Being outdoors is undoubtedly the most direct (and we would argue most effective) way to connect with nature, providing natural, sensory spaces for social interaction. But there are numerous occasions when it's too wet, too cold or just too difficult to be outside.
This popular activity is designed to engage groups in creative writing and poetry based on their experiences at an outdoor venue. It aims to make poetry accessible and fun, helping participants express their thoughts and feelings. We originally developed the kit to use on a visit to a farm, but it can be easily adapted to any kind of setting. Groups work together to create their very own poetry in this fun engaging activity.
There are a variety of different ways to play the poetry dice game which means it is suitable for a wide range of participants. We have provided a collection of words that take a sensory-rich approach to poetry. The activity makes poetry accessible and fun, helping participants express their thoughts, feelings and memories without feeling the pressure of creating poetry from scratch. By using sensory rich words such as slimy, soft and spiky the poet can create a rich memory or story of an outdoor experience that really comes alive.
You will need;
- 6 x bags or containers
- Coloured felt tip markers or stickers
Dice. You will need a dice for this activity to randomise which bag participants select words from. There are several options for the dice as follows; Use a regular dice from a board game and add different spots or stickers of colour to each side. Large coloured foam dice can be purchased online from educational specialists. You can download a printable cut out (pdf) to make your own dice (you will need to print onto card or glue the paper to a piece of card and cut around it). You can see a picture of a dice we made on the following page using shapes, colours and numbers.
Containers for words
Assign each container/bag a number between 1-6 and a colour. When the player rolls the dice it should then match one of the containers/bags. One at a time someone throws the dice and then takes a word from the corresponding coloured and numbered bag.
Below is a picture of some bags we made to play the game. Having shapes, colours and numbers makes them accessible to a wide range of people.
You will need to print out the word cards (pdf) and cut them out. They are grouped into different types.
Playing the game
Each player takes a turn at rolling the dice and picking a word from the corresponding bag or container. Players are encouraged to pick the word at random and not sift through. Once a word has been selected it should be laid out on a table in front of the group for all to see. Words don’t need to be laid out in any order.
Have a look at all the words and shuffle them around to make some interesting groups of words. Now you can add in extra words to make lines of poetry. Can you think of words that rhyme with the ones you have or have a similar sound?
The group leader makes a list on a big sheet of paper of all the words that were pulled out of the bag. The group pass the dice to each other. Whoever catches it has to say the first word that comes into their head when the leader calls out one of the word cards. The group leader notes this word down and the dice gets passed again. The group leader should aim to get two new alternative words for every word on the list. Once this list has been compiled the group look at it and read all the words aloud, forward, backwards and diagonally looking for nice patterns or funny phrases. See the below table as an example.
From the example in the table you could pull out the following lines for a poem; Tiring Boots Walking (R to L top line) Taste Heavy Rain (Diagonal) Flowers Smell Pretty (L to R 2nd line) Eating, Love Chips! (L to R 3rd line) Play around with different groups of words until you have something you like.
Hints and tips
You may also want to make up your own words to personalise the game and make it relevant to the group’s visit and personal experiences. When choosing your own words try to have a mixture of tenses and include some words that end ‘ly’ such as gently and smelly, this should encourage creative thinking.
As well as literacy this activity supports colour, shape and number recognition along with coordination and matching skills. Create a dice with numbers, shapes and colours to extend the interest of the activity.
Older people with Dementia
This is a great activity for reminiscence work. Try talking about memories of outdoor experiences, a garden from when you were younger or a favourite holiday. You can make this activity extra sensory by bringing in some plants and flowers to touch and smell whilst working on your poetry.