'Verse vs Verse' is a reading and writing project for 500 children from primary schools in North and West London. Launched in September 2014, Verse vs Verse takes children on a 3-year journey of discovery. In Autumn each year, children broaden their reading, using drama as a way to explore a range of different books and spend time getting to know different characters, places and stories. In the Spring, the children use this inspiration to develop their writing skills and in the Summer term the participants combine their skills by writing spoken word pieces.
The project culminates annually with an intensive period of activity, where the children will write and revise their work, coach each other and prepare for a poetry slam, under the guidance of London’s leading performance poets and spoken word artists. At the slam, small teams of up to three pupils will stand in front of their peers and perform their own poetry, using voice and gesture to bring their words to life.
Each year the project is loosely developed around overarching themes. Our theme for the project is: 'The Doorways to Wonder'. We believe that literature can open a doorway into wonder for children. Some children will find this doorway naturally, whilst others will need help in finding the key and turning the lock.
In the first year of Verse vs Verse we focussed on helping children to delve into their imaginations and expand their creative responses to reading and then using this to create more nuanced and exciting writing by considering the setting of their stories through drama, structured writing exercises and spoken word. In Autumn 2014, our team of theatre practitioners and writers drew on their experience of devised theatre, writing for theatre, immersive theatre and physical theatre to devise a programme that allowed children to explore and create ‘Extraordinary Worlds’.
In the second year our focus was on developing an understanding of character. Children demonstrated their understanding of the characters from favourite stories by creating short animations. This also enabled the participants to work together, developing negotiating skills and teamwork. Drama skills were utilised once again in spring 2016 to support the participants’ exploration and understanding of character. Using film as an entry point, young people then went on to using physical theatre and devising exercises to create their own characters to feature in short stories.
The focus in the final year of the project, has been on enable young people to draw together their learning and confidently presenting their work. Young people will defend characters from favourite stories in a balloon debate. Using curriculum topics and well-known speeches as inspiration, students write and present monologues and speeches defending a point of view.
Verse vs Verse is not about the mechanics of reading and writing, but rather about helping children to access the magic found in books. We know that discovering this magic will help the children we are working with to unlock their potential and achieve more in their academic studies.
Whilst developing a framework that each of our schools can follow, we want to ensure that Verse vs Verse allows for individuality and for individual needs and priorities to be met. Some schools have opted to focus on a set text and give their students an alternative way of experiencing these books; whilst other schools have opted to explore a wide range of literature.
Each year the children deepen their knowledge and interest in literature by working under the guidance of creative practitioners, writers, publishers and spoken word artists. A key to the success of the project is the enthusiastic involvement of teachers. Every year we work closely with the teachers at our 9 schools, they participate in INSETs which give them an insight into the different approaches we are taking through the year to bring literature to life. We work closely with our teachers modifying the workshops week by week responding to how the students are developing.
Verse vs Verse is generously supported by John Lyon’s Charity.
St Paul's C of E Primary School (Barnet)
Trent Primary School (Barnet)
Leopold Primary School (Brent)
Hobbayne Primary School (Ealing)
Addison Primary School (Hammersmith & Fulham)
Kenmont Primary School (Hammersmith & Fulham)
St. John's Walham Green (Hammersmith & Fulham)
Norbury Primary School (Harrow)
Whitefriars Primary School (Harrow)
Click on the play button to view films above