Thursday 9 June 2016

Hundreds of things to do with a poem

"I have become aware that many primary teachers do not enjoy poetry with their classes for the sheer visceral pleasure on a daily basis. Instead they 'study ' poems when poetry comes up in the cycle of genres ."

This is a comment from someone called Sandra Palmer who posted this on a thread on Facebook.

I wouldn't want to comment directly on this other than to say, please remember that poems were invented to do their own work. That's to say, poets write poems so that they will 'stick' or 'get under your skin' or 'affect us'. That's what I meant in a previous post about 'hooks'. The hooks that hook readers and listeners in are there. Poets spend their whole lives thinking of 'hooks', ways of interesting and intriguing readers and listeners. Of course, I have absolutely no objection to the study of these 'hooks' or any other part of poetry and literature for older school students and adults. The key thing for younger children - let's say primary age - is to engender enthusiasm, engagement, a spirit of curiosity and invention. The very best and easiest way of doing this is to expose the children to poetry. All you have to do is keep reading and sharing the stuff. Trust the poems, trust the poets. They did the stuff to make it work. If it doesn't work, leave it and find another one.

There are many ways of sharing it and if we spent as much time thinking about the many ways of sharing, as we are required to do in asking naff questions about it, we would have millions more people interested in and enjoying poetry.

We used to talk about 'Things to do with a poem'. You can find lists of them online. Only one of them, is to ask SATs-type questions about it. There are probably something like a hundred others. If you can bear to wait till October (!) I have assembled quite a few and put them in a book coming out then.

Think, poetry shows, film, dance, poster, mime, cabaret, poetry and jazz, self-made anthologies, poetry book corner, reading and daydreaming, wall displays, blogs, school bulletins, slams, powerpoint etc etc

One teacher I worked with simply started reading poems to the class before playtimes and before the end of the day. She didn't 'teach' poetry at all. As a result the children wanted more and more, she brought in more and more poetry books. The children borrowed the books, read the books in free reading time, started writing poems, bringing poems from home. She started 'publishing' their poems by putting them up on the walls in the room. And it all started from her simply reading poems to the class and being prepared - of course - to listen to what the children wanted and acting on it.