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It’s Bonfire Night

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By Kevin McCann — Full-time Writer and Poet

This poster and the accompanying activity sheet text provide a topical pair of poems for Bonfire Night. Children can compare the way poet Kevin McCann creates a strong image in ‘It’s Bonfire Night’ with the quite different techniques used by Wes Magee in his shape poem, ‘Giant Rocket’.


Shared teaching and learning

Before reading

  • Share experiences of Bonfire Night celebrations. What did the children hear, see or smell? Can they name and describe any individual fireworks? Make a list of these together.
  • Compare the way the two poems are set out. Discuss shape poems that the children have read before. How did the poets create the shapes?

Reading and responding

  • Read through both poems. Why does Kevin McCann use short lines for ‘It’s Bonfire Night’? (They give the poem pace, which reflects the speed of the fireworks. Short lines usually create a feeling of excitement.)
  • Both poets use the same verb for the movement of the rockets. What is it? Why have the poets chosen it?
  • Both poets use alliteration. Find the alliterative phrases and discuss their effectiveness.
  • How does the cat feel in ‘It’s Bonfire Night’? How does the poet feel at the end of the poem? How do we know?
  • Find the three similes in ‘It’s Bonfire Night’. What effect do these have on the poem? Refer to the list of fireworks you made earlier and challenge the children to invent imaginative similes, comparing the sounds, shapes and movement of the firework to something else.
  • Discuss the meanings of the words ember and kindling. List other fire words, such as smoulder, ashes, char, singe, scorch, blaze. Use thesauruses to build up a word collection that can be used to describe fire and what it does. Sort these into verbs, adjectives and nouns.
  • Discuss the phrase ‘throne of flames’. Why did the poet choose a throne instead of just a chair? Explain that this is a metaphor. Can they find a metaphor in ‘Giant Rocket’? (shower of stars).
  • Look at the word spirals in ‘Giant Rocket’. Is the poet using it as a noun, verb or adjective? Point out that it can be used as all three. Can they think of examples? Why did the poet choose it?
  • Look for rhyming words in both poems. Place a piece of acetate over the poster or, using IWB tools on the downloadable version, circle the rhyming words in ‘It’s Bonfire Night’ and discuss their effect.

More resources

In the Museum of Past Centuries Kevin McCann, illustrated by Paul Cheshire (Literacy Time PLUS Ages 7 to 9, July 09, No 66). Striking poster by the same poet and illustrator team. Reading a Bonfire, Top to Bottom Geoffrey Summerfield (Literacy Time PLUS Ages 7 to 9, November 08, No 62). Another poetry poster for 5th November. Madtail, Miniwhale and Other Shape Poems edited by Wes Magee (Puffin 978 01403 40310).

Group and independent activities

  • In pairs, create alliterative sentences or phrases, such as ‘Sparklers sizzle and spray spangles silently.’
  • Discuss ways of keeping pets safe and reassuring them during Bonfire Night celebrations. Use these ideas to design posters for pet owners. (You may wish to review the main features of instructional texts first).
  • Why do we celebrate Bonfire Night? Look at the poem:

'Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot...'

Explain that, in 1605, people were enormously relieved when the plot was discovered and the king was saved from being blown up. Design invitations to the first Bonfire Night celebration. Produce these on the computer, adding images of James I and the Houses of Parliament as they would have looked.

  • Use your resource bank of fire words to create shape poems about a bonfire. Discuss ways of arranging the lines, perhaps as flames, in order to achieve the shape of the fire.


  • Which poem did the children prefer? Ask them to explain their choice. Which are their favourite lines and why?
  • How would you perform these poems? Working in small groups, ask the children to choose one and prepare it for performance. If they choose ‘Giant Rocket’, how will they convey the shape of the poem to the audience? Watch the performances and invite comments, in the manner of a TV talent show.



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