Charlotte Hacking from the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) explains why they chose to share the poem ‘More Pointless Questions’ by John Agard.
This poem links perfectly to the National Poetry Day theme of Choice, as it is all about the potential impact of the choices we make as humans on the natural world. We may choose to keep a goldfish or bird as a pet, or to pick a rose to put in our homes; but what impact do these choices have on these creatures and plants? That’s exactly what this poem asks.
John Agard’s choice to present the poem as a series of questions directly confronts the reader to think about and consider the choices they make, making this a deeply affective poem, which lingers in the mind after reading.
The poem also links with the theme of the new ‘Learning Together, Growing Together’ whole school teaching unit that CLPE has produced to support primary schools with the back to school transition in September. These plans show you how to engage children in talk, reading and writing activities as they return to school after another year in which learning has been disrupted by the continued impact of COVID. Children across the whole school will be engaged in a wide range of creative and outdoor activities, based on quality children’s literature, that are designed to impact positively on social skills and emotional well-being, as well as raising awareness of human impact on the natural world. Like the National Poetry Day resources this plan is free to schools and teaching this unit would be a great pre-cursor to a whole school celebration of National Poetry Day.
John Agard is a fantastic supporter of our charity’s work. In partnership with Grace Nichols, he won the first CLPE poetry award, the CLiPPA, in 2003 for the anthology they co-edited, Under the Moon and Over the Sea. He won the award in 2009 with his own collection, The Young Inferno, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura, and was shortlisted for the award again in 2018, with The Rainmaker Danced, from which More Pointless Questions is taken. There is a full teaching sequence for The Rainmaker Danced, which schools and educators can use to explore gain practical ideas to teach poetry with confidence. John Agard has a dedicated poet page in the poetry section of our website, showcasing performances from across these works as well as interviews which give insights on his work as a poet and writing process.
Our National Poetry Day resource is perfect for children aged 7-14 and gives educators a guide to reading and responding to a poem that provokes ideas for writing. We are really looking forward to seeing the poems that More Pointless Questions inspires children to produce.
The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education is a UK based children's literacy charity working with primary schools. Our work raises the achievement of children's reading and writing by helping schools to teach literacy creatively and effectively, putting quality children’s books at the heart of all learning. We offer courses at our literacy library in central London, deliver online training and provide a wide range of free teaching resources for Primary teachers.
John Agard was born in Guyana and moved to England in 1977. He writes for children and adults. John’s many awards include the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry (2012), the first CLPE Poetry Award for Under the Moon & Over the Sea (edited with Grace Nichols) in 2003 and the CLiPPA for The Young Inferno (also illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura) in 2009. His poetry features on the GCSE curriculum and he regularly takes part in a performance tour related to this.
Charlotte Hacking is the Learning Programme Director at CLPE, She is an experienced teacher and senior leader who has taught across the primary school age range. She was a literacy consultant within a Local Authority, focusing on Early Years, Phonics and Primary Literacy. Charlotte's special interests lie in the use of picturebooks and poetry to raise children's engagement and attainment. She led and developed the CLPE's Power of Poetry research project, and is a judge for the CLPE poetry award, CLiPPA.