Teacher to Teacher: Poetry Month
By Janice Ewing
I tend to have mixed feelings about special months designated for things that should be embedded into our teaching and celebrated all through the year. Take poetry, for instance. On the one hand, how bleak would the year be if we waited until April to incorporate it into our reading, writing, and teaching lives, and then dropped it like the much-maligned hot potato? On the other hand, why not dedicate time to celebrate this often-ignored genre, and what better time than April, a month that invites us to look closely at our surroundings? In addition, having just participated in the Slice of Life daily writing challenge during March (twowritingteachers.wordpress.com), the value of instilling writing habits is fresh in my mind. Maybe this is a good opportunity to instill a poetry habit in ourselves and our students.
One more advantage to having a month dedicated to poetry is that it encourages us to share resources and ideas. Here are few that I’ve come across recently:
- KidLitOSphere Central: The Society of Bloggers in Children’s and Young Adult Literature – A wonderful collection of blog posts, videos, and poetry-writing challenges
- Read. Write. Think. – Many resources, lesson plans, activities to celebrate National Poetry Month.
- Poets.Org – Poems, programs, suggestions for celebrations
- Twitter – Yes, Twitter! Check out the hashtag #poetrymonth for rich conversations about poetry and links to even more sources
What are your thoughts about having a month dedicated to the celebration of poetry? What does this look like in your classroom? Beyond the classroom? What books, websites, or other resources would you like to share? Please join the conversation.
Janice Ewing is an adjunct for Cabrini College and a co-director for the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project. Janice co-facilitates PAWLP’s “Continuity Days” and this blog. She is an avid reader and writer, and especially enjoys writing poems.
This Wednesday my favorite day of the school year will occur. The Poetry Tea! Each year the students look forward to preparing for this very special day. In addition to Poetry Fridays through the year, a month is set aside for the children to learn to write 4 – 5 different types of poetry, create invitations for parents, weave special placemats, bake scones and decorate their classroom. At the Poetry Tea we gather to share poetry read by small groups, individual students, parents, and staff. Some parents read in their mother tongue, translated by their children. This year I look forward to hearing Swedish and Russian poetry along with original poems written with great enthusiasm by my students. It is a wonderful day that leaves the community feeling happy to have spent the hour together, thoughtful for understanding the language of the heart, and of course, full of tea and jam, strawberries and cream, and delicious scones! If the children’s enthusiasm is any measure at all, Poetry month and Poetry Fridays are a delight.
Joyce Sidman is one of my favorite poets for children. Her books are magnificently illustrated about the nature around us. ‘Welcome to the Night’ in her book, Dark Emporer and Other Poems of the Night is a wonderful introduction to nocturnal animals.
Jo Anne, it’s so nice to hear from you, and the Poetry Tea sounds like a wonderful experience. Please submit this same comment to Janet Wong’s post above so you can be entered in the drawing to win a book!
For accesible poetry you might check out http://www.heydays.ws. Links reading and writing poetry.
Thanks, I wasn’t familiar with that site.
I too have mixed feelings about having designated months for certain things in schools. Though I like the idea of having a set month to celebrate poetry, I feel that poetry must be taught little by little year round so that it is not “dropped like a hot potato”, as you put it. Children tend to struggle with poetry, both reading and interpreting it in literature as well as writing their own. Because of this, I feel it necessary to explore the topic little by little throughout the school year, and use April as a way for students to showcase what they have learned and build upon the foundation of knowledge they have already established for themselves.
I also feel that, in all things involving teaching strategies, it is important to connect the lessons to students’ lives to keep them interested and make them willing to learn more. Though I see why the rebirth of nature in the early spring months seems like a poetic time for inspiration, I feel that some students may be open to a more complex means of connecting poetry to their personal lives and the world around them. This of course depends on the grade and level at which your students writing abilities are.
I personally feel that February could be a great time to focus on poetry, tying it into Black History Month. There is a wide range of poetry written about the civil rights movement, as well as songs and hymns. By studying these different forms of poetry, students can also be making connections to an important time period in our nation’s history as well as making connections to current events that are relevant in today’s society. This could lead to a much deeper understanding and passion for poetry when students can see what an impact the words in them can have, rather than reading and writing poems about pretty little flowers blooming in the spring time.
Amanda, thank you for your comments. I think you’re raising important points about how poetry can appear to be difficult for many students to read and write, and the value of connecting it to relevant issues in their lives. I also agree with your idea of exploring poetry all year, and then designating a month to showcase and celebrate it. The connection to Black History Month is thought-provoking. My reference to April as a time that lends itself to look closely at our surroundings was meant to go beyond the appearance of flowers (as wonderful as that is). I meant that the practice of close observation, which might start with nature, is an integral part of the appreciation and creation of poetry, regardless of the subject. Like you, I believe that poetry can change the world.