I can’t imagine my childhood without Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Two of my favourite books were Please Mrs Butler and Heard it in the Playground (affiliate links), both collections of poems based around being at school.
I created a worksheet based on the title poem from Please Mrs Butler and the recording Allan Ahlberg made of it on The Children’s Poetry Archive.
I used it with pre-intermediate students as part of our ongoing thread of listening and pronunciation practice. We listened to the numbers in the introduction four or five times, and they managed to get them all. We finished the 90-minute lesson with the students repeating the poem after me, then performing it together. This was the final result:
The poem has since served as a warmer in later lessons. For homework, I asked them to watch a group of children performing the title poem from the other book, Heard it in the Playground.
It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, and although I don’t normally do anything for it, I thought that this year I would take the opportunity to share one of my favourite poems with my students. Here’s the plan in case you want to do it too.
Ask your students what day it is, and whether anything special happens on this day in their country. What do they know about Valentine’s Day in the UK?
What kind of gifts do people normally give for Valentine’s Day? Brainstorm them on the board.
Give each group the word cloud. They decide what links the words in the cloud and what she is sending her Valentine. They can also look up any words they don’t understand, so they are ready to appreciate the poem as a whole later.
Show them an onion. What connection could this have to Valentine’s Day and the poem?
Ask the students to close their eyes and put their heads on the desk (but try not to fall asleep!). Read them the poem – take your time and savour the words.
Ask them to discuss how similar the poem was to their ideas. They can then read it and decide whether they would like to receive an onion as a Valentine.
You can then do some pronunciation/speaking work. Read the poem again. This time students mark where you pause using slashes.
They talk about why you pause in those places – it’s because of line/stanza breaks, and also phrases within the lines.
They can chose whether to read Valentine, or an anti-Valentine poem. You can find lots of them on the net. This is the one I chose:
In groups with other students who have chosen the same poem, they practise reading it. They decide where the pauses should be, how fast to read it, how to space the phrases…and then some of the braver students perform it to the class, or the whole group performs the poem together (providing their patterns aren’t too different).