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KS2 poetry – Use classic stories and word lists to help pupils write free verse

These KS2 activities, inspired by the stories of King Cnut and King Midas, will garner real enthusiasm from pupils

Karen Hart
by Karen Hart
Pie Corbett Ultimate KS2 Fiction Collection
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I previously found many of my attempts at using poetry were met with apathy, but by using a whole-class, collaborative approach, offering a basic framework and kicking things off with a list of interesting words that children can drop into their poetry, pupils found the daunting task of summoning up something poetic much easier to navigate.  

1. Classic children’s stories

Begin the activity by asking children if they are familiar with the stories of King Cnut and King Midas, before recapping the stories of how Cnut believed himself so powerful, he could turn back the tide, and how Midas was so greedy he wished for all he touched to turn to gold – and how things didn’t turn out the way either had hoped. 

2. Drama and movement

Use a movement and drama session to improvise mimed scenes starting with King Cnut commanding the waves to turn back, concentrating on facial expressions and body language.

You can make some really simple card crowns in preparation for this which helps get everyone in character.

Go on to improvise the scene of King Midas touching objects and turning them into gold – being at first grateful, then frustrated with his magic power. 

3. Modernise the stories

Using the stories as your starting point, talk as a class about how they could be brought up to date.

Suggestions (supplied by my class!) could include: a rich businessman believing he could control the weather, but ending up getting soaking wet with a bad cold; and a chef turning all his food into gold, eventually losing his job.

Now create a list of expressive and descriptive words connected to each of the stories. Some more suggestions: controlling, fierce, foolish, twinkly, shimmering and greedy

4. Beginning, middle and end

Next, you can create class stories based on those of King Cnut and King Midas, using the framework of: beginning – the characters, their dream/aim/plan; middle – the actions they took to make their dream work; and end – the result of their actions.

Invite everyone to contribute, using your word list as inspiration. You can write the stories on the board, then later, type them up to turn into a class storybook, while children can supply the illustrations. 

5. Free verse poems

A child’s poem, based on King Midas

Finally, listen to Michael Rosen’s free-verse poem, ‘The Seagulls’ before using your word list to inspire your own free-verse poems.

Ask children to write their poem using a theme from one of the class stories. Let pupils know that although their poems don’t need to rhyme, they should include some imaginative and descriptive vocabulary.

The end results will surely be lovely – they make a great wall display, too. 

Karen Hart is an independent drama teacher, author and freelance writer. Follow Karen on Twitter @KarenStevie23. Browse more ideas and resources for teaching KS2 poems.

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