Cheryl Moskowitz: Integrating Poetry Throughout the Curriculum

As a school, we realised that poetry did not have a high prestige within the school curriculum and as a way of promoting and placing more emphasis on it, we asked Cheryl to come in and spend a day with every year group. We wanted the work to link in with the unit they were studying whether that be science, reading, history or geography. Before Cheryl came in, the children had already amassed a certain amount of knowledge, so they were able to apply that to constructing a poem as a class, which contributed towards a whole year group poem. What worked incredibly was that Cheryl liaised with the year groups prior to ensure she knew what knowledge the children had and was able to do her own research. She could then guide the writing and put her own spin on the direction. The children were enthused and inspired and every child was able to access the work. By the end of the day, the children had been able to construct and perform a high-class poem.  

David Combe – Assistant Headteacher, George Spicer Primary School

For the past year and a half, I have been working with George Spicer Primary School in Enfield, North London as their official ‘Resident Poet’ working individually with each of the four classes in every year group across the school from Reception through Year 6 on special topic areas within their curriculum.

So far I have explored hibernation with Year 1 on their ‘Winter is Coming’ topic, discovered extinct and endangered animals with Year 2, learned about the lives of native people on the Great Plains of North America and events leading up to the Battle of Little Bighorn through the ‘First Nations’ topic with Year 3. Twice now, this year and last, I have worked with year 5 pupils to create an epic poem outlining the infamous deeds and long-lasting legacies of the warrior-ruler and founder of the Mongolian empire, Genghis Khan. And with Year 6, learning about the Battle of Stalingrad as part of their topic on World War II, we wrote powerful poetry on war and conflict.

Later this Spring I will be delving into ‘Ancient Greece’ with Year 4 and in the summer term I look forward to working with the Reception classes on their special topic.

Being ‘Resident Poet’ in a primary school can take on many forms. Poetry does not need to be taught, but rather can happen out of a desire to consolidate what is already known and a need to learn and understand more. School is an ideal environment for poetry to take place. Working together with pupils and teachers, poetry can be a collaborative act, a showing and telling fuelled by curiosity, conversation, and the sharing of ideas. The joy of integrating poetry throughout the curriculum is that everyone benefits.

The children started by looking at words associated with conflict and we used those to create cinquains and rhyming couplets, thinking about how to make meaning and evoke emotions in the reader. The day was so engaging and the children were inspired – they could not wait to showcase their poems.’ Mrs A. Wellbrook (Year 6)

We were looking at extinct animals in our Science unit, specifically ‘The last Thylacine’. Cheryl did extensive research and each class had an opportunity to write a poem about its endangered cousins which they shared in an assembly at the end of the day. All were enthused and engaged by poetry and really felt a sense of achievement in the work they had produced. Mr J. Roberts (Year 2)

We invited Cheryl to come in to create some poetry on our unit on Genghis Khan. It was a collaborative process so we worked closely before the day to ensure everyone was on the same page. The children were so inspired and this was an amazing way for them to demonstrate their knowledge and create a really powerful piece of poetry. Ms A. Dawson (Yr 5)

With thanks to all at George Spicer Primary School @GeorgeSpicerSch

Cheryl Moskowitz is a poet with over 30 years’ experience working as a writer in schools. From 2014-2017 she pioneered a ground-breaking Poetry Residency working across the curriculum with pupils, staff and the wider multi-lingual community at Highfield Primary School in Enfield. Her poems for children appear in numerous anthologies including the award-winning Poems from a Green & Blue Planet (ed Sabrina Mahfouz, Hodder Children’s Books 2019) and A World Full of Poems (DK Children’s Books, 2020). Her collection Can it Be About Me? (Circle Time Press 2019)is now in its third reprint and in 2020 she wrote The Corona Collection – A Conversation a unique poetry collection reflecting children’s voices and perspectives on the pandemic.