Lesson by: Carolyn Purslow


All pupils will... have listened to and made a response to part of the poem.

Some pupils will... use vocal intonation to enhance meaning.

A few pupils will... recognise some of the rhyming words and find some new rhyming words.


These ideas are informed by an inclusive style of teaching and are multi-sensory in their offering.

Pupils may engage with the poem in many different ways. They may enjoy the play with metaphorical imagery that is prevalent in Valerie Bloom's poetry, or they may be responsive to the shape, rhythm and sound of the words. Consider how the pupils listen to language and be creative in re-presenting the poem to them.

For some pupils, metaphor can be difficult and confusing. For others, imagining experiences outside their own lives can present a challenge.

When listening to or reading the poem, consider how to keep the constant movement of a river, through sound and/or action.

It would be excellent to return to the poem regularly over a period of at least three weeks, to allow pupils a chance to engage with the poem and to give them the time and space to make their response.

Resources needed

  • PC with internet access and/or interactive whiteboard with reading of 'The River' by Valerie Bloom.
  • Swathe of fabric, soft airy netting or transparent white, pale blue or green, long enough for all pupils to sit or stand alongside, light like parachute silk.
  • Sound tape of river running and associated gurgling, riverside sounds.
  • Collection of stuff reclaimed from a riverside, eg stones, broken pottery, sticks.
  • If you have an interactive whiteboard, find river images to display and refer to. Alternatively, take photos of your local river.

Teaching Sequence of Activities


Have some discussion about rivers, recalling experiences and sounds.

Introduce 'The River' as a poem with rhyming words and metaphor.

Choose to use a series of signs that signal the start of the poem. Use an associated sound, eg running water; the title of the poem on card; and a symbol or object.

Listen to the poet reading her poem. Read out the poem, allowing the rhythm of the words to come through. Use Makaton signs where relevant, to focus listening and enhance meaning.


Taking the poem on a journey

Use movement and drama to explore the meaning of the words: wanderer, winder, hoarder, baby, singer and monster. Explore under a canopy of moving fabric.

Make cards with each of these words symbolised or illustrated to use as cue cards when reading the poem, so everyone can say the word at the appropriate time.

Use the collection of reclaimed stuff to create meandering river patterns.

Extension Activities

  • Go on a river walk taking photos along the way, and collecting sounds.
  • Make new poems, beginning 'The River's a... '

Further reading and listening

Listen to the poet Langston Hughes reading his poem 'The Negro Speaks of Rivers'. Like 'The River' it describes the rivers in human terms.
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