For teachers

Here is a suggested class plan for teachers to use in class.
You can also download this Class Plan in PDF format here.

This is a poetry project for New Zealand’s National Poetry Day 2020, which is on the 21 of August. On 1 August we will publish five words selected from a poem by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado. There will be a prize for the Best Poem by Under-16s courtesy of The Cuba Press. The winning poem will also be translated into Spanish and published on the Spanish Palabras Prestadas (Given words) website.

• Encourage investigation and creativity in relation to words and meaning.
• To make a poem inspired by five words.

Write any word on the board, for example ‘take’, and give students 4 minutes to write down short sentences using the word. E.g., ‘We can take the bus into the town centre’, ‘The doctor took my temperature’. Ask students to read out a sentence. Does everyone use the same definition of the word?
Now write another word on the board, for example ‘ring’, and make an Ideas Cloud around the word. What words go with ring? (gold, phone, bell, etc…)

Next, divide the class in groups and give each group one of the five words from the competition. On a large sheet of paper they have to make an Ideas Cloud for the word in their group. They can include drawings, writing, or collage from magazines etc. Each group presents their word to the rest of the class.

Choose two of the five words for the competition and ask how they can be connected together? Give students 2 minutes to write a sentence that includes both words. Ask them to read out their sentences. Do they fit together?

Students now work individually using the five words to write their poem. The theme of the poem is open and will depend on what the five words suggest for each person. If they need help they can use the Ideas Clouds and start by writing sentence ideas for single words or word pairs as in the previous exercises.

Ask the students what is more important: The ideas they want to express? Or trying to make the poem rhyme?

Students share their poems with the class and comment on each other’s work.

Discuss the following: What words would they choose to create a poem? Are there words more suitable for a poem? Is it easier to write with related words or with words that have no obvious connection? Which are more inspiring – five verbs, adjectives, nouns or a mixture of the three?

Read this poem by Thalia Peterson, from Given Words in 2019, which was based on the five words: solitude, pulse, moving, circles and self-acceptance. How did she use each of the words? What is the idea that connects the five words?


A mellow, silent song whispers through,
Fingers grasping the sides, spindly and moist.

Solitude seeping through its veins
Forever hugging its dying hope,
The pulse of pattering paws below,
Creeping past, ignored.

A blind slick form, no moving to and fro
But the roll of the dark and light
Wrapped in delicate furls of emerald skin,
Self-acceptance churning in the stems as molten gold.
Circling its way around the limbs of its life,
Its home.

Thalia Peterson, aged 12

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