Pie Corbett: The Neverbelieve Flora Workshop

‘The Land of Neverbelieve’ by Norman Messenger is an invitation to create fantastical islands. I used the book as part of a series of online workshops with TeachingLive to create new islands, creatures and plants.

To warm up, we played an oral game in pairs, with a limit of 4 minutes. The children created new flowers from imagined ingredients. We listed different parts of flowers: roots, stem, flower, fruit, leaf, pollen, petals, etc. I provided a simple frame to help generate ideas:

Instructions for making a flower

To make the roots, I would use –

the straggly hair of wild woman,

thick electricity cables

and rats’ tails.

To make the trunk, I would use….

To make the petals, I would use… etc.

Next, I asked the children to name their flower. I showed a list of real flower names many of which are ‘compounds’: snapdragon, milkweed, bluebell, goldenrod, etc. I suggested they create something similar: sunlily, moonrose, streetiris, etc.

Next, they described the different parts of their flower using similes. We wrote together a few ideas before they created their own:

The sunlily’s petals are like paper-thin flags, as soft as Parisian silk and blue as a summer sky.

The rainrose’s roots are like the dark threads from ancient tapestry, as tough as a leather handbag and dark as a mole’s tunnel.

In the next ten minutes, the children wrote using personification to bring their plant alive. I modelled sentences with the class; we banked a list of useful verbs: stand, lean, stoop, whisper, scratch, grasp, etc.

The pincushion flower stands like a soldier with its sharp spikes waiting to scratch.

The goldenlupin stoops when the snow smothers its branches, bowing its skeletal head like an old man at prayer.

Finally, I shared a model poem and asked them to write about their own plants, drawing on a similar structure (open with the name of your plant – then describe parts of the plant, using imagery and personification). My poem is followed by two examples from St Anthony’s Primary School.

Moonflowers blossom

like silver umbrellas,

stretching out green vines

that grasp onto nearby trees.

Their red roots,

like wire, dig deep

into soft soil

that crumbles

easily as fruit cake.

The green stem juts up,

like a flexible straw,

as green as cat’s eyes.

Leaves hang

like soft fingernails.

Pastel pale flowers,

edged with red, yawn

to reveal the secret stash

of pollen gold.

Pie Corbett

Flameblossom trees bend and dance in the breeze,
Like flexible gymnasts.
Their branches lean and creak with grace,
Grabbing at the shining sun.
The trunks are as rough as tractor tires,
Covered in brown, sticky mud.
With bark as shiny as solid gold,
Cracking at every problem it overcomes.
The roots are like stretchy elastic,
Pulling the tree down with all its might.
Twigs as skinny as a clock’s hand,
Snapping at every emotion.
Leaves as smooth as plush velvet,
That fall down every autumn that arrives.

By Poppy

Wintertrees shed beads of frosty sweat,

They skate their branches through the snow,

pushing like a sledge,

speeding down paths of gravel.

Their roots like the icy carcass of a mushroom,

clinging to the ground.

The trunk is sharp like an icicle’s speech, 

staying in the mind forever.

Bark, rough as gnarled hands, withered in the sun.

Leaves, calm as silk, tangerine, tiger and marmalade,

crimson, currant and candy, corn, canary and butter,

smothered in chiffon snow.

Twigs, like fingers, clawing at the sky.

The land, where it sits, is pearl-shaded snow,

with spikes of sapphire icicles dotting here and there.

Memories clinging, in the branches and leaves so kind.

The secret to life, 

hollowed out inside.

Waiting for someone, 

to wonder by…

By Maya

Pie Corbett

Pie Corbett is a teacher-poet. He runs online training for teachers and every Monday works with about 6,000 children on @TeachingLive, running writing sessions of poetry, creative nonfiction and story.