I’m not really one for jumping on the bandwagon of national-this-or-that days, weeks or months. I promise… I don’t even do much celebrating of less-than-national days, such as my grown kids’ birthdays (I live in shame for this), my own anniversary (I go to therapy for this), or National Day of Prayer (I go to church for this). However, there is one month-long celebration that I’m all in favor of. I go to great lengths to celebrate this one: National Poetry Month. As a passionate proponent of “doing” poetry with children in order to convince them that words are their friends (and very playful ones, at that), and as a “Ralph Fletcher convert” to poetry writing that every child can do (love, LOVE his book, Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem From the Inside Out), I simply cannot resist building my own “bandwagon” and inviting my students, my family, my friends, and you, Dear Reader, to jump onboard!
2. Elementary teachers should collect brief, clever, and delightful examples of poetry with which they can delight and entertain their students.
3. Elementary teachers should nurture the natural poets children are, rather than assigning poetry.
Here are three “elementary-teachers-shouldn’t” truths (I know these truths, thanks to Mike Tunnell & Jim Jacobs):
1. Elementary teachers shouldn’t force and over-do poetry memorization & recitation.
2. Elementary teachers shouldn’t force/assign all students to write poetry (particularly with rigid parameters, no matter how many lines or syllables called for).
3. Elementary teachers shouldn’t force/assign heavy-duty analyzing of poems for their structures and meanings.
And finally, here are three “elementary-teachers-can” truths that I know about poetry:
1. Elementary teachers can entice children with contemporary poems with humor and some sort of rhythm and rhyme.
2. Elementary teachers can empower children with writing poems when they demand fewer conventions and permit “poetic license.”
3. Elementary teachers can inspire children as poets when they show them that (Ralph Fletcher’s idea here) writing a poem for someone is like giving blood. It goes from the heart of the giver to the heart of the receiver. (I know, isn’t that brilliantly poignant?)
Are you ready to put your own “Poetic Teaching License” to work? Needing ideas for some fresh poetry to delight, entice and empower your students? The scope of this blog post cannot include everything I wish teachers could know, understand, and do about poetry. But I cannot resist an opportunity to unload a few things from my bandwagon, and leave them with you for yours:
- “Five Reasons We Need Poetry In Schools” by Alena Aguilar in Edutopia, April 8, 2013: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/five-reasons-poetry-needed-schools-elena-aguilar
- Down-loadable sheet of poetic “licenses” to give your students: http://www.cpits.org/pt/lesson_plans/poetic-license.html
- “Teach Young Children to Write Poetry – With a Simple Color Poem” on Anna Geiger’s blog, “The Measured Mom,” April 6, 2014: http://www.themeasuredmom.com/teach-children-to-write-poetry-simple-color-poem/
- “’Doing’ Science With Poetry” by Sylvia M. Vardell, in Book Links, March 2008: http://www.ala.org/offices/resources/sciencepoetry
- “A Lost Eloquence” by Carol Muske-Dukes, in The New York Times, December 29, 2002: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/29/opinion/29DUKE.html
- “Everyone Succeeds With Poetry Writing” by Regie Routman, in Scholastic Instructor, August 2001.
Check out the Classroom Bookshelf Blog and scroll through everything you will need, including book reviews, teaching ideas, and supporting resources. Be sure to “search” the archives for the many new and wonderful poetry books they have included on their site! Then… well, in the words of Beatrice Schenk de Regniers,
Posted by Nancy Peterson, Ed.D., Professor of Elementary Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of “For the Love of Reading” conference.