Sunday, 17 May 2015

Cut Up Poetry

I so love it when a lesson brings results that far outweigh my expectations!

Therefore, I'd like to share one such lesson on the joys of Cut Up Poetry with a class of 30 six to seven year olds with almost three-quarters of the class made up of boys!

They were allowed to choose their working groups of 4-5 children) with the proviso that too much noise or not joining in would mean that I would be free to remodel the groups!  This naturally led to a good mixed ability range for each group.  I then chose one child from each group to be the leader, who then chose from within their team one to be the reporter, one to be responsible for resources and one/two to be the artistic director/team

Although, I teach a two week poetry unit this lesson would probably work as a stand alone.

The ideas, history of the concept and the task were explained and some examples shown - most notably from some of The Beatles songs.

Each group then sent their resource manager to collect a selection of local newspaper pages and advertisement flyers, enough pairs of scissors for each child and a large piece of coloured sugar paper - at this stage NO glue was given out.

The children were then given approximately 15 minutes to read and cut out interesting headlines or phrases and gather these together for the next stage.

The next 15 mins were for the children to discuss and sort their headlines and phrases into a poetic form and it was at this point that I was blown away by their speaking and listening skills as they discussed their options, talked about how the words sounded and which bits fitted better and why, commented on each other's suggestions without anyone getting upset and positioned and re-positioned their words upon the large sheet of sugar paper.

They then had approximately 5 mins to meet with another group to read through and discuss any changes they thought might make the poem even better and discuss a title for their poem - then and only then were they allowed to stick their words onto the sheet of paper as their final poem with additional artistic elements added by their chosen group member.

After breaktime:  the reporter from each group then read out their poem and each of the other groups gave a positive comment or a constructive criticism on it.  Yet again their comments showed how much they were listening and engaged with the poetry they were all creating.

I think one of the main reasons for such success with this lesson was that it took physical writing out of the picture which for many of these boys they still struggle with.  They didn't have to worry about spellings or punctuation or how neat their hand writing was.  Instead they could just focus all their energy into reading and "playing" with the words.

I am so sorry that I wasn't able to photograph their finished poems in all their glory to show you here but instead I'll try to give you a taste by one of the all boy groups who would normally have struggled a lot during a literacy lesson -

The poem was framed by a goal mouth

Saturday Football
Davidson Scores
A Hat Trick       Penalty
Free Delivery
Get it now
Turn Around
Why wait ?
Traffic Cops
Car Theft
Are your windows safe?
Homes in Your Area
Tea Time    
Take Away

That's why I've got a smile that stretches from ear to ear :)

Have you ever tried this type of process to inspire a poem or song lyrics or even a short story?  Have you done this type of poetry at school yourself?  I'd love to know - so please leave a comment below :)


  1. A very good concept and so interesting to read.

    When I was at school I detested poetry and would do almost anything to boycott the lessons, .....if only my teacher could see my poetry now.


    1. I think poetry is such a good way into literature for children as they can begin to see the process of "crafting" words together rather than just writing to fill a page!

  2. What a super idea!!! I think there's a songwriting lesson idea with something like this- it rings a bell somehow!x

    1. I came across this idea when reading something about The Beatles and how they came up with the ideas for some of their more "strange" songs. I just thought it would allow younger children the chance to experiment and "draft" poems without the need for actual "pen to paper" and it REALLY worked and they ALL loved it :)

  3. Interesting idea, eliminating the pen and paper does allow more creativity and it shows the kids know more, can produce more then even they think. Once when my daughter was young she was blocked...her mind worked faster then her fingers, she read everything she could get her hands on and so teachers often expected volumes in terms of reports, or book reviews etc I bought a cheap recorder and had her talk into the recorded. Then I typed up everything she said and she was able to select sentences by circling them, crossing out where she said too much or duplicated herself and the process worked very well for her. She then numbered her circled sentences, changed a few words and hand wrote her report. The process also allowed her realize she knew more then she thought, that she could do it, and helped her relax. I've never written poetry, don't remember it even being taught back in the dark ages, though we did have to memoriZe a few poems which I hated. Somewhere along the line when my daughter was young I got into reading allowed to her Robert Louis Stevenson's poems and the sing song nature of those I always enjoyed, as did she.

    Thanks for the visit, looking forward to Friday
    Sandy's Space

    1. Thank you for your detailed comment which also gives ways to allow children to draft and then finalise what they want to say but NOT by writing everything down themselves - recording devices are an excellent way to aid children particularly nowadays when so much more readily available :)

  4. This sounds like a great fun lesson. I've got a feeling that David Bowie wrote some of his songs in a similar way.

    I did something similar when I was at secondary school when we were studying war poetry; brainstorming things about war and then cutting them up and arranging them to make poems. It made you look at what you were writing in a different way.

    1. Thanks for your input on how this might work for war poetry & I think your right that David Bowie also experimented in this way for some of his songs too!