Citizen of the World by Dave Calder

There has never been a more important time to address issues of refugees, alienation and racism. With feelings running high in many countries of the world – especially the UK – thirefugeess is an important subject to raise in classrooms. Many of our primary schools have welcomed children from other countries, some refugees, some seeking asylum. This poem, Citizen of the World by Dave Calder, will get the class thinking about how children must feel when they arrive in a new place, perhaps not of their own choosing. It begins:

when you are very small
maybe not quite born
your parents move
for some reason you may never understand they move
from their own town
from their own land
and you grow up in a place
that is never quite your home

The full text of the poem can be found here, along with other poems by Dave Calder. It is hard to find much information about Dave Calder, other than he edited The Usborne Book of Funny Poems.

Possible activities

Start the lesson by asking children what the word ‘home’ means to them. Make a list of class responses and some typical vocabulary.

Then show them a picture, such as the one above. Here are some possible discussion questions:
Who are these people?
Where are they going?
How are they feeling? Look at their faces.
Why do people have to leave one country and go to another?
What does the word ‘home’ mean to them? How does this compare to your idea of ‘home’ discussed earlier?

Perhaps someone in your class could share a story from personal experience of moving from one place to another. Perhaps someone has had to move to another country, not of their own choosing.

Then read, and experience, the poem. Ask children what they like about it, and what puzzles them about it. What does the line ‘with a smile or a fist‘ mean?

More poems about refugees

Other poems about refugees include We Refugees by Benjamin Zephaniah, though the reading is not by him.

This video is of a poem by a 12-year-old girl called Reema who had to flee Syria after her school was bombed. It was made by Oxfam America.

If you have suggestions of other poems about refugees, I would be pleased to receive them.


Tackling loneliness: poems and songs you could use

I often use song lyrics in poetry lessons. Usually I would examine the text first and only play the song to the children at the end of the lesson. A really interesting session on loneliness can be had by using a couple of popular songs and linking them to poems on the same theme.

You could begin with a picture portraying loneliness or solitude, such as this. Ask the children to talk about what is going on. Ask them to come up with three adjectives describing how the man is feeling. Make a list of this vocabulary on the board. Discuss why this man is begging, what might have happened in his life. Ask the children if they have seen homeless people on the streets, especially in busy towns or cities.


Then hand out the lyrics of The Streets of London, a folk song written and performed by Ralph McTell. Here’s the first verse:

Have you seen the old man
In the closed-down market
Kicking up the paper,
with his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride
Hand held loosely at his side
Yesterday’s paper telling yesterday’s news

You can find the full lyrics here.

Read through all of the lyrics. Use the Questions Cards for a Poem approach if that helps. Ask pairs to come up with ideas why these people are homeless. Ask them about their favourite phrases in the song, such as “Yesterday’s paper telling yesterday’s news”. Can you add any more vocabulary to the list on the board?

Then play the children the video of the song (written in 1970). This includes an interesting interview with Ralph McTell explaining why he wrote the song and why it has lasted so long.

At this stage, children could be thinking about their own poem, based on a character feeling alone. An old person who is bereaved? A homeless young person in a city? A child in a new school without friends? Their poem could begin: Have you seen…?

If you want to develop this further, look at The Beatles’ song Eleanor Rigby, (written in 1966) and its refrain:

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Find the full lyrics here. Who was Eleanor Rigby? Why was Father McKenzie also alone? How did their stories come together? Who is lonely in society today? What can we do to help them? The song is seen as a lament for lonely people and a comment on post-war society.

There is a brilliant cover version of the song by Ray Charles here:

Children could compare the two songs. Which is most effective? Which is your favourite line in either song? Why were the songs so popular?

If you wish to bring in a poem which looks at the issue of loneliness, you could look at Alone in the Grange by Gregory Harrison. I have a separate page looking at how you could use this page.