My office is a tip: and poetry is to blame!

The Primary English HQ office is a tip: and poetry is to blame!

messy-desk (1)This may come as a surprise to people who know that I organise my books in alphabetical order, my CDs in alphabetical order and release-date order, and my wardrobe by item type and colour. Ex-pupils will know that trays must be neatly organised in the middle of the table, dates are always underlined with a ruler and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING THAT HAS BEEN GLUED-IN SHOULD STICK OUT OF THE BOOKS!

I like things just so. It’s the way it is. I simply can’t think when the detritus of life obstructs my eye line.  So, how has poetry messed up my office? Quite simply, by being brilliant and inspiring me to write about it.

Let me digress. I was once told that there are two extremes of academic workers: those who work in a mess and sort out the piles of books and papers as they find what they’re looking for to complete their task; and those who are meticulously organised and know where to locate everything they need to complete their task but then leave it all out as they work towards completion. If these are the extremes, then I’m guessing there’s a continuum on which most people inhabit somewhere in the middle. I am at the extreme end of the ‘aesthetically-pleasing neatly-labelled box-files full of individually labelled books and documents’ spectrum. I can locate everything I need for a job but in my excited frenzy I pull-out all the documents and books I need, mark-up the pages and references I’m looking for and scatter the books around me as I start my task. I then make notes on post-its and scrap paper, get out my highlighters and pens, make several cups of tea and eat an inordinate amount of biscuits before completing the job in hand. That is what’s happened here. I thought the Primary English #PoetryCounts focus would benefit from a list of great poetry books. The result is a great list of books but the office is a tip!

The poetry books responsible for this housekeeping disaster are:

The Children’s Classic Poetry Collection by Nicola Baxter William Blake, Emily Bronte, Robert Browning, Lord Byron, Lewis Carroll… and so the list goes on. This is a collection of classic poetry that is essential for teachers in Key Stage 2.

101 Poems for Children by Carol Ann Duffy This collection of poems covers a breadth of poetry that is suitable for children. Carol Ann Duffy has tried to include poems for children to ‘grow into’ as they get older as well as those that are more instantly accessible. It is a book of depth and charm, which should be most supportive to teachers in KS2.

Noisy Poems by Jill Bennett  is a fantastic collection of poems for children in Early Years and Key Stage 1. There are lots of opportunities to join in with the noisy refrains and many of the poems are suitable for learning to perform aloud.

Quick Let’s Get Out of Here by Michael Rosen  I’ve written about this book before. I’ve taught some very challenging classes in my time but every one of them could be brought on-side with one of Michael Rosen’s brilliant free-verse poems. I love sharing them with children and simply adore to perform them.

Please Mrs Butler by Allan Ahlberg  This is another of my ‘poetry as a behaviour management tool choices’ as I’ve never known a class that couldn’t be tamed with a few of Allan Ahlberg’s brilliant observations about life in a primary school. Who wouldn’t want to get their work done or behave nicely when the reward is a good long listen to Miss reading such modern classics as Dog in the Playground, Supply Teacher, Scissors; or Miss ACTUALLY SINGING The Headmaster’s Hymn?

The Works by Paul Cookson. There is usually a copy of this old classic in every primary school. Treasure it, as it’s no longer in print, but with this one little book you should be able to teach poetry across the age range. I have most of the books in the series and would recommend teachers acquiring copies of as many of them as possible.

I Like this Poem by Kaye Webb  If I say that I was at school myself when this collection was first published you may think it of it as ‘olden’ to that I must reply, ‘no golden’. This is a fabulous anthology of poems organised by the age group. There are short passages written by children about the poems and I can’t help thinking, ‘Where are those children now?’

Collected Poems for Children by Ted Hughes Whether part of a unit on The Iron Man or The Iron Woman; animals, the seasons, or the moon, there is always space for Ted Hughes. A quick delve into this book will enable teachers to enrich most units of work with the words of Ted Hughes.

Where my Wellies Take Me… by Clare and Michael Morpurgo  This is the latest addition to the Primary English poetry collection. It is a beautiful hybrid text (part diary, part poetry anthology) presented as a gorgeous scrapbook of memories. When people question the merit of learning poetry by heart, one only needs to see this book to appreciate the joy that learning poetry has brought to Clare Morpurgo. This is a treasure of a book and one that needs to be in every school library.

I’m now off to put the poetry books away, to file the post-its and scrap paper in the recycling bin, and take the mugs and plates down to the dishwasher. I’ll give the office a quick dust and vacuum and then it’s on to the next job and the next pile of papers on the floor…

Take a look on our Resources Page for our free poetry resources.

Rachel Clarke: Director – Primary English Education

All content on the Primary English website belongs to Rachel Clarke and is protected by Copyright.

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Video from Primary English

Clips from two guided reading sessions in John Shelton Primary School in Coventry. Rachel is using two of the titles from The Mini Tales Pack with a year 5 and year 6 group of children whilst addressing some key reading objectives.

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