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Endorsement: Worlds and lives poetry cluster

Niquelle LaTouche is an English teacher and a member of our panel involved in conversations around the recent revision to our GCSE English Literature specification.

Here she gives her thoughts on our new poetry cluster, Worlds and lives and why she’s excited to teach it.

The benefits of teaching Worlds and lives

Many of the problems I have engaging students in poetry is that the poems can be dated, or students feel like the world was a different place when they were written making it hard for them to understand. It's not necessarily that those worlds are so different, but it's harder to make the poems relatable now.

Having read the new Worlds and lives poetry cluster I’m incredibly proud and excited for English literature and poetry teaching. These poems are great vehicles to navigate complex topics that are prevalent today, using our shared emotions as a tool to build empathy. It gives a lot of room for current conversation, which is particularly important in the world we're in right now.

Relevant poets

It’s a huge plus that 10 of the poets included in Worlds and lives are alive as, much of the time, I find teachers can be so scared of poetry. Now we have the privilege of potentially seeing interviews, seeing those poets talk about their work, and even getting poets into our schools. It gives room for more resource and support around the understanding of that poem because the poets are alive and writing now. It contextualises the poem in a different way because you can actually reach out to this person.

The poets’ experiences of the world span different generations because they're different ages, but this makes it a very unique collection of poetry which I hope will aid teachers and make it a lot more relevant to students who, traditionally, are exposed to poets worlds away from them.

Creative writing

Worlds and lives will lend itself to a lot of writing practice. Poetry is very rarely used as creative writing prompts and practice, but this cluster could really help a lot of topical buy-in from students. It’s a nice way in because it means that poetry then becomes a tool to allow young writers to have a shared experience with the poets, and that excites me for the writing of poetry in class.

Link poetry to the curriculum

The new poems can also be linked to texts currently on the curriculum. Even if you decided to mix and match and just take on board the new poetry cluster, I think it nicely links with the texts in Literature Papers 1 and 2 that are currently offered. It really opens curriculum design opportunity at Key Stage 3, and helps create a pathway up to Key Stage 4 which is so much wider. This is great for early English teaching because we should be able to read for pleasure or understand it as a genre in a fun and exploratory way rather than it being taught to the test.

Literature is a much bigger bubble now and that means there's a lot more freedom for teachers too.

The addition of this poetry cluster is a step in the right direction and a sign of supporting teachers to feel confident to teach a more inclusive curriculum. I hope that it encourages more students to write themselves into existence because they understand that their lens on the world is significant too.

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