Inclusion: 'Childhood tracks' by James Berry

Carolyn Purslow


These ideas are informed by an inclusive style of teaching and are multi-sensory in their offering. The poet James Berry said: "This poem tries to put down on paper another aspect of childhood and its eating things and drinking and smelling and hearing and all that." His childhood was spent in Jamaica, and the poem evokes a very different landscape from the towns and cities most of us inhabit. So make a collection of things to excite the senses of your pupils. Walk about wearing a floral dress or sit and mend a fishing net whilst you read them the poem. Pupils may engage with the poem in many different ways. They may respond to drinking cool water from a calabash or the memory of the smell of a donkey! For some pupils, imagining experiences outside their own lives can present a challenge. Talking about their childhood memories may help to put the poem into context. 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.


All pupils will... attend to parts of the poem and be encouraged to make a visual response. Some pupils will... recognise key ideas in the text. A few pupils will... relate the key ideas in the text to similar experiences of their own.

Resources needed

PC with internet access and/or interactive whiteboard with reading of 'Childhood Tracks' by James Berry. Sound tape of a market place. CD of Jamaican or Caribbean folk songs. Collection of sensory stuff that connects with the poem, eg. a ripe pineapple, a gourd, sound of a cock crowing (recording or instrument), banana leaves. If you have an interactive whiteboard, find images of Jamaica to display and refer to. Floral dress.

Teaching sequence of activities


Talk about how everyone changes from being a child to being an adult and discuss how they have changed and things that are different in their lives. Play games that help them to recall people, experiences, sounds, games and toys. What did they eat? How big were they?


Taking the poem on a journey Introduce 'Childhood Tracks' accompanied by beautiful pictures of a different place. Choose to use a series of signs that signal the start of the poem. Use an associated sound, eg a market place or cafe; the title of the poem on card; and a symbol or object. Listen to the poet reading his poem. 


Read out the poem, thinking carefully about the voices you use, what you are wearing and the objects cast around you. Use Makaton signs or pictures, or symbolised words where relevant, to focus listening and enhance meaning. Create a tableau as a backdrop for each verse, using real and made things to set the scene.

Extension Activities

Make new poems. Try to put down on paper aspects of childhood, the eating and drinking, the smelling and hearing and all that... Choose one line and make a painting to illustrate it.

Further Reading

Other poems by James Berry.

Let us help you find your way around

Take me to:

Daljit Nagra

From time to time a poet is in residence at the Poetry Archive, talking about poetry with anyone who wants to join in the conversation.

Comic Verse

I'm troubled, as you can tell by my introduction, about comic verse. Comic verse gets bad press because rigid notions of comedy foreground throwaway poems. Surely the best comedy is when the poem surprises us into laughter rather than setting up t... >