Primary School Poems to Read, Memorise and Recite
Starting school opens up new horizons for children and with it comes the chance to tempt them with more adventurous poetry. Wave goodbye to overly repetitious pre-school poems with accompanying actions and usher in poetry which makes children think.
Poetry Recitation at Primary School
Poetry is experiencing an upsurge in popularity in primary schools, which is something to be applauded and encouraged. However, it is likely at some stage that your child will come home from school and announce that they have to choose a poem to learn and recite. Whether the performance will be at poetry slam or school concert, or as part of a classroom activity, the thought of supporting a child through the process of poetry recitation fills many parent with dread. It shouldn’t. Approached in the right way, the experience will be fun and enriching for both parent and child.
Don't Dig Up Long Dead Poets
The first thing you need to do, as a parent, is forget your own experiences of poetry at school, particularly the poems that you had to learn by heart. Poetry in schools has moved on dramatically since you were a child. Choose a ‘classic poem’ by a long dead poet, such as Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, T S Elliot or Hillaire Belloc, and you risk subjecting your child to ignominy and shame. Instead, you need a poem that is cutting edge, contemporary and speaks to children in a language they understand.
Know Your (and Your Child's) Limitations
It’s tempting as a parent to be over ambitious when selecting a poem for your child to recite. It's much better to choose a poem well within the child’s capabilities and then encourage them to produce a show stopping performance. Poetry recitation is about much more that the ability to learn and recite a poem; it’s about developing important life skills such as self-assurance, poise, projection and the ability to overcome nerves.
Some Poems I Prepared Earlier
To help you in the task of selecting a suitable poem for your child to recite, I've selected a few of the most popular poems from the Funny Poems for Kids collection which have been tried and tested by children the world over. They're subdivided by the Keystage system used in English schools, so you should be able to choose a suitable poem, if your child is of average ability for their age group. (Does any parent think their child is average!)
Key Stage 1 Poems for Ages 5 - 7
Of the three top picks for KS1 pupils to recite, The Fussy Eater and Seven Wonders of the World are reasonably straightforward narrative poems which rhyme and contain no difficult words (either to pronounce or understand). The wild card is Kobe or Not Kobe, which is a little more challenging, but is very short and a popular choice with young militant vegetarians.
- The Fussy Eater
A poem which will appeal to kids who are picky about what they eat, or what they recite. Clearly not one for omnivores with appetites like waste disposal units.
- Seven Wonders of the World
If you are looking for an opportunity to gently wind up a teacher, this poem is good natured enough not to offend but just close enough to the bone to inflict minor injuries.
- Kobe or Not Kobe
A simple but important message delivered by way of a short, punchy poem. It's an easy one to learn and recite, but comes across best if delivered with real conviction.
Key Stage 2 Poems for Ages 8 - 11
If poets are allowed to have favourites amongst the poems they've written, these are some of my top recitation picks. Indeed, The Fussy Eater is the first poem I ever wrote specifically to recite. It was a special commission by my niece when she was at primary school (she's now at University) and unfortunately she rejected it as too difficult. Fortunately, most reasonably able junior school pupils will find it a piece of cake (and equally delectable).
- Eat Drink and be Messy
Fairy tale parody meets horror fantasy. This is a poem which has something for everyone, but is a particular favourite of boys who profess not to like poetry but like a a bit of gore.
- The Dentist
A poem which is short, easy to learn and lends to wild accompanying actions if that's what's required. Best of all, every child - reciter and audience - will be able to relate to the subject matter.
- Sink or Swim
Cruel and unusual, Sink or Swim would be a great poem for a child to recite who was considered 'unsporty'. It has the capacity to deflate even the most inflated sporting ego.
More Poems for Primary School Children
If you delve deeper into the collection you'll find plenty more poems worthy of performance by primary school pupils. These are just a few that caught my eye:
This was the 'easier' poem written to replace The Fussy Eater. It's all relative!
- You Can't Teach An Old Cat Any Tricks
A poem which lightheartedly affirms the intellectual superiority of felines over canines.
- Divide and Rule
A mathematical romp wrapped up in a very short poem about amoebae.
- Tricks of the Mind
A heartfelt poem which will appeal to kids with elderly relatives who are losing 'it'.
- Library Rules
It is funny, snappy and the shortest 28 line poem you'll ever encounter.
- Excuse Me
It might be a little risqué for a school performance, but nothing ventured…
- Better Late Than…
A verse for the school averse!
- Time's Up
Our final offering is a sporting poem with universal appeal.
And it's worth remembering that there's a whole section of seasonal poems to go at as well. Happy recitation!.