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Underwater poems

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By Coral Rumble, Clive Riche, John Foster and Brian Moses

These five humorous poems are all on the same underwater theme but are different in style and form. They include limericks, a tongue-twister, word play and both rhyming and non-rhyming forms. The collection is suitable for work on Year 1 Poetry Planning Unit 3Poems on a theme and Year 2 Poetry Planning Unit 3Silly stuff (humorous poems and poems featuring language play).

These teachers’ notes accompany the PRINT ONLY guided reading leaflet in Literacy Time PLUS for Ages 5 to 7, January 2009.


Before reading

  • Talk to the children about funny poems they have read and enjoyed or a poem you have read together.
  • Look at the pictures in the leaflet and read the titles of the poems. What is the leaflet about? Which poem do they think they will like best?

Reading the poems

  • Listen to the children read individually and support them to apply their phonic knowledge, reread for sense and explore the meaning of some of the less common phrases.
  • Choose one of the longer poems to share and explore as a group (eg, ‘Octopus’ – see ideas below), before letting the children choose one of the shorter poems to read independently.

Previous learning

Children should have had previous experience of: listening to poetry; making up their own poems; exploring the meanings and sounds of new words; making phonetically plausible attempts at more complex words; recognising common digraphs; forming simple sentences.


  • Find out what the children know about the octopus. Do they all know it has eight tentacles? Ask ‘What if…?’ questions – eg, What if an octopus played football? Encourage the children to make up similar questions – eg, What if an octopus was cleaning the house? Consider the advantages and disadvantages of having eight arms and legs and whether this would be funny.
  • Read together the first two lines of each verse. Make sure the children understand the term ‘lengthy business’.
  • Now read the poem through from start to finish. Ask the children to think about all the tasks that take a long time for the octopus to perform. What problems did the octopus have with dressing and eating?
  • What did they like about the poem? Encourage the children to refer to the text when answering.
  • Revisit any words that the children found difficult (perhaps creased, stewed or laces). Model the strategy for reading the word and provide other words with the same phoneme for additional practice.
  • Which words rhyme? (eg, dressed/pressed; fun/done) Write these out and compare the different spellings of the phonemes.

Key learning outcomes:

  • To read aloud with intonation/variety in pace/emphasis (Year 1/2);
  • To apply phonic knowledge to read unfamiliar words (Year 1);
  • To explore how particular words are used and the effects of patterns of language/repetition (Year 1/2);
  • To read/spell less common alternative graphemes, including trigraphs (Year 2);
  • To explain reactions to poems (Year 2).

Other poems

  • Ask about the other poems the children chose to read. What did they like or find funny about these poems? How were they different from the ‘Octopus’ poem? Refer to length, rhyming words and the subject.
  • Explore one of the other longer poems in a further guided reading session. Eg, read ‘The Aquarium’ and talk about the word play and the reasons for the disappointment: Why didn’t the dogfish bark? Why did they expect the dogfish to bark?

Follow-up activities

  • Ask the children to read the poems to a partner to practise reading with fluency and expression.
  • Revisit some of the rhyming words from the poems and collect more words with the same phoneme – eg, sun, door, lime, food.
  • Write sentences about other things the octopus could try to do and the advantages or problems with this. Model the sentences before inviting the children to write them independently. As an extension, practise linking the sentences using simple connectives – eg, He ran in a race but his legs got tangled. He fell over because his legs got tangled.
  • After reading ‘Why Barnacles Cling to Boats’, model how to say or write tongue-twister sentences and let the children try to compose similar sentences of their own.
  • Using the activity sheet, match the sentences about ‘The Aquarium’. You could photocopy the sentence parts onto card or laminate them, add paper clips and use them for a magnetic fishing game version.


  1. sarah
    on 3 January 2013


    Are these poems now online? If so, where can I find them? Thank you.

  2. lauren
    on 13 February 2012

    more wow words

    your poems are all great but they could do with some wow words

  3. Kirstin McCreadie Assistant Editor
    on 8 June 2010

    RE: Which poem?

    Dear jocelynmilner,

    These notes accompany a guided reading leaflet that is currently only available in print. We do have plans to add these to our online resource bank, but it may not be for a few months.

    If you would like to order a copy of Literacy Time PLUS Ages 5 to 7 January 2009, please call our customer services team on: 0845 850 4411 or email

    Many thanks, Kirstin.

  4. jocelynmilner
    on 1 June 2010

    Which poem?

    WHere can I find the poems mentioned in this article?