, this girl was wicked,
    So he plucked up the courage and asked for her digits.
    She said, “I’m 61.” He grinned, said, “I’m 59.”
    Today I’ve had a really nice time,
    So tomorrow if you wanted you could come over to mine?
    She said, “Sure.”
    She loved talking to someone just as quirky,
    She agreed to this unofficial first date.
    In the end he was only ready one minute early,
    But it didn’t matter because she arrived one minute late.
    And from that moment on there was nonstop chatter,
    How they loved “X Factor,” how they had two factors,
    How that did not matter, distinctiveness made them better,
    By the end of the night they knew they were meant together.
    And one day she was talking about stuck-up 60,
    She noticed that 59 looked a bit shifty.
    He blushed, told her of his crush:
    “The best thing that never happened because it led to us.”
    61 was clever, see, not prone to jealousy,
    She looked him in the eyes and told him quite tenderly,
    “You’re 59, I’m 61, together we combine to become twice what 60 could ever be.”
    At this point 59 had tears in his eyes,
    Was so glad to have this one-of-a-kind girl in his life.
    He told her the very definition of being prime
    Was that with only one and himself could his heart divide,
    And she was the one he wanted to give his heart to,
    She said she felt the same and now she knew the films were half true.
    Because that wasn’t real love, that love was just a sample,
    When it came to real love, they were a prime example.’
    – Harry Baker
    Student In The Mini-Writing Festival writing poems with Kirli Saunders