National Poetry Day Blog

Shadowing the CLiPPA

Headteacher Sonia Thompson describes what taking part in the Shadowing Scheme for the CLiPPA meant to her school and its pupils.

I first heard about CLPE some years ago and signed up for the CLPE newsletter. The CLiPPA (CLPE Children’s Poetry Award) caught my eye, because at St Matthew’s we love teaching poetry, and we love performance. Once we read through the brief, it was a no brainer for us to get involved.

The CLiPPA is the UK’s leading award for published poetry for children which this year was won by Michael Rosen for his collection On the Move. Each year, schools are invited to explore the poems on the CLiPPA shortlist through CLPE’s Shadowing Scheme, producing performances of favourites.

We decided Year 5 would take part, as we had a particularly enthusiastic and passionate teacher of English – but this is certainly not a prerequisite. It was very helpful that once registered, we received regular emails with all the latest news about the awards, additional resources and plenty of advice for participants.

The impact of the shadowing was positive in so many areas. It tuned our children onto a wider, more diverse range of poets and poetry and provided an opportunity to perform to an audience other than their peers and teachers. It pushed them to think more deeply about what they needed to do differently, in order to deliver the poems, with maximum impact, through a screen.

I love this quote on the National Poetry Day website, ‘Poetry is language set free’. For me, it sums up why schools should use poetry in the classroom. It offers an opportunity for children to truly express themselves, without the usual boundaries; and it allows children to experience how poets can say a lot with a little.

The teacher also noted a direct improvement on both the children’s oracy and discursive skills. The shadowing was used to embed the children’s ability to constructively critique each other’s performances. Alongside the teacher, the children chose the eventual winners and decided whose videos went forward to CLiPPA. The teacher commented that it was evident that as their ability to critique each other with a clear focus (using the CLiPPA resources) improved, the children were then able to improve their own poems and their ability to perform with an audience in mind. By the time they came to record their performances, their confidence was very high, as well as their ability to improvise and take risks.

I love this quote on the National Poetry Day website, ‘Poetry is language set free’. For me, it sums up why schools should use poetry in the classroom. It offers an opportunity for children to truly express themselves, without the usual boundaries; and it allows children to experience how poets can say a lot with a little.

Alongside this, hearing poetry read aloud, as part of a great reading spine, enables children to encounter a level of vocabulary, word play and description that is often unique. When this, alongside the freedom to express oneself is transferred to writing, it can often build children’s confidence as writers – as there is often no right or wrong, just opinion and taste.

The CLiPPA Shadowing Scheme is great for schools that regularly teach poetry but also for schools that are less confident, the quality of the resources are so strong. The schemes of work offer so many ideas for teaching and performing poetry. It is also such a privilege to listen to real poets perform via the CLPE website. Finally, the whole school benefits from the scheme because the discussion and sharing between teachers, classes and children creates a joy of poetry that is palpable.  As far as I am concerned, all schools should take part, there is nothing to lose and everything and more to gain.

Find out more about the CLiPPA Shadowing Scheme.

Sonia Thompson

Sonia Thompson is Headteacher/Director of St. Matthew's C.E. Primary Teaching and Research School in Birmingham.