Word play with class


Poetry in the Upper Primary Classroom

by Patrick Dower

‘Just as many PE teachers say “don’t use physical activity as punishment” to prevent students associating negative emotions with being active, I try my best to ensure students associate poetry with fun.’

The process of introducing in-depth poetry study to my class was gradual and – at least initially – incidental. As with any teaching approach, it was only once I recognised student interest that I began to consider the potential in a poetry focused Literacy unit. Prior to that, I had embedded the study of song lyrics and poems into Social & Emotional Learning lessons as a stimulus for discussion and personal reflection. These lessons helped create relevance in text from which the students had previously appeared detached. Discussing and comprehending the poems with a personal focus also assisted them in gaining the confidence required to study and compare a variety of poems in-depth and, most importantly, find enjoyment in reading and creating works of written art.

Poetry in Social & Emotional Learning

I regularly use songs as the stimulus for discussions in my Social & Emotional Learning lessons. I will generally read through the lyrics of the song prior to playing the music, particularly if it is a song they are unlikely to know. To ensure the primary focus is placed on the lyrics, I will often play the song on my guitar and sing, rather than use the recording.

Songs which I have used include, but are not limited to, The Road by George Harrison, focusing on the different paths students may take in their learning and progress, and Second Best by Hudson Taylor, which prompted a discussion on not accepting the putdowns of others and striving to achieve your best. Whilst these messages are not necessarily what was intended by the artist, they take on this form as the students relate them to their own lives.

The most powerful example, however, was the first time I used a song of my own. Addressing a specific social issue which had arisen in the class, I played a song I had written several years prior entitled Burgundy & Grey. The underlying theme of the song is that regardless of how well we think we know our acquaintances, we can never be entirely certain what is going on in their lives and how this may be affecting their behaviours. The class dissected it to within an inch of its life and were highly sympathetic towards the central character – a young girl named Keeley. It remained a regular topic of conversation throughout the year. The most powerful aspect of this class, however, was when they found out it was my own work.

After sharing my own writing, I noticed an increased willingness to experiment in their own and seek my feedback. They were more willing to share with the class and refer to their own experiences within their writing. It was an incredibly powerful moment in the context of our class and for me as a teacher.

From here, I was able to write poems specifically for use in the class – such as one entitled Sadness, which explored the difference between emotions and mental illness through the eyes of child whose Father had depression.

Poetry for Fun

Just as many PE teachers say “don’t use physical activity as punishment” to prevent students associating negative emotions with being active, I try my best to ensure students associate poetry with fun. We will regularly play rhyming games and re-write song lyrics as a class. One highlight was altering the words of Fight Song by Rachel Platten to be our ‘Year Five Song’ and performing it in assembly. Similarly, as part of a focus on the work of Shakespeare, the class enjoyed altering the lyrics of pop songs to fit into the format and style of a Shakespearean sonnet.

Poetry in English

My year level partner and I also implemented two English specific poetry units.

The first involved the performance of paired poems by Paul Fleischman. These are fantastic for getting students up in front of their peers reading poetry.

In the second, which lasted for most of Term 4, we used A Children’s Introduction to Poetry by Michael Driscoll to introduce the class to a variety of poetic styles, including villanelles, sonnets and limericks, as well as the work of specific poets, such as Poe, Blake and Shakespeare. After reading about the style of writer, the students would either respond with a poem of their own in that style or through other means, such as creating a film version of The Raven.

Poetry Club

This year I am in the process of starting a lunch time poetry club for Year 5 and 6 students. I hope to only facilitate this group, as the students – many of whom were part of my class last year – use their own interests and experiences to direct their writing and study.

Poem of the Day



by Sally Odgers


Kudos to the queue – not cue

(for that’s a hint or hit for billiard ball)

Kudos to the queue – not coupe

(for that’s a shock surprise for city hall)

Kudos to the queue – not coo

(for that’s what doves and grannies tend to do)

Kudos to the queue – not Que

(For that’s a Tassie river … yes, it’s true!)

Kudos to the queue – you knew

This had to end and now the end is due

But kudos to the queue – a row

Of sailor’s hair or pelicans you know.


  • Submitted in response to Poetry Prompt #7



Poetry Prompt #7

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Prompt7Pens poised? On your marks…get set…write! See what you can come up with in response to this week’s word+picture. Don’t forget, if you’ve missed one of our Monday prompts, you can catch up at any time. Send your submissions to traffa-m@bigpond.net.au as a Word document attachment and add a personal note about why or how you chose to write this particular poem.


Poem of the Day


A Reason to Rhyme

by Monty Edwards


Must our poems rhyme

ALL the time?

No. Not so.

Don’t you know

Some verse is free

Like a fish in the sea?

But personally, I prefer my fish

Served on a regular dish

(With chips).

  • Prompt5 Submitted in response to Poetry Prompt #5


Author Comment: The poem is something of a joke at my own expense, since I find it difficult to break the rhyming habit, but sometimes the ideas in a poem refuse to yield to the constraints of rhyme. This is admitted by the final line of the poem.

Poems of the Day

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These three short poems were submitted in response to Poetry Prompt #5.


A Spider’s Dilemma

by Pat Simmons

An arthritic arachnid with eight knobbly knees

Sought medical help for her painful disease.


Her doctor prescribed her with cream to rub in

But the problem was how and just where to begin!


 Pillow Pet

By Nadine Cranenburgh

My old dog Spot
is hard to spot
when hiding in my bed

He’s found a spot
all soft and hot
curled underneath my head

{Nadine says: The aim was to include a word that has multiple meanings.}

Greedy Guts

by Dianne Bates

Little Jack Horner
Sat in the corner,
Eating his Christmas pie

He ate it all, every crumb.
‘What’s for seconds?’
he asked his mum.

Poem of the Day


Trying Times

by Pat Simmons


Please tidy your room Tim,

I’ve asked you ten times.

Can’t it wait ‘til tomorrow

I’m solving some crimes?


I’m tired of asking,

Now do as I say.

Two seconds Mum, promise,

I’m still on e-bay.


That’s it Tim, I’ve had it,

I’m coming to look!

Give me a minute Mum

I’m on Facebook.


I’m tired of texting you,

Open this door.

Now I’m doing my homework

Mum, don’t be a bore.


I’m coming in Timmy,

I’ve had quite enough.

I’m opening the door Tim,

I’m tired of your guff.


Good grief, your room’s tidy.

And Tim, you’re not here.

No I’m texting from Tom’s place.

Ha ha mother dear!


  • Submitted in response to Poetry Prompt #2


Poem of the Day

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By Sioban Timmer


He walks the beach

Collecting driftwood

Calm carries on the sea air,

Hunks of timber now distressed.

Turned by the lathing waves of the salted expanse


How enduring they are,

So far from their green beginnings

He inhales and smiles

As the breath escapes he muses

I guess we have a lot in common


He will take them in

Find new life in their random forms

They are a seaside distraction

A salty breeze on city days in his urban garden

Serenity obtained in a memory of beachcombing


  • Submitted in response to Poetry Prompt #4

Prompt4Sioban says: I like how this poem has a sense of textures – wood, sand, water and the effect that they have on each other.

Poem of the Day


A good square meal

by Kate O’Neil







Animal Feed Available at Restaurant


Please note our special of the day:
(eat it here – or take-away)

Rye-grass  pellets dipped in swill
lightly fried or from the grill

Perhaps your choice is a la carte:
hay or lucerne, pie or tart.

Bonemeal biscuits served with slops
(fewer calories than chops)

Seasonal silage steamed or fried
sautéed birdseed on the side.

And should you feel inclined to quaff
please place your order at the trough


Prompt3Submitted in response to Poetry Prompt #3.

Kate says: The photo is from somewhere near Jindabyne – taken years ago. The sign became a family joke.

Poetry Prompt #6

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Does this start you thinking?

Poetry Prompt 6

I hope so! I’ll be interested in seeing what you come up with. Thanks to everyone who has been enthusiastically taking part in our 2016 creative challenge. Keep your poems coming in. They make my day. If you’ve missed a prompt, you can catch up at any time. Send your submissions to traffa-m@bigpond.net.au as a Word document attachment and add a personal note about why or how you chose to write this particular poem.

Happy writing!


Poem of the Day



By Patrick Dower


In between the happy times, I sometimes have sad days.

My tear ducts sweat and my stomach turns. My silver lining fades to grey.


My sister – she throws tantrums. My brother – he slams doors.

The one time I saw Mummy cry, she slinked slowly to the floor.


There are some solemn days when people are sad with you.

Like when I lost my grandma, my grandpa lost her too.


I’m sure the house gets lonely when we’re all asleep.

And on some nights, when the scene’s just right, the neighbour’s puppy weeps.


I know my Dad gets sad sometimes. In fact, he’s sad a lot.

But no matter how glum he seems to be, Daddy says he’s not.


Sometimes he’s blue but peaceful. Some days he’s mad and red.

On other days he’s so far down he can’t get out of bed.


But I know he’ll get better. Mum thinks he will too.

She tells me, “Love, he’ll make it out as long as he has you”.


Soon he will be happy, but, until that time,

I’ll just be glad that his imperfect life is one with mine.


Sadness finds us, day or night, to remind us all to give.

It lets us know that our happy lives are better shared than lived.


Patrick says: I used this as the stimulus for a Social and Emotional Learning discussion with my Year 5s late last year. It was inspired by several conversations I have had with students about mental health – particularly the differences and similarities between emotions and illness.