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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Eleven Plus Poetry

When I was at school in Year 5 we had a most unlovable teacher - by the name of Mr. Green. He was disliked by the children in his class - and by his fellow teachers. I can still remember his aggression and ill temper. He did, however, make us learn poetry for homework.

He would pick on children at random, so he said, to complete the poem in turn - line by line. One poem was Cargoes by Masefield.

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amythysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

I can still recall much of this poem today - many years on. Surely exercises on poetry of this significance would be of more use in the long run than some of the esoteric and unlovely eleven plus verbal reasoning exercises?

Think about very bright ten year old children weaving answers and conjuring images when looking at the lines like:

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus ...


Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack ...

Surely the English department of a grammar school would prefer to receive children who could enjoy poetry than children who could work out how to analyse a codes question?

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