Thursday, September 17, 2009

One Poem, My Beamish Boy!

The Poetry Out Loud blog posts the following question: If you could choose only ONE poem to teach to your students, what would it be, and why? POL is about high school, which is a venue I've only dipped a toe into, but I can answer without hesitation for the age groups I've worked with (3rd-8th).


Think about it. It's a classic but it's fun. It permits the teaching of rhyme and meter. It permits both performance and interperations. It many elements of sound and how it affects tone (hard sounds are darker...), etc.

And here's one more huge thing for me: it teaches not to be hung up on the words as individuals when the idea is to experience the poem. There will be time to worry about the words and their placement, and all that; a first experience with poetry is not that time).

One of the biggest hurdles I find in getting kids to write poems is to permit their imagination to come with them into a poem. To let their natural desire to tell great stories, unencumbered by truth, control the pen. What better vehicle to get past that than a great action story in which you provide the meaning for every single noun.

And as kids get older, you can add to the lesson that the poem is capable of taking on a life of its own irrespective of what was in the poet's head when he or she wrote it - another reason to trade meaning for momentum in the poem. Almost always the right thing to do.

What poems were meaningful to you as kids? What was it about them that stayed with you:?

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