Workshop 4: The Multiplicity of Language
As teachers across the country returned to school after a much needed half term break, we at the Royal African Society wanted to take stock of our fourth workshop for the Poetry in the Primary Classroom programme. Once again, thought-provoking sessions were facilitated by our partners at CLPE with the help of the incredible poet Amina Jama.
As with the previous workshops, CLPE set the scene for our teachers, taking them through classic texts that contain stereotypes of African narratives, followed by a discussion around interrogating these texts with their pupils in a meaningful way. Recommendations of other books that were more meaningfully representative were made, as well as advice for teachers about choosing these books themselves. Discussion then followed about the power of poetry to improve literacy outcomes for young people, especially improvements that are often difficult to measure, like creativity and confidence.
This led nicely into Amina’s workshop, where she discussed how multilingualism goes hand in hand with poetry. This can be especially valuable to children who speak English as a second language, allowing them to incorporate multiple languages into their poems.
This workshop was a dedication to writing about home, including using poetry as a way to express culture, family and language. Teachers were encouraged to incorporate free-writing exercises into their lessons to help their children get into the practice of writing and express themselves without restriction.
And in and amongst all the takeaway teaching materials, this was an interrogating session that left all attendees with much to reflect on, especially in looking at all the ways that poetry can be transformative, reflective of community and a way to teach lessons on identity and expression.
“She wore blue better
than a sunset wore orange
never walked in anyone’s shadow
but led every march.
She was more confident
than I ever was.”
– From My Cousin’s Clothes by Amina Jama
16 June 2021
Olivia Danso, Education Programme Manager
Image caption: Africa Writes Young Voices showcase, 2019. Image by Ivan Gonzalez