BerkswichCE Primary School

Achieve, Believe and Care

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Further Enrichment Experiences


Each year, we proudly enter the Poetry by Heart competition. There are many benefits to performing poetry:



Pupils who succeed in learning a poem by heart, however short, feel an incredible sense of achievement, especially if they also go on to perform it for others. We think it’s to do with a tangible sense of mastery: the child either gets to the end of their poem or they don’t, and they can measure for themselves how well they’ve done it. 



In Poetry By Heart children choosing to learn a poem with others usually think they’re taking the easier option. In fact, speaking a poem with others demands cooperation, trust and coordination – and to do it well involves breathing together, being in the moment together and becoming part of something beyond yourself.



Children consistently tell us that learning a poem is fun. That can mean many things but includes the freedom to choose a poem for themselves, the difficulty of the challenge, the risk and the dare of performing their poem, and the immediate gratification of the respect of their friends and relatives when they take that risk.



We know that certain kinds of digital interaction encourage scattered modes of thinking. Learning a poem by heart requires the complete opposite in a sustained focus on just one thing; pupils tell us it helps with their concentration and we’re increasingly curious about the potential wellbeing benefits of stiller, calmer minds.



No-one can learn a poem by heart for you. You have to create your own relationship with the poem, discover what memory tactics work best for you, and keep going when it seems too difficult. 



Teachers also tell us about children’s gains in reading fluency, vocabulary enrichment and the musicality of English. 



Adults are regularly surprised by the facility children seem to have for learning by heart with varied reasons proposed such as less fear, the pliability of young brains, and more time to devote to it. There’s a general consensus that once you’ve learned one thing it’s easier to learn more things, a poem being a very good place to begin.



Learning a poem is not the same as performing it but if one leads to the other, distinctive gains to oracy seem to be made. Performing a poem requires skills that can be difficult to develop otherwise including how to manage pace and timing to powerful effect; how to hold a silence; eye contact, body language and gesture. 



When you learn a poem by heart, it becomes part of you; any time, anywhere, you can breathe it into being again. If the poems we offer for learning are diverse and inclusive this ownership offers a powerful form of participation in cultural life.



Poetry is often taught through the rather mystifying lens of Latinate terminology. Fun for some but many children need more experience of poems to make sense of it. Learning a poem by heart seems to develop that experience in an accessible and embodied way through children feeling rhythm on their pulses, noticing how rhymes knit a pattern and hearing the music of sequences of words.



This year, Mrs Aitken has been incredibly proud of the Key Stage Two children for their entries to the annual Poetry by Heart competition. ALL entries from Berkswich won a commended, highly commended or best in county award and for this, they should feel extremely proud. There were 37,000 entries, so to win this, is a huge achievement. A special mention to Harry and some other Year Six children, who helped to direct the classes and their performances. 


Just some of the lovely feedback from the judges:

Year Three: "A lovely choral performance in which the children joyfully capture the energy of Spring." - Highly Commended Award

Year Four: "A well-coordinated team performance." - Commended Award

Year Five: "A rhythmic and bright performance - every student shines." - Commended Award

Joel (Y6): "When you speak the questions in the poem, you convey their power well. You brought drama to the poem and we loved the calmly delivered ending, which let the idea that time flies really resonate with the audience." - Best in county award

Elisha (Y6): "We enjoyed your dramatic performance, and the variety of delivery you brought to the lines. You have learned the poems well and have a good understanding of them."

Nieve (Y6): "Your understanding of this poem came across well and we enjoyed your performance of this meaningful poem. A confident and clear performance - well done, Nieve!"

Ollie (Y6): "We enjoyed your dramatic performance, and the variety of delivery you brought to the lines. The performance was strong with a thoughtful tone."

Belle (Y6): "We felt that you were really enjoying reciting this poem, and so that made us enjoy it along with you. Your use of actions show your understanding of the poem."


Find more information about the competition on the link below: