Riley Stemp is a primary school teacher. This is her Teacher Effect story.
I heard Robert Macfarlane talking on the radio about words of nature and how they are being lost by children and it inspired me to want to incorporate something like that into my lesson, getting them to use more exciting language than they would usually and encouraging them to think more broadly about nature.
In the book there were some really wonderful poems that use beautiful and sophisticated language but that are still quite accessible to children. One poem stood out to me in particular, called ‘Fern’. Fern was an acrostic poem and used alliteration, which gave me a tight structure that allowed me to build a very specific lesson plan for what I wanted to achieve.
The school I work at has quite a large outdoor area, so we went outside and the children picked something to write about. They chose acorns, daffodils, blossom and gallium – which we had to look up and found out it was sticky weed. Once all these objects had been picked, we went back to the classroom and drafted some poems. I took the poems home with me and I was absolutely blown away by the quality of them.
I sent the poems off to Robert Macfarlane and he wrote back to me with a beautiful card saying “To all the children of year 5, what magic you’ve made with your words last spring. All of you conjuring into being those beautiful poems I have been so lucky to read.”
The children were very excited to receive a card from a real poet. When I received the card, I was moved because it just showed me that he had really read the poems so carefully and had clearly been charmed by them.
It put everything into perspective, that all the hard work you do as a teacher pays off. And that something you were inspired by has inspired children to produce some beautiful writing as well.