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Choral and performance poetry

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By Pindar and Gareth Owen

The Greek poet Pindar (born c518-522BC) earned great fame – and a good living – writing choral poems (or odes) which were sung in honour of athletes who had won events at the various games held throughout Greece. The featured ode was written in 476BC for Hieron of Syracuse, who won a single horse race at the Olympian Games. Contrasting with this classic ode is a humorous modern poem, also with an Olympic reference and ideal for reading aloud, by Gareth Owen.


These teachers’ notes refer to the PRINT ONLY version of the guided reading leaflet available with May’s issue of Literacy Time PLUS for Ages 9 to 11.

Shared learning and teaching

Shared reading

  • Discuss the titles of the poems with the children. What do the children think the text will be about? What is an ode?
  • What does the first line of the poem ‘Olympian Odes’ mean? The fame of Pelops shines from afar.
  • Read both poems as a class and look at the features of each – eg, layout and imagery.
  • In Gareth Owen’s poem speech is used throughout. Why do the children think the author chose to do this?
  • Ask the children to identify the speaker of the first part of Gareth Owen’s poem. How old do they think the speaker is? Try reading the poem with the speaker’s voice. How does this alter the effect of the poem?

Previous learning

Children should have read a selection of different poetry in guided and shared sessions, including poems from contemporary poets and poets from the past.

Responding to the poem

  • Reflect on both poems. Ask the children to talk about them with their talking partner and then feedback to a small group about their ideas.
  • How is the theme of the Olympic Games reflected in both poems? How is it different?
  • Look at the language of the ‘Olympian Odes’ poem. What words/phrases are used in the poem that would not be used today (eg, swiftness of foot/horse-song in the Aeolian strain)? Do these words have a current meaning or do we use different words to mean the same thing?
  • Research the references to Pelops, Cronus and the Muse. Who were these people?
  • Who is Uncle Alfred? Discuss with the children if Uncle Alfred reminds them of a character from another poem or from a book they have read.
  • Complete the SAT style activity sheet below.

Group and guided activities

  • Invite the children to write their own ‘Olympian Ode’ using a suitable handwriting style, based on a modern sportsperson, such as Dame Kelly Holmes or Zara Phillips. Use the activity sheet below for planning ideas.
  • Re-read the poems, discussing how each describes the Olympic theme. Replace archaic words with words we are more familiar with today. Does the poem still keep the context/mean the same with some words altered?
  • Perform both poems in small groups, emphasising certain words by using the voice in a different tone or volume.

Key learning outcomes:

To devise/evaluate a performance;

To group/classify words according to spelling patterns and meanings;

To explore how writers use language for comic and dramatic effects;

To understand common underlying themes, causes and points of view;

To present texts using ICT and adapt handwriting for purpose – eg, printing, italics.

Links with ICT

  • Find out more information about the Olympic Games using the internet – some groups could research the modern Olympic Games while others research the Ancient Games. Use the information in their poems, presenting them using word processors.
  • Record the children performing their poems using a digital camera.
  • In small groups, ask them to create an animation for their Olympian poems using an animation program.

Speaking and listening

  • Create freeze-frames for different sections of the poems, taking on the roles of Olympians from the past.
  • Create an Olympic Games ‘This is Your Life’ presentation based on the character of Uncle Alfred.


  • Consider the impact of the children’s performance poetry – how it made them feel as an audience and how it made them feel during their performance.
  • Share the children’s poems, commenting on presentation and flow.


  1. Mehnaz
    on 30 June 2013

    Choral and performance poetry

    Try to make it better. I have rated 1 star as there is no poetry on it.

    1out of 5


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