Preparing for Interviews – Why Poetry Packs the Perfect Punch

14 March, 2024

Congratulations! You have secured an interview for your first teaching post and the prospect of having your very own class is there for the taking. There is just the small matter of delivering an engaging and impactful literacy lesson in 40 minutes to a group of 30 children that you have never met before. There is no denying that it is a daunting task but choosing poetry as your focus might just be the key to your success.

Why poetry?

Poetry is popular: Holding the attention of those 30 children is crucial so, when you walk into that classroom, you want to be sure that the content of your lesson is going to appeal to your audience. Research tells us that the majority of children actively enjoy poetry. In fact, the CLPE Poetry in Primary Schools report published in 2023 found that 88% of teachers said that their pupils enjoy engaging with poetry. Choosing to base your lesson on a poem could get you off to a good start with your young learners.

Poems pack a powerful punch: When time is so limited, a poem allows you to work with a whole text, which can be more satisfying than working with an extract. And, while they may be short, poems are also language rich, making them a perfect springboard to explore a wide range of literacy skills, whatever the age range. Whether you are looking to develop phonological awareness with pre-readers, build reading fluency and inference skills with older pupils, extend children’s understanding of language or help them find their own writing voice, a poem can be a great place to start.

Poems love to be performed:  Poetry comes alive when it is spoken aloud. Performing a poem allows children to experience the rhythm and music of the words and can help them access the emotion and the meaning of the poem. It also provides the opportunity to develop key speaking and listening skills, as well as building self-confidence.

Planning your lesson

Now that you can see poetry’s potential, it’s time to start planning. The good news is that there are lots of great poetry resources that you can draw on to help you choose an appropriate poem and plan a lesson around it. Even better, most of the resources are free to access. Here are a few to get you started but you can find more poetry resources over on the Literacy Hive website:

Children’s Poetry Archive: The Children’s Poetry Archive is a bank of recordings of children’s poems being read aloud, mainly by the poets that wrote them. There are over 50 poets featured and you can search for a poem by theme and age group. There is also a bank of ideas and activities to support the teaching of poetry to explore.

Poetry by Heart: Poetry by Heart is a poetry speaking competition for young people. The supporting website is a useful source of poems for pupils aged 7+. Arranged into timelines, the selection of poems spans six centuries of poetry – from Shakespeare through to the current Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho. Many of the featured poems also come with performance tips, including videos from past Poetry by Heart competitions to inspire your pupils.

 National Poetry Centre for Primary Schools: The National Poetry Centre provides a range of resources to support the teaching of poetry in primary schools. There is a bank of over 400 poems that you can search by poet, age range and theme, as well as by poetic form and device. You (and your pupils) can also hear from the poets themselves as they read their poems aloud, talk about poetry and what it means to them, and share their writing and performance tips in a series of short videos.

CLiPPA Teaching Sequences: The Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award is the only dedicated children’s poetry award in the UK. Each year, CLPE produces detailed teaching sequences for each of the shortlisted collections. There are over 50 teaching sequences to explore, full of ideas that you can use as a base for your own planning.

Poetry Train: Poetry Train is a resource pack that came out of a Poetry Society training project designed to improve student teachers’ confidence in the teaching of poetry. Created by poet educators Roger Stevens and David Harmer, it showcases a range of activities and techniques that can be used to inspire and support pupils’ own poetry writing across the primary age range.

A final thought…

While poetry is a popular choice with children, the latest research highlights that only 38% of practising teachers feel confident about planning units of work focused on poetry (Poetry in Primary Schools, 2023). If you can demonstrate expertise in this area of the literacy curriculum, it could help you stand out from the crowd and prove your value as a new member of the team. Good luck!

Literacy Hive is an open access literacy resource signposting website designed specifically for teachers. It provides a one-stop site to help teachers find resources to support all aspects of the literacy curriculum.