The only problem
with Haiku is that you just
get started and then
Poetry has the tendency to promote literacy skills in ways that can have a life-long impact on students.
As a 6th grade humanities teacher, I regularly shared favorite or timely poems. Every year in March, prior to our annual week at science camp, I would introduce haiku. Students immediately bought in to the format because “Hey, we only have to write three lines – and there’s a syllable limit!”
Something close to magical always happened as they began drafting, discovering on their own that with the line and syllable limits, “every word needs to count.” And the challenge was on to find the perfect word, which might have to be re-thought if the syllable count didn’t work for that line. They were hooked.
As we headed down the California coast towards science camp, at any given stopping point, such as the tide pools, I could see students, against the backdrop of sand and surf, silently counting on their fingers…counting syllables for the haiku they were composing in their heads. Each year, they returned from camp with notebooks a bit worn from the journey, but containing literary gems – just in time for April’s National Poetry Month. And each year I witnessed the power of poetry to inspire students to imagine more, to read more, and to write more.
In my current position as a technology integration specialist, I visit many school sites. Often, particularly at the elementary level, student poetry is boldly displayed on the classroom walls…just begging for a broader audience. New technologies, such as VoiceThread, for instance, make it increasingly easy for students to take their poetry beyond the classroom, out into the world. If you browse the VoiceThread gallery using “poetry” as a search term, you will quickly find hundreds of samples. To restrict your search to K12 samples only, switch to ed.voicethread. The VoiceThread Library has short articles to help you imagine the possibilities for combining images with power of the human voice.
Poetry, maybe more than any other genre, lends itself to multimedia writing and innovation. Phoetry (photograph + poetry), for example, is making its way into our language and into teachers’ toolkits. The samples shown on Flickr.com or on teacher educator Arnie Abrams‘ workshop handout (scroll to find Fog) will provide you with a window into this emerging genre. Blogger/teacher Bud Hunt invites you into his second annual NPM 2010. Throughout the month, he will post the daily photo “as a way to generate some prompts for folks who maybe wanted to write poetry, but needed a little push.“
If I could time-travel my former 6th grade students (mentioned above) into the present, it’s fun to think about how free tools, and step-by-step instructions – such as teacher Joyce Masongsong-Ray‘s Planning, Writing, and Animating Haiku PDF – and resources – such as Kevin Hodgson‘s Making Stopmotion site – for animating their poetry could transform their words from static notebook pages to dynamic stopmotion pieces, such as those produced by 5th grade students at Northside Elementary School.
There are many ways to take a poem beyond paper and pencil – and, in the process, to build on students’ reading, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and self-confidence as writers. Sometimes community collaboration, a bit of technology, and a shared belief that all students are entitled to poetry can rock students’ worlds, pushing them to academic levels they had not dreamed possible. Teen Salinas Speaks, for example, illustrates the empowerment that comes from this synergy.
This project stems from the vision of middle school teacher Natalie Bernasconi, who explains the steps: “Start with the support of the Central California Writing Project, then mix together a group of middle and high school teachers and students, add one very cool journalist / slam poet guest speaker to light a fire under them, then give them a community space at the local Salinas Public Library to meet in, and you’ve got Teen Salinas Speaks.” The upcoming Spring Slam will be captured electronically in both video and podcast form and shared via Teen Salinas Slam’s Facebook page as a social networking opportunity to extend the power of the spoken word to a virtual audience as well.
If you have been looking for lessons, new ideas and resources, and maybe a little inspiration to ignite your celebration of National Poetry Month, check out the ten sites I’ve listed below. I’m betting you’ll find at least one activity you can use tomorrow!
Whether you weave poetry into your year-long English/Language Arts curriculum (as a number of state content standards currently mandate), use it for making cross-curricular connections (how about a Periodic Table Poems), or save it as a treat for “when testing is done,” please join the conversation and share your questions, ideas, and best practices for igniting a love of poetry.