DIY Poetry Writing Workshops

The image is of a table that has books and notebooks on it. It is by a small window and there are drawings on the adjacent white walls.

In 2017 – 2018 I had a lovely time working in a secondary school in Bath one day work, employed as a Writer in Residence. I used this blog as a notebook to document the workshops, so I thought I’d link to a few of the posts I wrote, for anyone who might find them useful at this time of homeschooling and being stuck indoors. The young writers I worked with were mostly aged 11 – 16 but the workshops can be adapted for other ages – and for yourself if you’re in the mood to do some writing and you need a little inspiration.

Writing Poems about Flowers – In this workshop I used poems about snowdrops and daisies by Alice Oswald and Sarah Westcott. The snowdrops are out in my garden at the moment, and I have found it hard not to think of them as ‘maidens’ ever since reading the Oswald and Westcott poems.

Cutting up text to write poems – This workshop produced an impressive amount of work by the students I worked with, even those who told me they “didn’t like writing”. Cutting up and manipulating text can be satisfying and fun and makes a change from facing up to the blank page. I was strict with my young writers and didn’t allow them to add in extra words “so a sentence made sense” but they were allowed to write anything they wanted in their own notebooks, so many new phrases and ideas popped up, leading to fresh poems and stories.

Thinking about sound and using all five senses in our writing – Using all five senses is a classic writing workshop idea but it’s surprising how often writers forget to use different senses, mostly sticking to how things look. Using all five in one poem might be overkill, of course, although these young writers produced wonderful work using, as a starting point, an every day object like their school jumper or blazer. We also went on to think more about sound in this session, looking at early Tom Stoppard plays for radio, and students began writing their own radio scripts.

Finding a way to say something you find hard to say – Sometimes poems that I brought in to workshops seemed to strike a particular chord with young writers. In this session, poems by Rebecca Perry and Mary Jean Chan provoked a lot of discussion and writing. Students talked about the times when they found it hard to speak about something, like bullying, for example, and they found a way to express how they felt by writing poems and using the techniques modelled in the examples I’d given them.

Making visual poems with flowers and other found materials

There are more examples of the workshops I facilitated on this blog. You can find them by putting #writerinschool into the search box.

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