Why Dragons?

Dragons are a great subject to get children writing as the poet Philip Waddell explains:

 1) Dragons crop up in lots of fairy stories, folklore and films so they are a mythical creature with which children are familiar.

2) Children, especially I think younger ones, love magic and children of any age like dinosaurs and there’s definitely a touch of the dinos about dragons.

3) Dragons, unlike some mythical creatures which are either good or bad can vary in their personalities like people. What might make a dragon good or bad?

To most children, dragons are a familiar subject and  allow them to develop what they’ve learned in fairy stories and folklore, to use their imagination and create their own mythical creatures. Children enjoy writing about dragons because they are made up, there’s no right or wrong dragon so this allows for risk taking in writing.

 The subject matter of dragons is very ‘boy-friendly’ and teachers such as Katherine Jamieson and Charlotte Turner believe that it can motivate boys to write.  Kat feels that watching children read about them then  create their own dragons is really exciting and a magical moment in any classroom. Charlotte believes that writing about dragons really hones in the skills of descriptive writing because there are so  many ways to describe them – scary, friendly, all the colours, and sizes makes dragons exciting to describe.

She explains, “you can get so much descriptive writing from them as Kat said, there’s no right answer. If you describe a tree, it is short/tall/bushy. However, with dragons, they can be scaly, fearsome, humongous, scary, fire-breathing – there are just such endless possibilities with describing dragons. They can fly, fight, be pink, green or multicoloured. Once you’ve done the writing children just love to add music to it for creating performance poetry!”

Teacher, Bev Evans explains, “obviously in Wales we cover a lot of dragon related topics (so obviously we have a different perspective). Our national symbol is a dragon. Every teacher has to link to the Cwriculwm Cymreig and dragons are the most topic to get children (especially boys) involved. By the end of KS1 all Welsh classroom teachers will have covered The Legend of Dinas Emrys and a number of other dragon related stories/myths and legends.”

Writer, Celia Warren is a regular visitor to schools offering dragon themed writing workshops she describes on such a workshop: kids brainstorm traditional handed-down features of dragons (breathing fire, having scales and pointy tale, guarding treasure, etc) and then brainstorm a material and its properties, eg iron – hard, magnetic, clangs like armour, etc. or paper: tears, confetti, origami, (ie associations with material, too), crinkly or smooth, newspaper, crepe paper, etc

And then they combine elements from the traditional dragon and the material’s property to create their own poem. Materials that have produced great poems I’ve found are paper, sand and chocolate, respectively – so they may breathe a chocolate fountain, or confetti, or a castle of sand, etc…

Dragons teach us about our  past, through reading about dragons we can explore the mythology of other cultures. We can see how the dragon is a powerful symbol and it is fascinating to study the views of dragons in the West compared to say China.

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