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Sensational poetry

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By Kevin McCannfreelance writer and former teacher

Use these four interactive poetry writing frames to create poems exploring the senses and using them to develop descriptions

This on-screen resource consists of four interactive poetry writing frames which help children to use their senses to develop description. The frames become slightly more complex at each level. The resource could be used to complement work on the human body and the senses in science.

Key learning outcomes:

  • To select and use a range of descriptive vocabulary;
  • To explore how figurative and expressive language can create images and atmosphere;
  • To compose imaginative sentences using adjectives, verbs and nouns for precision and impact;
  • To develop and refine ideas;
  • To develop accuracy/speed when using keyboard skills.

Further reading

See Literacy Time PLUS Ages 7 to 9 January 2008, for a Feature Article by Kevin McCann further exploring the use of poetry writing frames.

The March and May 2008 issues of Literacy Time PLUS Ages 9 to 11 will feature five interactive poetry writing frames focusing on conversation poetry, also by Kevin McCann.

Previous learning

The children should have had experience of non-rhyming poems, and understand the conventions of writing poetry – that ideas are arranged in lines which start with a capital letter and do not need to be full sentences.

Shared learning and teaching

Before using the resource:
  • Prepare ‘feely boxes’ – put items such as stones, petals, fabrics, sponges or strings of beads in boxes. The children must feel them without seeing them, then talk about how the objects feel. Scribe their ideas as adjectival phrases with commas.
  • Make ‘sniff bags’ using spices, lemon slices, cloves and cotton wool soaked in perfume. Make a resource bank of words that can be used to describe smells.

Level 1 – The Haunted House

  • Discuss the idea of a haunted house and list the things you would expect to find inside. Some of the children may have been in a haunted house at a fair or theme park. Can they describe this? How could we create the atmosphere of a haunted house in words? Discuss ways in which the weather can add to the atmosphere.
  • Give each child paper with a drawing of a stone wall, with space in each stone to write words and phrases. Ask them to fill the wall with things they would see and hear in a haunted house. Challenge them to put one or two adjectives with each noun.
  • Demonstrate Level 1 of the interactive poetry frame. Roll the mouse over the picture and click on the hot spots to hear sound effects or see animation. They can then return to the poetry frame, working on it in pairs or as individuals. Encourage them to revisit the picture and use their stone walls as a resource bank of ideas.

Level 2 – The Pyramid on Mars

  • Before showing this level, discuss who built the pyramids and what they were for. Show pictures and reference books about Ancient Egypt. Explain that the pharaohs had all their treasures and possessions put in the pyramids so that they could take them to the afterlife.
  • Explain that in this scene a pyramid has been found on Mars. Who might have built it? Why?
  • Now let the children work through this level.

Level 3 – The Mysterious Island

  • Ask the children to draw a map of an island. What kind of creatures might live on it? What is the landscape like? Encourage them to imagine dinosaurs, dragons and unicorns or to make up their own fantasy animals. How will boats land on the island?
  • Now work through this level.

Level 4 – At the Seaside

  • Emphasize the importance of selecting original and interesting ideas and not putting down the first word they think of. Demonstrate by asking what sand is like. The children may say ‘yellow’ or ‘smooth’. Question their responses and discuss the true colour. Encourage them to think of adjectives like gritty, grainy or coarse and scribe a word chain of their ideas. Provide thesauruses to help.
  • Use the activity sheet to practise using interesting language and explore ways of writing about seagulls.
  • Remind them about similes (see our poster, How to… write similes). Can they create similes about sand, or other aspects of the seaside? Encourage the children to use these ideas in their poems.


  • Ask the children to select their favourite poem from the four they have written and read it to the class.
  • Print the poems and make a class anthology of sensational poems.

For more information on Kevin McCann, read our author profile