Archive for the ‘children & young people’ Category

Smiley Bingo!

Friday, October 12th, 2018

Starter activity for children’s writing workshop (emotions)

Three weeks into the new after-school Creative Writing Club that I’m running for Years 4–6 at Joseph Hood Primary School in Merton. This week we wrote about emotions, and I developed a starter activity called Smiley Bingo!, which I thought I’d share.

I’ve created an activity sheet with a series of situations that have emotional connotations on it. Most of the situations sound like they might be pieces of direct speech, e.g. ‘I miss you’ and ‘It’s getting dark’. Some are obvious, others are a bit more open to interpretation, like ‘Hmmm…’.

DOWNLOAD SmileyBingoActivitySheet.doc

DOWNLOAD SmileyBingoActivitySheet.doc

As a starter activity, participants can draw emoticons to go with each of the situations. We then did a silly warm-up pulling different kinds of smiles:

  • Smile like you’ve had a really nice day.
  • Smile like you’re having your picture taken.
  • Can you smile with your mouth open but without showing any teeth?
  • Who can do an upside-down smile, like Mr Miserable?

Then it was time for Smiley Bingo! I gave everyone one of the situations from the Bingo sheet, which were written on the back of a card so no one else would know which situation they had. We went round the circle, and everyone had to try to express their situation through a smile.

This can be quite tricky, as they are not all naturally smiley situations, but it gives everyone an idea of how many different meanings a smile can have…and how many different ways there are to smile. I gave a little demonstration first—if I had to smile ‘boring’, for example, I would first mime that situation (using facial expression and body posture), then try to smile while holding the freeze. But I don’t think they needed it—they eagerly rose to the challenge.

The bingo part comes next: when someone pulls a smile, everyone else has to guess which situation it is. If you get it right, you tick that situation. At the end everyone counts up their ticks to see who’s got the highest score. If no one correctly guesses a smile, the smiler gets the point.

With everyone enjoying themselves, relaxed and stimulated, we could move onto some writing.


  • The emoticons were an instant hit, and when we had a minute to spare at the end of the session after sharing they were eager to draw some more.
  • You can make up your own situations, of course. If you do, please leave a comment below letting us know what situations you used, and how your session went.
  • There were a couple of unexpected questions. Someone wanted to know what ‘I miss you’ and ‘Will you be my friend?’ meant, but that was easy enough to explain.
  • I developed the idea out of an exercise Caroline Bird did when I was on the TOAST Poets mentoring scheme in 2016. She gave us each an emotion on the back of a card, and we had to smile that emotion. So thank you, Caroline, for the idea.
  • I found it quite difficult to keep in my head all the different situations, while looking at the smiler, so perhaps sixteen options is too many. Having said that, it didn’t seem to bother the members of the writing club.

DOWNLOAD SmileyBingoActivitySheet.doc

Digital Poetry Jam at WAC Arts

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

WAC Arts Interactive Poetry Jam 2015In September 2015 I ran a digital poetry jam project with young people in the WAC Interactive group at WAC Arts in North London. This was a trial project, exploring how we could use Keezy, a sampling app on the iPad, as a fun and engaging way into poetry. The idea was simple: we’d write lines (or just think them up in cases), sample them, and have a go at playing back in different ways. Participants would be able to create the content, use their voices, try out different arrangements, and produce a performance, but without the pressure of having to write a fully formed poem or read out in front of the whole class.

We had a fantastic range of responses, ranging from the poignant to the comic, and it was amazing to see how every person had a different approach to playing back the samples. One person would play back more conventionally, line by line, another would make use of the chorus, a third would go minimalist, stuttering back and forth between just two samples, and a fourth would use looping and layering to create a full-on DJ mash-up.

Here’s a mix I put together afterwards using Launchpad, a live sequencing app.

Many thanks to WAC Arts for giving me the chance to trial the project, and indeed sparking the idea in the first place through the Creative Innovation for Inclusion (CiFi) Think Tank  I attended there back in January 2015.

If you’re interested in me running a digital poetry jam for your school or organisation, get in touch via my contact page.

Tea and Cakes with John Hegley

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Sutton Central Library, St Nicholas Way, SM1 1EA
Saturday 24 October 2015, 2.30–4.30pm

John Hegley hosts this inter-generational poetry event bringing together re-imagined stories of Sutton. Robin Vaughan-Williams has been working with the residents of two care homes in Wallington to create poems about their lives, from hissing gas lamps and clunking meters to lavender fields and wailing sirens, and Rachel Sambrooks has been working with younger generations (adults and teenagers) on their response to these poems and the place they live in. There’ll be video poems, group poems, individual readings, comic verse from John Hegley, and of course tea and cakes.

The event is free and open to all ages, but booking is essential as tickets are being snapped up. Book your place via EventBrite.

(Read more about the first stage of the project here, with some of the poems from the care homes.)

See the full flyer