Helping Your Child To Write
Helping Your Child To Write
Michael Rosen (Poet and Children's Laureate) gives expert video advice on: At what age can kids start writing poems?; What kind of poems do children like to write?; How can I encourage my child to try writing a poem? and more...
At what age can kids start writing poems?
In my experience, two and three-year-olds will start making up a kind of oral poetry just if you get into the habit of playing with words with them. So that they like the idea that words can make echoes, or that they can repeat themselves and create rhythms. And so, in a way, I sort of think the moment we become proficient at language we can make poems. Now, whether you then write them down is another matter because you can have an oral poetry culture or you can have a written one or a mixture of both. So, I would say two and three-year-olds are quite often pretty good poets and so it can go on.
What kind of poems do children like to write?
I think children will write poems partly depending on the repertoire of poems they come across. I often think that the job of teachers and parents is to make that repertoire as wide as possible so children can adopt voices and patterns of words and phases that suit them for the moment. If you only give children rhyming, jingly, jingly <a href="http://www.videojug.com/interview/types-of-poetry-2">types of poetry</a>, then the chances are that they will be the only kind of poems that they will make up. If you show them that there are all sorts of other patterns you can make with words, just repetition for example, then they'll discover that has its own power and use as well.
Do children enjoy performing poetry?
I think some children enjoy performing poetry and some don't. I think when it comes to performing poetry, you have to find ways that play to children's strengths. Sometimes, for example, they like saying things in chorus. Other children might quite like to mime to a poem, or make what I call snapshots, like a tableau that goes with the poem. Other children might like to make a little bit of music to go with the poem, percussion, maybe do a painting, hold up individual words or clap their hands. So I think you have to explore all the potential around a poem and not just simply think recite some poem and then give them bad mark if the do it badly.
What are some good themes for children to write poetry about?
Well it was a good starting point for children is something to do with themselves. It is not the only one. But they lead lives full of complexity, full of wonder, anxiety, fears, loves. So in and around that, based quite concretely on things that happen. If someone nicks a teddy bear, or they get around to some kind of mischief that they do not want to tell you about and things like that. So that is one area. But the other area is what you might call the wonder area where you speculate and say what if. What if is actually quite a good way to begin a poem. And then just see where it takes you. That if you start inventing things. Another area, you can exploit your own dreams and you can show children that they can kind of farm their dreams and turn them into poems.
Can writing poetry help children emotionally in difficult times?
I think we all have the right to reflect on our experiences. Now, quite often I get the impression that children are sometimes not given that space. I think, if you don't have a chance to reflect on your experience, you up your levels of anxiety and stress. I think poetry gives you a space where you can stop the flow of experience and give yourself a chance to grab a bit of the things that have happened to you, put them on a page in a certain order and then sit and wonder about it. I think that probably enables you to deal with some of the things you worry about and wonder about and don't know about.
Is poetry taught well in schools?
I think mostly poetry is taught absolutely appallingly in schools because we're now living under a regime that thinks that what you do with poems is you keep asking children, and school students, questions that you as the teacher or the examiner already know the answer to. I think that is mostly just an exercise in humiliation and that really what we should be doing is only asking children questions about poems that we don't know the answers to. So, ideally we should be asking questions like does this poem remind you of anything? Does it remind you of anything you've read? Are there any questions you would like to ask about this poem? Are there any questions you would like to ask of anybody or anything in the poem? Are there any questions you would like to ask of the author? And then to get the children to be the people in the poem or to be the author and see what answers come up. I think only then will we liberate poetry from this appalling prison that we have put poetry in.
Can adults learn anything from the poems children write?
I think we can often learn things from the poems that children write. You learn what interests them, what amazes them, and what they are puzzled by. When I am reading children's poems, I mean, I don't know how to particularly say whether this poem or that poem is good or bad. I think what I always look for is something that feels authentic. Now that is very vague and woolly, but sometimes when you read poems and you think, "Well, maybe they are just repeating something they've heard and maybe not thinking or reflecting or playing in some kind of way that is true to themselves". It is just a hunch you have when you're reading, so the word authentic is the word I use to myself when reading children's poems.