Posted in Writing Ideas

How To Get New Writing Ideas From Old Poems

In this post we are going to give you some suggestions as to how you might explore the magic of a classic poem and then use it to write a more modern one.

The Land of Counterpane

This poem was written by Robert Louis Stevenson  a Scottish poet and novellist. As a child he was a somewhat sickly boy and was often confined to his bed. The bed’s covering was a vibrant patchwork quilt called a counterpane. The pictures in each panel fired up his imagination and inspired him to write a number of great poems.

Using This Poem In Your Classroom

Here is the poem and following it are a number of ideas you might want to try out in your classroom.

  • Read the poem aloud to establish its even, gentle rhythms and regular rhyme scheme. This video might help.
  • Talk to the children about some of the factual details, e.g. who is ‘saying’ the poem; where does it all happen; what and how many toys does the child get out?
  • Discuss some of the contemporary landscapes the children create, both in school and out: where they make them and what they put into them.
  • Invite the children to modernise the poem  by changing the old fashioned detail. So, for example, ‘was sick’ might be ‘got flu’; ‘leaden soldiers’ might become ‘stormtroopers’; the ‘counterpane’ is the ‘duvet’.
  • As a way of exploring rhyme, make cards, each with one of the poem’s end rhyming words on. Shuffle the pack and ask them to be correctly paired.
  • To concentrate further on the poem’s rhyme scheme, make copies of the poem, paste these onto card, and cut them up so that each verse’s final line is separate or lines 2 and 4 of each verse are presented separately. Pairs/groups can work to reassemble the poem.
  • Use the archaisms of the poem as a way into children researching the favourite toys of different generations. What did their parents and grandparents play with?
  • Ask the children to imagine themselves as a particular toy and write a poem in the voice of that toy, describing what they do and how they are looked after.

Have fun!

Mike and David at Goodeyedeers

A link to The Goodeyedeers Shop at TES Resources


A writer of short stories.

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