chapter  2
13 Pages

'A poem is alive': using poetry with young children

ByRobert Fisher

Our task as teachers is to help children move on from a love of simple rhyme to an appreciation of poetry that will feed the eye and mind as well as the ear. Both understanding and enjoyment are needed to fully appreciate a poem4. A poem is written to contain a distilled essence of meaning, what Ted Hughes (1967) calls the ‘spirit’ of the poem. As Hughes says the meaning or spirit of a poem is made up of its living parts, its words, images and rhythms. Helping children to discover the spirit and to make sense of a poem can be one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching English. Teaching then becomes a shared literary adventure when children and teacher meet to enjoy and understand better what is written. ‘I don’t like poems I don’t understand’, says Henry, aged six, ‘so you need someone to read with you.’