Journeys: PRIMARY Student Teachers' attitudes to poetry and poetry teaching

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Poetry Matters ESRC Seminar Series Greenwich, May 2011 Fiona Collins and Alison Kelly. Journeys: PRIMARY Student Teachers' attitudes to poetry and poetry teaching. Our Journey. 2006-2011 Poetry project (ongoing): Poem a Day 2008-2009 Pilot of evaluation of project (PGCE primary) - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • Poetry Matters ESRC Seminar SeriesGreenwich, May 2011

    Fiona Collins and Alison Kelly

  • Our Journey2006-2011 Poetry project (ongoing): Poem a Day2008-2009 Pilot of evaluation of project (PGCE primary)2010 Poetry Society collaboration 2010 2011 Baseline study with year BA Primary undergraduate students2011- 2012 Poetry Society Project

  • Developments in the teaching of poetry in English primary schools1975Bullock Report

    1989National Curriculum

    1997National Literacy Strategy

    2006Primary National Strategy

  • Andrew MotionAt the moment, our teacher training programmes are producing people who are simply not equipped to teach it [poetry]. Worse than that, Id say we are producing a lot of teacherswho remember being anxious around the reading and writing of poetry when they werechildren themselves, and who are therefore very likely to end up communicating that anxiety, rather than anything else.

    North of England Education Conference, Jan 2010

  • RESEARCH LANDSCAPESecondary teachers Benton, 1984, 1999Secondary student teachersDymoke, 2007Primary teachersCremin et al (2008/9) Teachers as Readers, Phases 1 and 2Ofsted, Poetry in Schools: A Survey of Practice 2006/7Medwell, (1998) Effective Teachers of LiteracyPrimary student teachers: Ray, 1999

  • Poem a Day 2006 -

    Aims of the Project

    To deepen and extend students subject knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge

    To foster enjoyment of and a positive attitude towards poetry and poetry teaching

    To help students to tune into poetic language

  • Baseline research

    QUESTIONSWhat knowledge about poetry and poetry teaching do student teachers bring?

    What is the impact of university based modules and School Experience on student knowledge of poetry and poetry teaching at the end of their first year of training?

    How do class teachers conceive their role in supporting students teaching of poetry?

  • MethodologyBA Primary Education Year 1 students

    Questionnaire 1 (Autumn 2010 , n: 49)Questionnaire 2 (Spring 2011, n:20)Case studies: 4 students4 teachers

  • Student Journeys: Questionnaire 1

    Overall positive experience Six students reported on consistently positive experience of poetry during their childhood (i.e. from home to primary school to secondary school). Of the six, four are now English subject specialists or had taken A level English Literature.

  • No. 18SSHome: I remember having Zephaniah books at home. I was fond of Agard and Rosen poems which I would borrow from school and take home to read.Primary school: We would study poems as part of English. Poetry books were always available to read and borrow. I remember The Poison Tree which I immediately loved and it is still my favourite poem. Some teachers were enthusiastic about poetry and it was something we were encouraged to read and read aloud.Secondary school: We had to study lots of poems over the years..make up our own poetry anthology...good way to explore poetry...heavily encouraged to read poetry. Favourite poets were Blake and Duffy.

  • The role of primary teachers31% of the responses were positive about primary teachers :My Year 1 teacher often read poetry My Year 5 teacher was particularly encouragingMy teachers were enthusiastic about poetryThe majority of responses (69%) either didnt remember or gave lukewarm responses:My teacher would read a poem now and then and that was it.There were no overtly negative responses about primary teachers.

  • The role of secondary teachersPositive responses (16%)My English teacher for years 7-11 was a guiding light in my world.

    I really enjoyed GCSE English literature where I studied Heaney and Clarke. My teacher was very inspiring and this experience led me to take A level English literature. Enjoyed reading and dissecting poetry, finding the hidden meaning ...Had a great teacher at GCSE who made it more like looking in on someones mind and reading their thoughts.

  • Negative responses (14%)

    Unfortunately my memories of secondary school English were not very fond ones.

    I can only remember being taught poetry for GCSE as none of my English teachers were particularly passionate about poetry.

    Wilfred Owen was very enjoyable but my teacher was horrendous.

    My teacher deterred me from poetry.

    I didnt enjoy it, teachers made it boring.

  • Case studiesKatie Reception

    Claire Year 1

    Helen Year 4

    Ted Year 5

  • KatieAt first I was a bit hesitant but now I have actually taught them myself I feel so much more confident and I know how much the children enjoy them, theyll happily participate once theyve understood the poem and if you introduce an interactive element theyll enjoy it so much more. It builds on their confidence. Their social skills were changed while I was there. I saw shy children suddenly bloom with confidence by the end, by just asking them to participate in poetry.

  • Claire I do love poetry but I dont read enough of it.MemoriesPlease Mrs Butler - I can remember my teacher reading it and I particularly remember those collection of poems and I read one to my best friend who I have been friends with since I was four and we remember different parts of it. For me is evokes so many memories of my childhood growing up and the particular poems I was read by my teacher and my mum.

  • HelenI have no confidence in what I would call the more traditional, heavy type poetry I actively avoided poems in the book (100 best poems) that were a bit darker, a bit more involvedYouve given me the doorway in which to pick a poem that you can relate to and hopefully that will give you the basis for delving into what Id call the classics to start off at the lighter end has built my confidence

  • TedClass teacher: not an avid fan; I enjoy teaching it if I understand it: haikus have got rules

    Ted: My teacher wasnt into poetry as a person shes quite logical, very scientific, so if she feels she doesnt understand it, that might dissuade her from using it.

  • Questionnaire 2 (Interim findings) Of the 20 completed, 6 students observed teaching. 14 did not. Range of comments about their own poetry teaching:confident, I enjoy it, much more confident as I was able to teach four lessons, much more enthusiastic. comfortable enough but I would like to do a lot more now, fairly confident when teaching simple rhymeanxious, slightly unconfident.

  • IssuesNational priorities : resistance?

    How do we define subject knowledge?


    Significance of learning journeys

    Communities of practice: implications for student teacher learning

    Fragility around evolving professional identity

  • 2011 -2012Poetry Society Project

    Working with the poet, Roger StevensWorkshopsStudent anthologies and journalsINSET with teachers

  • BibliographyBenton, P. (1984) Teaching Poetry: the Rhetoric and the Reality, Oxford Review of Education, 10, no.3, 319-327Benton, P. (1999) Unweaving the Rainbow, Oxford Review of Education, 25, no. 4 , 520-531Cremin, T., M. Mottram, E. Bearne & P. Goodwin (2008) Exploring teachersknowledge of childrens literature, Cambridge Journal of Education, 38, no.4, 449-464Day, C., A. Kington, G. Stobart & P. Sammons (2006) The personal and professional selves of teachers: stable and unstable identities, British Educational Research Journal, 32, no.4, 601-616Erstad, O., O. Gijje, J. Sefton-Green & K. Vasbo (2009) Exploring Learning Lives: community, identity, literacy and meaning, Literacy, 43, no.2: 100-6Lave, J. & E. Wenger (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge: Cambridge University PressMedwell, J., D. Wray, I. Poulson & R. Fox (2002) Effective Teachers of Literacy: Summary of Findings, London: TTAOfsted (2007) Poetry in Schools: A Survey or Practice 2006/7 , London: OfstedRay, R. (1999) The diversity of poetry: how trainee teachers perceptions affect their attitude to poetry teaching, The Curriculum Journal, 10, no.3: 403-18



    Bullock, 1975: First official report into English. Poetry teaching patchy / uneven national picture with poetry receiving a wide range of treatment and some children rarely encountering poetry at all9.25: imp. teacher knowledge and good anthologies but these should not be a substitute for the extensive reading of poetry by the teacher himself

    NC: poetry included under range requirements (good quality modern and classic)Knowledge, skills and understanding: requirement to consider poetic forms and their effects

    NLS took up NC form requirement with a vengeance - emphasis on form at expense of other characteristics of poetry. Teaching became form driven with anthologies such as The Works dominating classroom collections. These offered haikus, tenkas etc as prescribed by NLS. Particular emphasis in Year 4 for huge range (including thin!)

    PNS more enlightened, literature based planning. Progression in Poetry. But how far have sentiments of this been recognised in schools?*Very significant backdrop to our work he is talking about the journeys that have led them to teaching in which poetry hasnt always featured positively.

    We take issue with Motions sweeping assertion about teacher training

    However, in terms of our research, our interest here is on the affective dimension teachers are anxious. This has been endorsed by our own research with PGs and undergrads

    Also link with Bentons research (84): cites Bullock who criticises lack of resources but Bentons point is that its not resources that matter but personal experience of poetry and sympathy towards it. Link too with Antonys points (Jan Exeter) that theres a lot of work about what teachers do but not so much about what they think.

    *SECONDARYBenton 84: teachers perceive poetry as unpopular but important also teachers limitations in terms of sub knowl and tchng skillBenton 99: titled Unweaving the rainbow (Antony referred to this in his Exeter presentation); concerns with getting the right answer trainspotting fanatics. Did find teachers more confident, worries about NC , assessmentDymoke tension bet tentacles of assessment and creative approaches. Particular status of student teachers dev ped knowledge at uni have to put into practice in school (where school culture dominates so uni approaches can get overlooked).

    PRIMARYCremin: TARS: Phases 1 & 2: teachers particularly challenged by subject knowledge about poems / poets. Has brought this to the fore. Ofsted 06/7 also found many primary school teachers do not know enough about poetry and this was reflected in the limited range of poems studied . Mentions that classic poems and poems from other cultures rarely studied. Medwell teachers knew very little about chs lit, esp poetry much more emphasis on fictionRay prescription NLS meant need for deeper knowledge getting beyond form


    Every session we read a poem to both un/grads and PGCE and we modelled active strategies. The poems a range poets, old and new.

    All Year 1 students buy an anthology. Directed task for school placement (Yr1) reading and working with a poem (specifically not writing). Our rationale / aims were framed by the research landscape already outlined and educational context, sharpened particularly by Ofsted (although we havent noticed this being followed up a significant line of enquiry in Ofsted inspections at HE level!)

    RATIONALE FOR AIMS (1) To be a good teacher of English, sound subject knowledge is needed of poems, poets and poetry (cf Medwell, Cremin)

    (2) If students bring negative views about poetry to their training this could have an impact on their ability to teach effectively (cf Motion)

    (3) Tuning into poetic lang long established that its imp. to read aloud to children in order to tune (cf Barrs / Collins) into written lang. However, again, were not convinced that this happens regularly with poetry. We want our students to hear for themselves, tune into the language rather than just looking at it because of its figurative lang (which is often labelled rather than analysed / enjoyed). A major focus is lifting the words off the page hoping the students will carry the language away with them.

    We did a small pilot evaluation of the project (08-9)


    We have broadened the scope of our investigation to include the learning journeys of the student teachers and this is building on our findings from the pilot and the research base.

    The second question is in anticipation of work with Poetry Society, 2011 2012 and how we work with them in uni.

    We have realised that we cannot ignore the role of the partnership.


    The focus for this paper is on the learning journeys these arose from three questions: Childhood memories of poetry at home]Memories of poetry at primary schoolMemories of poetry at secondary school**Here we see a most positive journey of enjoyment and knowledge:

    from her home environment she is introduced to different poets and note synergy between home and schooland a primary school culture which encouraged poetry through lending poetry books. A named poem form her primary school days and strong ethos comes through. The enthusiasm of the teachers is mentioned. Importance of reading aloud. In the secondary school once again she was introduced to lots of poetry and making a collection for herself develops a liking and choice which she shows in citing Blake and Duffy.

    There is a real sense of developing a repertoire here - at each point she recalls specific poems, collections. *As we explored the data we realised the significance of the teachers in relation to whether the student had a positive or negative view of poetry this chimes with Bullock and research cited earlier and as a result this became a line of enquiry for us as we narrowed the focus down from learning journeys to specific references to teachersAs you can see a third of our respondents were positive about their primary teachers, while the two thirds couldnt remember or rather lukewarm and interestingly none were overtly negative.**However, there were some emphatically negative responses

    Even though a lot of students couldnt remember primary school experiences at all, nevertheless there was still a higher percentage of positive memories than for secondary. This chimes with our pilot and Ray where the secondary experience of the anthology was reported on negatively.

    However, this is not a blame the secondary school moment: it would seem that for some pupils, this is where the journey is particularly susceptible to derailment! But had the primary responses been stronger then these pupils might have been bringing more robust attitudes to sec school.

    *The journeys are what our students bring with them their baggage what were interested in is what happens next whats the impact of our teaching what happens when they go into school?

    This links back about identity shifting locus of power culture of the school and Wengers argument about communities of practice. And the interface between uni and school.

    Remember that these are first year undergrad students so this is their first sustained experience in school. Also as said earlier they have all had to buy an anthology and read / share poetry with children...