The ‘Our Stories- Middlesbrough’ programme was developed through the National Literacy Trust Hub in Bradford, and is a creative writing and performance poetry initiative that uses performance poets to engage pupils with literacy.  The Hub has worked with Middlesbrough performance poets, Bob Beagrie and Andy Willoughby, to repurpose the resource for Middlesbrough, through funding from Learning Middlesbrough.

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

The aim of the programme was explore whether engagement with performance poetry had a positive impact on pupil confidences around reading and writing.  The pupils completed a confidence survey before embarking on the pilot and again following the poetry slam.

108 pupils from the 3 schools participated, culminating with 48 pupils being involved in the Grand Final Poetry Slam at Teesside University, where the winning team was announced, and awarded the ‘Our Stories – Middlesbrough Poetry Slam Winners’ shield. It is envisaged that this will become an annual event.

You can see the statistics here.

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

Having delivered the first primary level interschool poetry slam in Middlesbrough, Ek Zuban Literature Development noted how the project engaged the children in creative literary production through the team cased collaborative writing and performance workshops. It was clear that the competitive nature of poetry slamming was a key factor in generating interest and excitement and fostering team spirit. The focus on creative play within the writing activities, interspersed with sharing and performance games allowed the pupils to overcome their critical inhibitions regarding poetry and self-expression through writing. The focus on their own understanding of Middlesbrough and its environs, and imaginative mapping of the town, also gave them a sense of ownership, not only of the language but also over a sense of place, and encouraged them to draw upon their personal experiences of locations as valid source material. 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.

The quality of the poetry performances at the Slam Final held at Teesside University was clear evidence of how a creative approach to literacy, integrating writing with performance techniques, can provide an extremely effective method of learning, cultural engagement and in raising aspirations.

Bob Beagrie & Andy Willoughby (Ek Zuban Literature Development)

The plan is for the ‘Our Stories – Middlesbrough’ resource to be shared across the town, forming an integral element of the Oracy Strategy/Middlesbrough Promise.