Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Memorisation and Recitation

Last year, one of Oxford Spires' star students won the Oxfordshire final of Poetry by Heart and was invited to London for the national finals. (Read about it here.)

This week, following on from the success of Performance Poetry Day with Bridget Minamore, we have successfully maintained a flow of creative momentum in the library.

Poetry by Heart is a recitation competition open to students aged 15-18. It is a celebration of poetry, in which students select a poem from the archive, learn it by heart, and deliver it to an engaged audience of poetry lovers.

At Oxford Spires, we wanted to get some of the younger students excited about recitation, as well as seek a champion to represent the school at the regional finals in January. As such, we set up two competitions - one for the potential OSA representative, and one to get the lower school excited about poetry and their possible future success in this competition.

Last Friday, the English department selected up to ten students from years 7, 8 and 9 to come to the library for a mad flash training session. We had a mix of boys and girls, some fairly confident and some pretty quiet, some poetry lovers and some more apathetic individuals. The first hour was spent selecting the poetry they would recite, scrolling through the Poetry by Heart website, but also looking at some of the books on the shelves of the library - talking about what we liked, what we didn't like, and sharing poems that we had found.

We only had a short amount of time with the lower school students, so in the second hour, Kate Clanchy gave the students some tips on how to learn off by heart. In corners all around the room, students were practicing with friends and celebrating the written word.

Finally, it was time for the students to recite their poems. Having had such a short space of time, many did not know theirs off by heart, but we wanted to create an atmosphere of celebration and excitement around poetry, so did not put too much pressure on the children. There was no 'winner', but Kate and I were so impressed by the articulation and delivery of the students, especially those who we thought lacked in confidence.

 One student, who had been a finalist for our in school poetry competition, had not read her winning poem out the day before in assembly, but stood on stage in front of her peers and read off by heart in our event.

Yesterday, we hosted the competition for the upper school (predominantly creative writing students), to find Oxford Spires' Poetry by Heart finalist. These students had more time to prepare - it is a competition, after all! Mrs Croft attended as a judge, and the sixth formers read their poems with pride and love. It was incredible that they all seemed to select poems that sounded like something they would have written themselves.

There was one student who stood out amongst the rest - Asima is an intelligent and well-read girl who writes bright, merry poetry, and who has come on an incredible journey from a timid teen to a confident young woman. We are very excited for the Oxfordshire and Berkshire final next month at the Old Fire Station.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Just, Wow!

On Wednesday 3rd, we were honoured to welcome Bridget Minamore to Oxford Spires Academy for our second Performance Poetry Day.

Read about the first Performance Poetry Day here.

Bridget is an inspiring young writer and performer who spent the day working with a select group of fourteen and fifteen year old students. She carried out workshops to develop their skills in storytelling, creative writing and performing. The day ended with students performing their work to their classmates.

At the start of the day, the students seemed a little embarrassed and nervous. Bridget encouraged them to tell stories about themselves, in part to get to know their names but also to help them relax. The group consisted of high ability students, both boys and girls, with varying levels of confidence - some had been selected specifically in the hope that this event might boost their self-esteem.

Throughout the writing workshops, the students revealed their creativity, impressing Bridget and their classmates. Some are First Story veterans, but many would probably consider themselves reluctant poets, so I was thrilled by how engaged they became with the writing.

In the last lesson of the day, after Bridget had worked with everyone in small groups to develop their performance skills, all the students stood on the library stage and read their work. There was great variety in the subjects explored (as Bridget had given them free reign to write about whatever they wanted to), and in their performance styles, each student revealing their true colours through how they held themselves in front of the mic.

On a personal note, it was so nice to spend the day with Bridget - she is clever and open and is brilliant at working with kids, making my day so easy and enjoyable.

Here is a little sample of some of the students' work, from Y9s, Renad, Ulfat and Mukahang:
As a trio we agree
What a poem should or shouldn't be
Although each of us a different nationality
We are all beings of abnormality
 To each on our own
Our own stories to be told
 Though we all came from different places
We all have one person in our heart spaces
Our inspiration plays a big role in our lives
Our motivation, our hero, our mothers. 

We would like to thanks the John Betjeman Poetry Competition for Young People for making this event possible.