Our Stories – Middlesbrough  – Poetry Slam

The ‘Our Stories’ programme was developed through the National Literacy Trust Hub in Bradford, and is a creative writing and performance poetry initiative that encourages pupils to cultivate a curiosity about poems and how they work, a willingness to play with language and a desire to communicate ideas.

The Hub worked with Middlesbrough performance poets, Bob Beagrie and Andy Willoughby, to repurpose the resource for Middlesbrough, through funding from Learning Middlesbrough, with the aim of exploring whether engagement with performance poetry had a positive impact on pupil confidences around reading and writing.

Three schools (Corpus Christi, Abingdon and North Ormesby) participated in the pilot project in 2018, involving teacher CPD, and two day-long workshops for pupils in each school.

“It was heartening to see the rise in confidence and self-esteem among many of the participating pupils throughout the sessions, which some children with SEN learning their poems and competing alongside gifted and talented pupils. Likewise, the use of heteroglossia (a mix of languages) was notable and showed an inventive approach to poetic expression among those children with English as a second language.” Bob Beagrie & Andy Willoughby (Ek Zuban Literature Development)

“There was a lot of self-esteem raised and the pupils realised that within themselves.” Teacher

The schools that participated in 2019 were Archibald Primary School, Beech Grove Primary School, Hemlington Hall Academy, North Ormesby Primary Academy, Viewley Hill Academy, Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Primary School – the inaugural winners of the competition.

All the participating schools learnt how to craft different poetry styles such as kennings and riddles and taken part in workshops led by performance poets, Bob and Andy, focusing on local places and landmarks pertinent to each of them. The programme culminated in the Grand Final, held at Middlesbrough Town Hall and attended by more than 130 pupils. A total of 60 pupils competed in 12 teams from the six schools. The winning team in 2019 were the “Battling Boro Bards” from Archibald Primary School.

From the analysis of the pre/post surveys, reported perceptions towards pupils’ reading ability increased by 12%, perceived enjoyment of reading and writing increased by 13% and 16%, perceived improvement in writing increased by 8%, and perceived enjoyment of reading/writing poetry increased by 6%.