Joanna Mitchell, teacher at Eglinton Primary School, writes about the Seamus Heaney Award and the Poetry in Motion Schools project

When we were selected to participate in the Poetry in Motion Schools Project, my class of Year 4 pupils was chosen.

I met our poet facilitator, Denise Blake, at the launch in Omagh, where I learned about the Seamus Heaney Award, but thought that we wouldn’t have much chance of winning!  As this is a funded project, there was inevitably a fair amount of paperwork to be done, but it was all manageable, and Shelley (Tracey) was quick to answer email queries.

Denise led four workshops with the class in October 2018.  She immediately won their attention by producing popcorn,  and asking them to talk about what it reminded them of.  I was concerned that some of the children wouldn’t participate, but from week one, every single child was enthused by the topics, and they all looked forward to Denise’s visits.

The children particularly enjoyed reading out their work to the class at the end of each workshop, and they were very proud of their work.  Denise and I were both very keen that every child’s voice and contribution should be heard and valued, and this boosted so much confidence in the pupils. They are an imaginative bunch of children, and they came up with some excellent language and ideas. We filled two display boards with our poems, and very much enjoyed recording our work with the Sound Engineer.

The class enjoyed the trip to Belfast for the Showcase in the Ulster Hall, and we were especially happy to have Denise Blake with us.  The children were attentive when other schools were performing, and they gave their all when their own turn came.

At the end, when our name was called out as the award winning school, there were huge cheers of delight from the children.  There was almost a sense of disbelief too, but our journey back to Eglinton was a triumphant one!  All the children treasure the anthology, Colours of Light, and our parents have been so excited too.

Some of the pupils have even been to the Radio Foyle studio to read out their poems on the Mark Patterson Show.  I would highly recommend this project to other schools; it has been one of the major highlights of my 33 years in teaching.

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