Real Life Found Poetry

I have written several times about Found Poetry. It is a talk for writing activity that allows children to magpie words and phrases from great writers and roll the language over their tongues so that its’ patterns become internalised. It also allows children to combine words in different ways.  This is a high value activity.

Whilst I often talk about this in relation to fiction, people sometimes find it harder to believe when I tell them that it also works with non-fiction.  So here are 3 found poems created by one school’s staff using the wikipedia page about plastic carrier bags.

Mr McBride’s Dixie bag

Mr McBride’s Dixie Bag

Pioneer in plastic processing, patent applications

Consuming oil resources with a blend of plant-derived thermoplastics

A packaging war errupted.

The Bagman!

Here’s one being read.

The Bagman

Pioneer in plastic polyethylene processing

His idea produced

Thermoplastic, petrochemical commericalisation,

Composite construction with handles!

Common for carrying as we know it today.


A hazard to animal life

Excess usage, excess usage, excess usage

Bin bags, trash bags, Dixie bags

Trash collection

Signifiant attention


The skills involved in creating this poetry were numerous: reading and rereading, scanning, identifying words and phrases that you liked the sound of, listening to hear if combinations sound right, applying poetic devices, organising and sequencing, rolling the language over your tongue, collaborating, sharing ideas.  The list is long.

Have you tried found poetry?

Exploring Explanatory Texts

This can sometimes be the genre that is the most difficult for us to find examples of to use with children.  That tells us something.  It tells us that in ‘real life’ you don’t find explanations on their own.  They are ususally part of another text such as a report and therefore make a hybrid text.

I know that many teachers write their own explanatory texts to use with children.  Is it right that we simplify and use texts that wouldn’t appear in real life?

So here is a small list of explanatory texts that I think are worth using.

dudleyMy all time favourite is Until I Met Dudley by Roger McGough and  Chris Riddell.  The book explains how every day things work; a double page spread about how it might work  followed by a double page spread of Dudley explaining how it really works.  This makes a wonderful model for children to create a booklet about an object with an imaginary and a real explanation.

The great website How Stuff Works is usually the next place that I go to for an explanation as I can often find things that the children are interested in.  The last things I used were Christmas Lights and Bicycles.  I have to say that the articles do have really good introductions so if that is an aspect that your class find difficult to write, the site is well worth looking at.


How Dogs Really Work by Alan Snow is a very funny book.  I have had children acting out the imaginary explanation of a dog’s digestive system and writing their own for a cat.  This book uses diagrams well to support the writing.  There are others in the series but they are not quite such good explanations.

If I want something for the class to write about I find myself going back time and time again to the patent websites.  How about the invention to see your own ear wax and other strange patents. Other ways to support children in capturing what to write about are to use film clips of machines etc that the children can explain.  The Shirt Machine is often used as are various machines from Wallace and Gromit.  How about the Getting Wallace up Machine or the Tellyscope Machine? (Spot the missing apostrophe in Tellyscope!) To download these from YouTube to use in the classroom try Kickyoutube.

How about taking the marvellous Common Craft videos explaining a whole host of ideas and producing your own?  The animation that they use is very accessible.

The strategies document about progression in explanatory texts is particularly useful, especially the final page which shows what we might aim for in each year group.

Please share what you use.

A drove of bullocks

This has to be one of the best titles for a long time!  A drove of bullocks by PatrickGeorge is the most beautifully designed non-fiction text around collective nouns.

droveI love an implausibility of gnus or a loveliness of ladybirds.  Each double page spread illustrates the collective noun in a very clever, minimalist way with additional text explaining something about the animal.

This would be a great text for everyone to use in a literacy classroom but for those of you grappling with Talk for Writing this text would be superb.  It would allow for a great deal of word play in devising collective nouns and the small amounts of text are a suitable amount for Yr2 or Yr3 pupils to use as a model for writing.  The vocabulary choice is driven by the collective noun, e.g. for a business of ferrets we have active sleuth, snoop, getting down to business, attention span and repetitive rewards.  Very appropriate!

There are many sites that play with collective nouns, here, here, here and here.

It would be great if a class made their own version of this book for people or objects in a classroom.  The design aspect of each page would be very important.

What is your favourite collective noun?  What would a collective noun be for bloggers – a boast of bloggers?  Let me know.