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Rivers of rhymes

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By Clive Riche, Charles Causley, John Agard and June Crebbin

These four poems (classic and modern) on the same theme provide plenty of opportunities for comparing and contrasting different poetic forms, rhythms and moods. They include a kenning and shape poem, a chant and a conversation poem.

These teachers’ notes accompany the PRINT ONLY guided reading leaflet in Literacy Time PLUS Ages 7 to 9, May 2009.

rivers-rhymes.jpg

Before reading

  • Give out copies of the activity sheet below and explain that you are going to compare four different poems about rivers. Suggest that the children make notes on the chart as you discuss the poems.
  • What effects are the poets trying to achieve with the poems’ shapes?

Responding

The river

  • Discuss the structure of the poem and the poet’s use of questions. How does this poet feel about the river?
  • Find the rhyming words and explain the rhyme pattern. Look at the repetition of the phrase ‘The river’. Why does the poet repeat this phrase?
  • Discuss the line, ‘Who rushes past kings…’ What does this say about the river? (Is it is more powerful than kings, with all their wealth, or perhaps does not have to show them respect?)
  • Can the children explain the meaning of ‘dawdles’? Why did the poet choose this word?

Who?

  • Why has Charles Causley written this poem as a list of questions?
  • Why did he use the word ‘quivering’ to describe the stream?
  • Discuss possible meanings of ‘wraith’, using the context. Compare with a dictionary definition.
  • List clues about the boy’s identity. The final line solves the mystery. Can the children explain it?
  • Discuss ‘Soft as the thistledown on the breeze blown’. Create other similes to describe the boy.
  • Use the activity sheet below to compare this poem with ‘The river’.

Fisherman Chant

  • How does the fisherman feel about the river?
  • Why does the poet describe it as both ‘life giver’ and ‘life taker’?
  • Discuss ‘gleaming with silver’.

City River

  • If the children have not experienced kennings before, explain that this form of poetry describes a subject without directly saying what it is, rather like riddles. It often consists of pairs of words, and dates from Anglo-Saxon times, when warriors described their weapons in this way.
  • Discuss each line. Why did the poet choose the words nudger, winder, slapper?

Ideas for writing

  • Look at ‘Fisherman Chant’ again. What could the river have in store for the fisherman? Plan and write stories or diaries.
  • Discuss the words/phrases used in the poems to describe rivers that the children have listed. What adjectives and adjectival phrases would they add to these? How would they describe the way a river moves, sounds, appears in different weather? Use these ideas to write new river poems. Can they create a river shape poem?
  • Challenge the children to identify what is being described in other kennings – eg,
    • Book-ticker
    • Star-licker
  • Choose a subject together and ask each child to provide a line, creating a class kenning, then to write their own.
  • Create a mood board to illustrate each poem’s atmosphere, decorating with suitable images. Add drawings, words and phrases.
  • Complete the SAT-style response sheet below.

Plenary

  • Which poem did the children prefer? Explain choices. Which clues suggest that the poems come from different times or cultures?
  • Working in groups, prepare each poem for performance. Listen to these and compare them in more detail.

Reviews

  1. Megan
    on 4 July 2013

    River poem

    I’v got my own river, It has lots of rocks, It makes me want to quiver, But it has lots of locks.

    I love my river, I love to lay beside it, Even though it makes me quiver, There is also a sand pit.

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