Poetry in the Primary Classroom Blogs
Workshop 1: Learning the art of flexibility
The Poetry in the Primary Classroom project began in January 2021, with an ambitious plan to provide an enriching Continuing Professional Development course to primary school teachers on African and Diaspora poetry!
We at the Royal African Society have been incredibly impressed with the seven London primary schools taking part in this pilot project, especially in light of the additional pressures educational institutions have been facing since the pandemic began. Teachers in particular, have had to be adaptable, available and extremely resourceful to ensure their pupils continue to access a meaningful education, during one of the biggest global crises of our lifetime. This has been no small feat.
Thus, like many other school programmes this year, we made the decision to run the first of five workshops virtually, with the support of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the brilliant expertise of our partners at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE). The challenge of switching activities from in-person to virtual continues to be an ever-present hurdle, but one of the great things about poetry is that it is flexible, dynamic and works in varying forms, including as an easily consumable online package!
This has meant that we had 11 teachers attending two 2-hour workshops with great success. Our group of Year 4 and 5 teachers were able to learn more about the Royal African Society, and took part in facilitated discussions around African and diaspora literature on the current primary school curriculum, representation in children’s literature, the power of poetry, and the building up of African and diaspora poetry resources to increase confidence in teaching poetry to their pupils.
Despite the limitations presented by the pandemic and a third UK lockdown, we are confident that in partnership with CLPE, the Poetry in the Primary Classroom Programme will be a timely and effective training programme for teachers looking to re-engage their pupils using art-based learning; providing another avenue for our young people to express themselves, especially during a time of turmoil and uncertainty.
“Think of waking up knowing you can take the earth on,
a one-on-one battle between you and the oceans,
the damn heavens themselves.”
- During Heartbreak by Hibaq Osman from A Silence You Can Carry (Outspoken Press, 2015)
Written by Olivia Danso, Education Programme Manager
Image description: Participants at the Africa Writes Young Voices showcase, 2019. Image by Ivan Gonzalez