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Conversation Poems Part 1

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By Kevin McCannfreelance writer and former teacher

This is the first in a two-part resource by Kevin McCann providing writing frames for different kinds of conversation poems. This month we offer you two frames: ‘Who ate the pie?’ based on the traditional rhyme ‘Who Killed Cock Robin’, and ‘The Story Book’, a fantasy based around a magic book. Both use the Question and Answer structure.

The May issue of Literacy Time PLUS Ages 9 to 11 features three more inspirational poetry frames. Click here to read more.

Shared learning and teaching

Before using Level 1

  • Level 1 uses full-rhyme. Emphasise the importance of sense as well as sound in rhyming poetry.
  • Play ‘Rhymers’ – write a word on the board, then give the class five minutes to list as many full rhymes as they can. Alternatively, work in teams. Give each team a word and a time limit.

Before using Level 2

  • Explain to the class that they are going to write free verse – a poem which does not have a regular pattern or rhyming structure.
  • Discuss favourite stories. Include film and television references as well as mentioning stories which use the ‘door to another world’ device, such as Narnia, Alice in Wonderland and Tom Riddle’s diary in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Which character, from all the stories they know, would the children most like to meet? Where would they most like to go?

Preparation

Familiarise yourself with both frames before using them in class. If possible, write two poems of your own in advance of the sessions.

Previous learning

It will be helpful if children have previously seen examples of rhyming and free verse conversation poems.

Using Level 1

  • Explain that ‘Who ate the pie?’ is a simple mystery poem. A fresh baked pie has been eaten. So who’s the culprit? Tell the children that there are seven suspects, each with an alibi that rhymes with their name. Read out Verse 1 (“Not I,” said Fred,/“I was in bed.”) then scroll down and look at the rest of the poem’s structure.
  • Pooling ideas as a class, or working in pairs, complete the next 6 verses, creating an alibi to rhyme with each name. Use the identity parade picture to find ideas.
  • Complete the final verse, deducing the name of the pie-thief by coming up with a name that rhymes with alone.

Using Level 2

  • Explain that ‘The Story Book’ contains every story that’s ever been told. Open it and you’re transported into the place where all the stories come from. Explain how the poem structure works: in Verse 1 you describe who you see; Verse 2 what you hear; Verse 3 who you meet; Verse 4 how you got back.
  • Verses 1 to 3 have an example first line provided but children can type over this if they wish. Scroll down the frame and ask for suggestions for further lines for each verse. Verse 4 is one line only. Ask for suggestions.
  • Emphasise that there are no wrong answers – only possibly dull ones. You may wish to discourage rhyme. However, if a child rhymes well (ie, makes sense), then let them.

Key learning outcomes:

  • To become familiar with conversation poems;
  • To use language for comic and dramatic effects – including rhyme and free verse;
  • To explore the visual and oral presentation of poetry, using ICT;
  • To reflect independently and critically on their own writing, edit and improve it.

Further reading

The Works edited by Paul Cookson (Macmillan Children’s Books, 978 03304 81045) contains conversation poems as well as traditional stories in rhyme.

He Said, She Said, They Said: Poetry in Conversation edited by Ann Harvey (Puffin, 978 01403 68123).

Group and independent writing

  • Expand ‘Who ate the pie?’ by coming up with more suspects. Print the poems and mount a wall display.
  • Use the rhymes found and begin compiling a rhyming dictionary.
  • Let the children compile their own ‘Story Book’ of favourite stories – where possible, retelling the tales in their own words.
  • Use ‘The Story Book’ as a starting point to look at stories from another character’s point of view. Take Let me tell you what really happened as your title and ask the children to write the story of Little Red Riding Hood or The Three Pigs from the wolf’s point of view, or Jack and the Beanstalk from the giant’s wife’s perspective.
  • Use the activity sheet below to write another conversation poem called ‘The Curious Cat’.

Plenary

  • Share finished poems. Include your own – if the children see you having a go, it will encourage them.
  • Perform the finished poems in assembly, encouraging the audience to join in by asking the questions (project the poems on an OHT or whiteboard).

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