Last year I ran some writing workshops with local children for Porirua Harbour Trust. I introduced the children to the idea of writing poems that could take on the shape of what they are writing about.
Here are some of their Raindrop poems:
This kind of poetry is called Concrete Poetry. It doesn’t have to have an line around it, the words can be placed to make the shape, like this:
However it made it easier for the children to keep the topics in mind and to write to fit the shape.
Here are some other poems that the children wrote:
Before we started writing, we brainstormed topics sharing words and ideas.
Choosing to write from the point of view of the object or animal, using “I”, “My” etc, makes the poetry lively and direct.
At a previous workshop, we used a form called Cinquain Poetry (poems of just 5 lines) to get started with descriptive writing, before turning these into poems from the animals point of view. You can read more about this here: Writing Workshops for Children
These poems were published in The Current 1 and The Current 2. The workshops were co-ordinated by Pātaka Art Educator Esme Dawson and run for the Porirua Harbour Trust. Porirua Harbour Trust have provided local schools with copies of The Current.
Some of the children’s writing is also displayed on signs on the shore of Porirua Harbour (behind Pak’nSave supermarket).
Tips for parents encouraging children to write at home
Some children find it hard to get words down on paper. Sometimes it’s the topic, ‘What I did in my school holidays’ can draw an awful blank. It’s always best to write about something you are interested in. A little time spent observing nature and it’s usually not long before children have found a topic of interested.
I want children to experience success with their writing. So I choose a writing form that can be finished within the workshop time. Although some children may go on writing and improving on what they have written, everyone has completed at least one poem.
So that’s 3 ingredients to successful nature writing:
- an interesting topic
- observation (and information gained from observation)
- a form of writing that gives a satisfying result
Usually I count on the class having already had the opportunity to observe and learn about nature, so if you are doing this at home, the first thing you might need to do is take a short nature walk around the garden, perhaps jotting down observations in a nature journal, taking photos or just talking about they see.
Some children have a wide vocabulary and are good at thinking of words they want to use, others struggle to come up with words to describe what they see. To get around this in a class situation, I get the children to brainstorm in a group writing down all the words they can think of, that way children can use and be inspired by others’ choice of words. So if necessary be part of the brainstorm with your child (there are no wrong answers in a brainstorm, children have to be free to write down everything they think of and not be worried about being ‘wrong’, correct spelling only after they have finished, unless they ask for help with spelling). You could also encourage them to look up the animal or plant in a book such as Animals of Aotearoa, perhaps there will be more words there that they can use.
Then if you are writing concrete poetry, get them to draw an outline of their animal or object and get started with a “I am..”
You can download the “water drop” outline here:
I’ve also pulled together some more writing ideas from other sources on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.nz/gilliancandler/kids-write-about-nature/
Many thanks to Rebecca McCormack inviting me to take part in workshops for Porirua Harbour Trust and for some of the photos in this blog, also many thanks to Esme Dawson of Pātaka.
This was first published on my nature blog ExploreDiscoverNature.blogspot.co.nz