Performance poetry helps Bradford students transition to secondary school

04 Jan 2018
Bradford - Our Stories

Paula Bennett, Year 6 teacher at Beckfoot Heaton Primary School in Bradford, recently attended the Our Stories creative writing and performance poetry training at the Bradford Cartwright Hall Art Gallery and Museum.  Our Stories is a poetry programme, which is delivered as part of the National Literacy Trust Hub in Bradford (branded Bradford Stories) and the Voice Bradford initiative.

“At the training, I spoke to a colleague at Beckfoot Upper Heaton, our feeder secondary school, and we decided to work together on an event for Year 6 pupils,” Paula said. “We wanted to focus on performance poetry and oracy to help them with their transition into secondary school.”

In October 2017, Paula brought 90 Year 6 pupils to Beckfoot Upper Heaton to take part in different workshops designed to help them get used to the idea of moving up to secondary school. Year 7 students at Beckfoot Upper Heaton also took part in the day, helping to support the primary school pupils.

“Not all of the students will be attending Beckfoot Upper Heaton next year,” Paula said. “But going there for the day meant they could experience what a real secondary school was like, which will help make it less intimidating for them.”

One of the day’s sessions was led by Imran Hafeez, Manager of the National Literacy Trust Hub in Bradford, who is also a poet. “Imran’s workshop focused on performance,” explained Paula. “We wanted to show the children that poetry doesn’t have to be stuffy or boring and there’s no uniform style you have to follow. It’s just a way of expressing your emotions and opinions; it’s not about how able you are.”

Bradford - Our Stories small

As part of Imran’s session, the pupils wrote six syllable poems which were then combined and performed as a group. “Some of the pupils at our school are very new to English, but a six syllable poem is easily something they could accomplish,” explained Paula. “It’s amazing what children can come up with in just six syllables. When we put everyone’s poems together it made a brilliant group poem.”

The day was very successful and Paula plans to run it again next year. “Encouraging children to express themselves is so important,” said Paula. “Being a good speaker is such a vital life skill, so the focus on oracy and performance really helped the children - and now they can see that secondary school isn’t such a scary prospect!”