How to structure a Yr 4/6 class around performing Michael Rosen's Lion poem

HOW TO GUIDE - Performing a poem

Please use the short film by Historyworks for 'Creating My Cambridge'  featuring Michael Rosen introducing his new lion poem to school children in Cambridge, and Emily Lane working with Yr 5 at The Spinney School on how to explore their understanding of a poem and their first go at a performances in class of Michael Rosen's new poem about the Fitzwilliam Lions called "The Listening Lions".

Lesson plan written by Emily Lane at The Spinney School in Cambridge to share with other teachers

Suitable for Yrs 4/6 showing how to work through a poem with the children doing group work, how best to use the hook of a Cambridge subject to make it accessible for the children, how to create expression by making the poem fast/slow, loud/soft, single voice/group voices. Do please download lesson plan here & share with other teachers. You can also see it pasted below the film so you can quickly look over it online.  The pdf version is for you to download and print to use for a class:

Emily Lane notes that the following lesson plan is for one lesson, but if you have time it could work better spread out into three lessons:
- one to introduce the poem and discuss the poetic devices such as onomatopoeia (the Starter and sections 1-4); 
- one to discuss poetry performance techniques, to annotate and rehearse the poem (sections 5-6);
- and the last one to recap and rehearse a little, then perform all of them to the class, analysing each performance according the the Success Criteria (see Section 7 and the plenary.)  
- please do use the lesson plan - available as pdf (see above) to download - and if you have a Lesson Plan to share with the project - please do be in touch with the team at 'Creating My Cambridge'.

Teacher: Emily Lane   

Year: 5

Subject: Literacy

TAs: Lisa Hunt and Kim Livermore plus teacher Gill Curtis





No. of children in class: 30


Learning Objective: I can perform poetry using a variety of techniques.

Vocabulary: tone, voice, body, face, expression, high, low, fast, slow, pause, chorus

Key Questions: How could you make this really fun and interesting to the audience? How could you impress or surprise Michael Rosen if you were going to perform it to him? What things are we looking for in a top quality performance? Do you have any favourite words/phrases/language? Why do you like it?

Resources: ‘Listening Lions’ by Michael Rosen

Learning Activities

Starter: Show a picture of the lions outside the Fitzwilliam and ask children to discuss in Talk Partners what the lions’ expressions show and what are they doing there? Some may recognise that it is outside the Fitzwilliam museum. Do they appear to be guarding/watching/listening? Reveal where they are if the children haven’t realised already. Ask the children what kind of things do they think they hear everyday? What kind of people/noises? 5min


  1. Give each child a copy of the Listening Lions poem and explain that it is also about the lions at the Fitz. Read it out loud to the children.
  2. Put a 1 minute timer on the board and see how many different things they can find that they lions hear. Gather ideas.
  3. Check understanding of poem: Who are the lions talking to? Who is the ‘you’? (We hear you complain of wind and rain’?) What does ‘pockets full or empty’ mean? Why might they hear about ‘war or peace’? Are there any other parts the children don’t understand or want to discuss?
  4. Now ask for children’s opinions on the poem – do they have any favourite words or lines and why?
  5. Discuss the ways we could do a really good performance to the class ( Poss recap the work on performance poetry previoulsy undertaken, and for this Yr 5 we discussed previous week's work on the Highwayman). What were the different techniques we used? Facial expressions; body language; Voice: pitch, speed, volume; chorus or single voices. Make a ‘checklist’ of Success Criteria for a really great poetry performance on the board. Go back to the poem now. The children should discuss in pairs any parts of the poem which they think they could enhance with a performance – Where might they whisper? Where could they speed up/slow down? Are there any parts they could chorus together or perform singly? If they were going to perform this to Michael Rosen, what would impress or surprise him? Encourage them to annotate the poems. Take ideas and share/magpie them. Model annotating poem on the board.
  6. Put children into groups of 4/5 and encourage them to discuss how they could perform part of the poem (they don’t have to start at the beginning). They should spend 5 minutes discussing and annotating before attempting to practise it. They can spend 15 minutes practising it before coming back together to hear some of the performances.
  7. Hear some/all of the groups if time. Children comment and feed back to other groups (see plenary).

TA Role: TAs will support particular children in understanding the poem during input. They will then be assigned to a particular group to support individual children and encourage participation from passive children as well as attempting to sort out arguments.

Plenary: Children use the Success Criteria on the board to write positive feedback on post-it notes to give to each group. These can then be used to stick onto ‘certificates’ for each group as a reward. What did you enjoy about the performance? What was successful? What could they do to improve it?


Children will be in mixed ability groups, with a ‘group leader’ in each who is good at performance poetry. This way they will support each other.






To lead their group and initiate ideas for performance. To support less able children by performing with them or giving them ideas.

Success Criteria: An excellent performance will use: Facial expressions; body language; Voice: pitch, speed, volume; chorus or single voices.

Assessment Opportunities:


How to structure a Yr 4/6 class around performing Michael Rosen's Lion poem


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