Poetry at Porirua Library

I was invited to talk to children about making books – writing and illustrating – at Porirua Library this summer as part to the Imagine This! festival. With an audience of both pre-schoolers and school age children, I made sure that the talking part was not too long. I was keen to finish with an activity that was be something everyone could do. We’d been talking about the writing and illustration of “In the Bush”, so we brainstormed what we could write about ruru (morepork). I had outlines of a tūī, a ruru (morepork) and a pīwakawaka (fantail) for children to use to create: concrete poetry – older children, and artworks – mostly younger children. Here are just a few of the poems.

Lucy’s poem

If you’d like to write a concrete poem about a tūī, ruru, or fantail, the outlines can be downloaded as a PDF (the PDF has all 3): Download bird outlines.

Writers in School at Waterloo

Waterloo School invited me to run writing workshops with groups of year 4-6 students. This session was funded by the fantastic Writers in Schools programme. I worked with the children on creative non-fiction writing. We talked about language features such as similes and metaphors. The children discovered how powerful using the first person “I” can be, as it puts the writer and the reader into the seeing the world from the animals perspective.

For example, instead of writing “Penguins can’t fly.” One girl wrote ” I am Penguin, it’s weird but I can’t fly.” Another child writing about what leopard seals eat and how sharp their teeth are, added ” Are you afraid of me? Well you should be!” These sentences grab attention. They are thought provoking for the reader.

Some of the older students brought their love of story writing to the task, even down to deciding what role their orca had in the pod. One wrote a story about Grandma Orca whose role it was to lead the hunt. Another wrote about two sister orca and the dangers posed by fisheries.

Ella’s Orca writing

Some children chose non-Antarctic animals , one group chose kiwi which resulted in: ‘A day in the life of kiwi’ and a “Who am I?” puzzle to which the answer was kiwi. Another chose lemon sharks.

Writing Tip 1: Some students (and adults!) find it hard to get started with their writing. Experienced writers know that we have to start writing even if we think our first words are rubbish and that we might end up ditching them after our first draft. We just have to get started putting words on paper. And we need to write everyday. It’s like training to run a cross-country. The best way to train is to do lots of running, even if your first steps feel awful because you ate too much lunch or your body is stiff, you’ve just got to start running. It’s the same with writing. You’ve just got to start getting down words, any words. And the more you practice the easier it is.

Writing Tip 2: It’s more productive to focus children on getting their words down, and then working out exactly what they want to say rather than correcting details too soon. If children want to know how to spell a word, I tell them, but otherwise I leave correcting spelling and punctuation for the editing stage. This is something that we can’t fit into a workshop time. The students’ work here was written in a very short space of time!

Many thanks to:

  • the children of Waterloo School and the children (and parents) who came along to Porirua Library, for your creativity and enthusiasm.
  • Read NZ and their sponsors who make the Writers in Schools programme possible
  • Porirua Library for inviting me along to take part in Imagine This! and for the photographs.

More Children’s Writing About Nature