A Sensory Poem for National Poetry Day

National Poetry Day is coming up on the 7th October. Why not mark the occasion by taking a few minutes to read some poetry aloud in your classroom, letting everyone enjoy the sensory language? Look for poems with a strong rhythm and try clapping or stamping out the beat. Or you could try these sensory explorations of one of my favourites, the traditional poem, ‘There was an old woman tossed up in a basket’.

I use a big piece of Lycra (stretchy fabric) to create an activity around this. (A parachute could also work). Everyone gathers around the Lycra and holds it by the edge so that it is stretched out between the group. Then I use a very simple ‘lady’ and ‘basket’ cut out of thick felt. (A soft doll or even a teddy would also do for this.) We make the lady jump ‘as high as the moon’ by bouncing the Lycra as we chant the rhyme.

There was an old woman tossed up in a basket
Nineteen times as high as the moon;
Where she was going I couldn't but ask it,
For in her hand she carried a broom.
Old woman, old woman, old woman, quoth I,
Whither, O whither, O whither so high?
To brush the cobwebs out of the sky!
Shall I go with thee? Aye, by-and bye.

Have fun with this, recite it a few times over, softly with small bounces and loudly with great big bounces. Maybe you can get the lady to jump right off the Lycra! Calm things down at the end by ‘rocking the lady to sleep’ in the Lycra.

You could put some yellow dusters onto the Lycra as well for the lady to use in her cleaning! These are very cheap and look great against some dark Lycra.

A yellow cloth duster to use as a sensory prop.

Be sure that any props you put on the Lycra to bounce are soft as they do tend to go flying through the air!

If you do not have any Lycra or parachute you could make a more traditional sensory kit for the poem. Any kind of basket would do; give your pupils plenty of time to explore the interesting wicker texture. Then you could also ‘brush’ the back of their hands with a nice soft brush like this one:

Three soft wooden duster brushes

Add in some other cleaning props such as mop heads and feather dusters. And use some pretend cobwebs as well:

Fake spiders web with plastic spiders attached.

Repeat the poem a few times so that everyone can enjoy the language as you share the props. You could also record different parts of it onto communication devices and ‘conduct’ you pupils as they each press their device in turn. Try adding in some sound effects as well (maybe some ‘whooshes’ and ‘zooms’). Think of this activity as making a poetry stew; the words and props do not necessarily have to be in a certain order, you can just put everything into the pot and have fun. (Try this approach with other poems as well!)

Remember – not all of my props recommendations are toys! The props I suggest should not be used by children unsupervised.