Nii Ayikwei Parkes


All my workshops include warm-up sessions and a short discussion of the elements of poetry with the group to find out how familiar they are with poetry as an art. In some groups I conduct the workshops with aids e.g. in recent workshops in West Drayton School, I took in hip-hop instrumentals and worked with the group to read W.B. Yeats and Rudyard Kipling to a chosen beat. Read sample workshops below or click relevant links to resources.


Foundation & Key Stage 1:

Poetry: Name Rhymes and Alliteration – I work with the group to find rhymes and alliteration matches for their names. To encourage participation, I ask members of the group who have trouble coming up with rhymes and alliteration for their names to ask a classmate. When the entire group have rhymes and/or alliteration for their names we make up a fun nonsense poem together using the rhymes and alliteration we have found. With longer sessions, I encourage the group to make sentences with their name rhymes. This activity encourages the building of vocabulary, confidence and group participation. It personalises the learning experience to make it fun and accessible.

Poetry: The Alphabet Poem – This workshop is modelled on the work of Georgia Popoff – a fellow poet. Like many before me, I have created a poem with each successive words beginning with the letters of the alphabet. The words are numbered and placed around the classroom for the group to discover. After reading the poem to the group, they are led on a mystery trail to find the words and piece the poem together. This is an active and fun way to incorporate letter recognition, numbers, word roots, rhyme, and group participation.

Storytelling: Ananse & Other Stories – I read some adapted Ananse stories or stories I have written myself to the group. All of the stories are in the African Proverb tradition and end with a moral or lesson. After reading I encourage the group to ask questions during which spelling and rhyme is incorporated into the exercise.


Key Stage 2:

Word Play – The Roots of Poetry – This workshop begins with my reading some poetry to the class. We discuss what a poem is and what marks the difference between a poem and other forms of writing e.g. prose and songs. After the discussion we start off writing short pieces of less than 6 lines to show the use of the elements of poetry. The other reason for this is to ensure that every member of the group completes a poem during the workshop, which they can share. A review and reading of the short pieces then leads into the beginning of a longer piece, sometimes based on a theme. This workshop encourages interaction through feedback, tolerance through the critiquing process, participation through discussion and confidence through the performing and sharing of work.


Key Stage 3:

Word Play – The Roots of Poetry – This is similar to the workshop for Key Stage 2, but with more advanced themes (e.g. ethics, consumerism, discrimination) and some focus on the similarities and differences between poetry and rap/hip-hop. There is also greater emphasis on structure, metaphor and imagery and general writing and editing skills.



E.V.I.L: Examination, Versatility, Imagination & Language – In this workshop I encourage the group to examine words, explore their versatility and use their imagination to expand the meaning of a word. For example “red” can blind, stain, burn, and woo. It can be approached using the five primary senses and memory. When we have explored the versatility of words the group writes poems using the diverse meanings and connotations of the words. For more advanced groups I challenge them to incorporate a certain number of elements of poetry. This workshop is especially useful in promoting lateral thinking and creativity. It builds confidence and develops problem-solving abilities by encouraging the group to think in unconventional terms.

Verse-fertility: This workshop is a fun-filled discussion-based exploration of various forms and structures of poems, their merits and demerits and when one form is more appropriate than others. It unlocks rhythm and structure and culminates in the group trying their hands on some of the forms discussed. I often encourage the group to write in free form and then adapt the work to various forms to appreciate the mood changes that occur with the changing on forms.

Points of View: In this workshop the group is given a topic to write about, but they all write from different points of view. E.g. for an exercise about parents, some of the group would write as the walls of the house, some would write as the parents, some as the furniture. This workshop plan is especially useful for covering citizenship, the environment, and for promoting empathy.

Poetry Slam: For full-day workshops, a poetry slam – the group reading their work in teams to each other in the spirit of healthy competition – is a very effective way to get the group fully involved and interested in the writing and editing process. Usually done with a theme, different teams work on a common poem derived by combining elements from individual work they have done during the day. This leads them to unconsciously engage in the editing process by choosing which parts of each others work to include in the group piece and rewriting to achieve uniformity. It also encourages team work and goal focus.

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