In Mr Magoo’s Amazing Zoo
In Mr Magoo’s Amazing Zoo
An animal poem workshop.
Most children love animal poems and so this activity is ideal for lower juniors. It’s also very adaptable and I’ve used it very successfully from Year 2s to gifted and talented year 6s. It’s also very easy and needs no advance preparation.
You’ll need a white board, flip chart or similar for the teacher.
A sheet of paper or “rough” or “1st draft” notebooks or exercise books.
Something to write with.
- On the board write the following.
- In Magoo’s Amazing Zoo you will find
- Now, beneath this, draw a line down the middle of the board.
- Ask the class to suggest an animal that might be found in a zoo. Write the suggestion down in the right hand column.
- Ask for five more suggestions. Ask for some variety – rather than, say, six different kinds of big cat.
- Now ask the class for an adjective to go with each animal. Write down the first adjectives the class give – rather than prompting them for interesting ones. You should now have something like this:
Tell the class that they have written a poem. (How easy was that?)
In Mr Magoo’s amazing zoo you will find
A silly monkey
A lazy lion
A tall giraffe
An eight-legged octopus
A slithery snake
And a ferocious rhinoceros
- Explain that even though they have written a poem – the poem is actually rather boring. And so the next challenge is to think of ways to make it more interesting.
- Discuss ways to make it more interesting with the class. The pupils ideas will, to a degree, depend upon their age, ability and confidence. At first ideas may be slow in coming – and you may have to prompt them. Where appropriate change or improve what you have already written on the board. For example – all giraffes are tall. So can we think of an adjective that tells us something new about the giraffe? How is it feeling? You might also use alliteration. In fact they may have already chosen some words that do alliterate – as in the example. (Lazy lion) Ask them to suggest new adjectives. Now we may have…a mischievous monkey, a lazy lion, a ginormous giraffe (make sure it’s the sound and not the letter), an oily octopus, a slithery snake and a bored bear.
- Other simple suggestions might be:
a) to think of other human-built places where animals might be found. For example Mr Magoo’s Pet Shop, farm, vets, safari park and so on. (The animals they choose would now have to fit the new theme.
b) Change Mr Magoo’s name. In Professor Plums Pet Shop? Maybe use the name of the poem’s author?
c) Add an action to each animal. For example A mischievous monkey swinging from a tyre…
Writing the Poem
Now tell your pupils to have a go at their own. Remind them that this is a first draft. That they shouldn’t worry about neatness and spelling at this stage (that will be important later) but concentrate on their ideas. Make sure these instructions are clear. (especially that they carry out instruction 4 before 5)
1 Think of where the poem will take place. (Zoo, pet shop, farm?)
2 Think of the name. (Mr Magoo? Professor Plum? Betty Fitzgibbon?)
3 Draw a line down the middle of the page
4 Decide and write in the six animals in the RH column.
5 Now add the adjectives and go on from there.
Developing this Idea
As you can see, this activity could be run with Year 2 children quite comfortably. It could also be developed with more confident, able or older children. Here are some more suggestions.
- Have more than six animals
- Have more than one adjective for each animal
- Have the same type of animal. (See my poem examples)
- Use numbers. (Ask the class to remember when they were toddlers and read lots of picture books. Maybe they have younger brothers and sisters who read picture books.)… one mischievous monkey, two lazy lions, three ginormous giraffes…
- Use rhyme. (Quite tricky, but if a pupil would like to try that would be fine. Easier if rhyming an action.
- Use simile or metaphor. (…a rhino like a giant grey boulder)
- Other ideas. One of the delights of this activity is that pupils will often come up with suggestions that you haven’t thought of. I was doing the activity with some very bright year 5s and one of them decided to do 26 animals, arranged alphabetically.
These are from The Penguin in Lost Property (Macmillan) (Now out of print. But you can probably pick up second hand copies on the internet). I hope the examples show that you can play with the format and have fun. Yes, you can use poetry for teaching alliteration and simile and metaphor, and it is a useful tool for that, but it is of far greater value, I believe, in motivating children to read and write and to build their confidence using language. So do bear in mind that activities like this one should be fun.
Home for Nervous Newts
In Norris Nutshell’s Home for Nervous Newts
You will find
Nigel newt, hiding under a rock
Norman Newt, swimming all alone
Reading a book
Nigella newt, cooking a meal for one
And Frank Frog
Wondering how he got into this poem by mistake
In Camilla Cupcake’s Chameleon Enclosure
You will find
And Chloe Chameleon
But only if you look
This resource is free, and may be copied and used within your own school. A version first appeared in the Poetry Society’s Poetry Train.
©Roger Stevens 2014