Sunday 28 June 2009


The other day I was going through the QCA KS2 Scheme of Work for French, cross-referencing lesson plans for a project I'm doing. Unit 17 (Le Retour du Printemps) suggested Calligrams as an activity. I have to admit that I didn't know what a calligram was, and had to look it up. It turns out that there is a calligram on one of the pens from my childhood pen collection - the Spratts dog.

So what is a calligram ? According to Wikipedia, "A calligram is a poem, phrase, or word in which the typeface, calligraphy or handwriting forms an important part of the focus." Other sources just refer to its being a poem, but I like the idea that it can branch out into phrases and words as well, especially when thinking from an MFL point of view.

How can we use calligrams to enhance teaching and learning in MFL ? Pupils are introduced to them in Y3 Literacy and so when they get to upper KS2 or indeed KS3, it's a concept with which they are already familiar. In Y3 they look at examples of calligrams and then have a go at making their own using ICT.

Why not use them as a way of displaying key words, introducing new vocabulary or including a glossary on a worksheet ? Because of the images, English is unnecessary. If you are feeling a bit artistically or ICT-ly challenged, get the pupils to make the calligrams.

I think I see the most potential for them as creative writing activities. Instead of writing a short paragraph about a dry topic like, say, a pet, pupils can write their text as a calligram, which might just motivate them a bit more, and will make for a good display for you. I can also see myself using it to develop an series of lessons which I have done before on Neruda's Oda al Tomate.

So here is something which I shall add to my (albeit quite small at the moment) repertoire for KS2 next year.

Here are some that I've done myself, just to have an experiment. I got a bit frustrated with the ICT angle, and found I could be much more creative with my pen. Suits me, as I'm rarely able to get my classes into an ICT room at the moment !


  1. Brilliant idea thank you :) I didn't know Pablo Neruda's poem but it is beautiful.

  2. Clare,

    I think it is a wonderful idea to get pupils to do the calligrams. Just the sort of thing I was looking for to add to our schemes of work.

    Thanks for the inspiration.


  3. Thanks very much for the comments.

  4. I love your calligrams idea. It reminded me that Apollinaire and Paul Eluard used this form for their poems. I think children will really enjoy this idea. Brilliant because you can be creative but at so many levels of complexity. thanks very much for the idea. I will use it with teachers on our CPD course and at our LSG.Great blog!!
    Alison Clarke - Worcestershire