Poetry, Performance and Empowerment: Why Shadowing the CLiPPA is a Highlight of Our Year

30 April, 2024

Imogen Maund is an English Lead and Year 6 teacher at Caldecott Primary School in Abingdon and is passionate about reading for pleasure, poetry and picture books. As well as being a regular reviewer for Just Imagine, Imogen is a Regional Representative for The UKLA and leads an OU/UKLA Teachers’ Reading Group, where she enjoys connecting with local teachers who are also ambitious about inspiring all children to be readers. For the last couple of years, Imogen has been a judge at the longlisting stage of The UKLA Book Awards and she is one of the judges for the CLiPPA 2024.

In this blog, Imogen shares her experience of Shadowing the CLiPPA with her class.

A Perfect Time for Poetry

Last year, in the weeks following SATs, we introduced our Year 6s to the Shadowing Scheme that is part of the CLiPPA, the UK’s leading award for published poetry for children and young people. The Shadowing Scheme allows teachers to explore one of the shortlisted poetry books with their class, looking at the poems in depth and creating live performances of individual favourites. Detailed teaching sequences for each of the shortlisted collections are provided by CLPE, making the Shadowing Scheme very straightforward to deliver, even if you don’t consider yourself a poetry expert.

The timing of the Shadowing Scheme was perfect. Our children already enjoyed reading and listening to poetry, but we felt that they had not had the opportunities for poetry performance that we would have liked them to have before leaving primary school. After the rigours of SATs, it also provided a welcome opportunity for the children to explore their own creativity, to collaborate with their peers and practise their speaking and listening skills.

The Power in Performing

Last year, the shortlisted collection for Years 5 and 6 was Matt Goodfellow’s Let’s Chase Stars Together and we very quickly fell in love with Matt’s poetry. Poems like ‘Callum’, ‘A Thousand Hours’ and ‘The Democratic Republic of Me’ soon became firm favourites, especially when we delved into the richer meaning of each poem using CLPE’s teaching notes. Although the whole cohort got involved with choosing and performing a poem – either on their own, with a friend or in groups –  we chose to make entering the CLiPPA competition optional. This was mainly to ensure children who entered would feel confident enough to perform at the National Theatre, should they be lucky enough to win.

We gave the children time to rehearse their performances in school and at home, with guidance given as we watched them practise. Ultimately, however, the decision of how to perform their chosen poem was up to them. For example, two girls wanted to gargle to indicate gurgling water in their performance and, although we advised them it might break the flow of the poem, it was their choice whether they went ahead. (They did!)

As they grew in confidence, the children practised their performances in front of some of their peers, who helped them with constructive feedback. It was such a powerful way for the children to support each other and demonstrate their maturity before they left for secondary school.

Being Part of Something Bigger

A fantastic part of the shadowing scheme is that tickets to the CLiPPA awards ceremony at the National Theatre in London are free for schools. This means children get to see the winning performance for each collection, hear from all the shortlisted poets and see the wining poet receive their award. We were lucky enough to receive a grant for twelve of our pupils to travel to London too, meaning they only needed to bring money for an ice-cream! The children were very excited, especially when they spotted Michael Rosen, Matt Goodfellow and A F Harrold (and many of the other poets who they had come to know and love) in the theatre lobby.

Seeing the children watch their peers from across the UK perform live on the National Theatre stage was amazing. They were just in awe that children, some much younger than themselves, were performing the poems with such passion, clarity and confidence. On the way home, they were able to reflect on what others had done well and how they might have felt standing on the stage. Some chatted excitedly about whether their secondary schools would be taking part so they could have another go (and I hope they are!). Being at the ceremony really was the cherry on the cake for our pupils, and cemented what we hope is a lifelong love of poetry.

Pupils performing their chosen poem at the CLiPPA award ceremony at the National Theatre

An Empowering Experience

As SATs once again loom on the horizon, we have registered for the Shadowing Scheme for 2024. We know the poetry collections shortlisted will be high quality, and that our children will gain so much from exploring the poems in depth and developing that strong personal connection with the poem they choose to perform. However, the benefits of Shadowing go even further. The opportunity it provides for pupils to exercise their autonomy, to develop their confidence and to feel that they are part of a wider community of learners is invaluable.  The CLiPPA is now an irreplaceable part of our Year 6 English curriculum, and we highly recommend other Year 6 teachers consider it too.

The shortlists for this year’s CLiPPA will be announced on 8th May at a live online event open to all Shadowing Schools. Register today to access your FREE teaching resources and for the chance to see your pupils performing at the National Theatre in July.