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Sample Workshops for schools and adult writers' groups.

Workshop for adult writers' groups

Workshop For Children: Descriptive Words and Phrases


Age Group: Pupils studying for their standard grades.

The specific goals of the session would be as follows :

  • This workshop would aim to get the pupils thinking about how to create description in poetry, and how to apply it to their work. To do this, it would get the students to use their descriptive vocabulary first in a controlled Cloze exercise, then in a more loosely defined walkthrough to produce a finished poem.
  • The session would explore when to use simile and metaphor, when to use adjectives, and when to just use nouns, to make the description most effective.
  • The workshop would aim to show how to use adjectives, metaphors and similes to make a description original not clichéd, but not so unlikely as to draw attention to itself at the expense of the rest of the poem and its meaning.
  • Each pupil would end the session with a poem that they have written, incorporating what they have learnt during the workshop.
  • By the end of the workshop the pupils would have a better understanding of how a poet crafts their verse.

Feedback from pupils at Blairgowrie High School where I last run this session...
"We all enjoyed the workshop and if we had the chance would do it again."
"It really helped us think and use descriptive words."
"It was great fun."

As part of the working on descriptive vocabulary section of the workshop, I would use the following exercise.

 

Sample Exercise


This exercise uses the Cloze technique to present pupils with a poem with the adjectives and metaphors/similes removed. Students would work in pairs to fill in blanks with their own words. Then pupils would be given the opportunity to read out their results.

This exercise provides a structured format for creative use of vocabulary whilst maintaining meaning and working to a cohesive theme. Working in pairs would encourage the pupils to discuss their choices before making a decision.

The students’ answers would be compared to the original, and would be used to stimulate a discussion as to which words were most effective at evoking a mood that fitted the tone of the poem.

 

The poem and instructions below is an example I have used in workshops.

 
Fill in the blanks. Use adjectives for the short gaps, and metaphors or similes for the long gaps. There are no right or wrong answers.

 

Ugly Town by Rapunzel Wizard

This is a town that knows its own ugliness.

It couldn’t care less. A monument of grey

Sat in the valley like a ______________________ ,

Where a _________ sky meets a _________ land.

 

In a _________ alley, a man dies slowly,

Killed by the rain that falls like ______________________ ,

And hardens the faces of _________ women

Who want to leave but can’t find their way out.

 

This town has _________ estates of _________ houses

Full of damp, despair, and _________ gangs,

Who stand on corners like ______________________

While the twilight tramples discarded kebabs.

 

The superstores are ______________________

Wished for, then right away regretted.

They edge the place, guarding the _________ exits.

This is a town that knows its own ugliness.

 

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Workshop For Adults: Exciting Reciting

Duration: 1 hour.

Aimed at adults, normally members of writers’ groups with the objective to practice and improve reciting skills.

Each member would bring a poem that they would be willing to recite.

 

I would start with an icebreaker performance exercise. Each member of the group would recite the same one line of poetry in differing tones of voice. This aims to get the group to relax, and show how reciting can make the same words have a different effect.

 
To show each of the following reciting techniques I would read a poem that demonstrates each of them, discuss the technique with the group, and let the writers work on its application to their verse.

Breathing and projecting

Voice and character of the poem

Emphasis and change of pace

Gestures and eye contact with audience

 
Using these skills, I would get the poets to read their poem through to themselves. Then they would split into pairs and take it in turns to recite poem to the other person and get their feedback.

 
Next I would demonstrate the following on stage techniques and options, discuss each of them with the group, and work on which ones to apply to their poem.

How to use microphones

How to grab an audience’s attention

Use of physical appearance

How to perform without over acting

Working with stage lighting

Sounding sincere

Reading off the page or from memory

 
After another Icebreaker exercise, I would ask if anyone wanted to perform their poem in front of others. For each person who does I would give feedback on their performing skills.

 
If there were time (normally dependent on the size of the group), I would take further questions on performance skills.

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