I think that I shall never see ... well-disciplined creativity! How often has that thought crossed your mind? Don't despair! The experts -- working poets who teach their craft -- share their secrets for instructing and inspiring budding poets. Included: Exercises to help students access their creative powers and produce well-crafted poems.
Teaching poetry can be a tricky business. Concentrating too much on the theoretical aspects of poetry, such as rhyme scheme, scansion, feet per line, and poetic form can stifle students' creativity. Turning students loose with only pen, paper, and instructions to write a poem, on the other hand, can result in undisciplined drivel. Helping students achieve that delicate balance of theory and creativity is never easy.
Give the following techniques and exercises a try. Working poets use them to teach and inspire students of all ages.
"When we go into schools, our focus is to get the students to write, not to teach the theory of poetry," said Faith Vicinanza. She is the organizing force behind Words in Motion, a collective of poets who perform and teach in schools and other venues. "We want them to put something down on paper, something significant.
"Through the years, I've developed a whole set of exercises designed specifically to get students writing from a particular place," Vicinanza added. "A lot of teaching of poetry makes it seem much too difficult, too inaccessible for the lay person. But writing poetry is a simple form of self-expression. That's what I try to convey in my classes."
Vicinanza shared with Education World four exercises she has used successfully in workshops with both children and adults.
Elizabeth Thomas, an accomplished performance poet who frequently conducts in-school workshops, is the director of Words Alive, a program that sponsors distinguished poets to work with high school students.
"When I go into schools, I try to get the students to think outside their normal boundaries," Thomas said of her approach to leading workshops. "In school, the students might be coming from math class, where they're not used to using the right side of their brains. As the poetry person for a day, I have to come up with creative ideas that help the students stretch their imaginations.
"If I tell the kids to simply write a poem, it's not going to happen. You have to find the fun in it," added Thomas, whose Web site, UpWords Poetry, often features student writings from her workshops.
One of the exercises Thomas has used successfully is the Emotional Workshop, in which she asks participants to write a five-line poem.
It would be hard to find a poet with more teaching credentials than Pit Pinegar. A member of the Litchfield Performing Arts group, Poetry Alive, Pinegar teaches at the Greater Hartford Academy of Arts and is the teaching director at the International Women's Writers Guild Conference. She's published two books of her own poetry and will soon publish a book about teaching poetry to children. "In many of the exercises I use, I'm trying to get the kids to think in terms of poetry and not prose," Pinegar said. "The necessity of writing in complete, well-punctuated sentences is constantly drummed into the kids' heads. So, often they're not used to expressing themselves in abbreviated thoughts. I try to break down their resistance to that."
Pinegar uses two exercises to accomplish this:
These exercises and others, used in workshops led by accomplished teaching poets, are designed to help students access their creative powers and produce well-crafted poems. Any one of them can help get your students' creative juices flowing -- and help you create some poetry-writing exercises of your own.
Kristine O'Connell George Poet
Kristine O'Connell George offers poems for children as well as tips and exercises for teaching poetry.
A Quotation a Day: Just What the Language Doctor Ordered
Quotations can be used to develop students' writing and critical thinking skills. Included: "Why use quotations?" plus a quotation a day for 180 days of school.
Rhyme Time Poetry Plans and Projects
Bring poetry into your classroom through monitor and modem with the help of these activities!
Seventh Graders Writing Italian Sonnets? You Bet!
Let's take a look at a program that has kids writing all kinds of poems---from quatrains to limericks to (yes!) Italian sonnets.
Article by David Martin
Copyright © 2008 Education World
Links last updated 04/09/2012