Today’s poetry resource is one that is not just for poetry. It is something that our students need when they do any kind of writing. Today’s resource is, at times, precious. It is TIME TO WRITE.
This was the fourth week of April as far as my poetry lessons were concerned. The first week I introduced my classes to found poetry, the second week we looked at the pantoum, and the third we dabbled in spoken word/ performance poetry. This week I gave them open time to do one of the following: complete one of the poems they started with me over the last few weeks; write further poetry in one of the forms we’ve looked at; write their own poetry, free verse or in a form they’ve learned about in previous years; if it’s really not a writing kind of day they can read the poems in one of the many books we have on display.
I have been keeping this pattern all year: a handful of lessons/ writing starts and then a few open work periods for them to go back and work on one piece that like the best. This also allows me to conference with individual students as needed. I have noticed that they have gotten much better at being on task as the year progressed. I am not their regular enrolling classroom teacher and the pace with me is sometimes different than they have in the classroom. I was very pleased this week as I wandered around the room and listened to their conversations about poem topics, rhyming words, and hearing them sharing their poetry with each other.
I haven’t taught them everything I could have about poetry this month (obviously, I don’t have to stop just because April will end), but I believe that they stretched themselves a bit as writers and that they now have a few more ideas to work with as they continue down that road.
Happy Earth Day!
I taught again today the lesson I described on day 10. It was another group of 6/7s and I used the same poems from Joyful Voices for them to practice and present. One difference was that I didn’t use the Shane Koyczan “To This Day” as the introduction. I found that, while a great piece, it didn’t exhibit the particular characteristics of slam poetry I wanted my students to notice and attempt to imitate: Koyczan’s piece is too polished, too smooth.
Luckily, the other night I came across this piece from the Brave New Voices festival slam competition (this particular piece has been picked up by Upworthy and made a round on facebook so you may have seen it.) It is a poem for two voices, which is great for my students to see and hear what I’m going to be asking them to do in the second part of the lesson. I ask them to listen for how the two voices work together, and off each other. This piece is by two young women and is on the subject of religious stereotypes le viagra pas cher.
If you poke around the Brave New Voices website, you will find the Speak Green page. What a perfect source for Earth Day! (you can use it next year.) This collection of environmental poetry is a pretty cool spark to inspire some of our young poets to challenge themselves to focus their creative voices on a issue that matters to all of us.
When in need of new poetry activities, or poems to share with your students, why not stop by your school library and chat with your teacher-librarian? Poetry in your library will be in the 811s (occasionally in the 819s). Your teacher-librarian will likely have connections to resource-networks outside your school, and at the very least he or she will have a different perspective and set of inspirations for you to draw upon.
When we collaborate with a colleague, especially someone like a TL, who has a unique relationship with all the students in the school, we can incorporate a richness into your practice. I love working with colleagues, whether it’s a brainstorm over lunch in the staffroom, or a co-planned, co-taught unit. I always feel like I do more conscientious work when I partner with someone.
Today’s resource is one by our very own Starleigh Grass, who has served on the BCTELA executive a few times and who currently works for FNESC.
Starleigh wrote an article about using poetry text sets on social justice themes last year that is worth looking at again. She shares a favourite unit on poetry.org on developing voice, and then suggests her list of poetry texts to adapt the voice unit to a more Canadian context. She then briefly discuses ways in which poetry can be used as a path into inquiry.
Starleigh is a thoughtful and reflective writer and curriculum developer and I regularly enjoy hearing her perspective on complex subjects, such as the social justice topics listed in her post. The texts she shares in this post are ones I would likely not have come across myself, and I am grateful for members of the BCTELA community like her for sharing.
Slam poetry is often generated from a place of core feeling. Not always, of course, but much of the compelling performance and slam poetry to be found online and at local poetry slams seems to originate deep in the speaker’s heart.
Because the topics are so close to the speakers, we often hear pieces about bullying, racism, and abuse and discrimination. Provocative subjects, and powerful tools to hear about, process, and express issues of social justice.
I have just discovered Zaccheus Jackson. He is a Blackfoot poet currently living in Vancouver. He speaks about poverty and addiction, and the struggles of our society coming to terms with the history we share with first nations peoples. His figurative language is wonderful (warning: he does use profanity).
On the subject of North American history, Alex Deng has piece titled “What kind of Asian are you?” which has been quite popular lately. He’s from Portland, OR, but his voice resonates, I think, in BC.
When looking for slam poetry to play for you students always preview! This is obvious to us teachers, but profanity seems to come hand-in-hand with difficult and provocative topics and more than once I have become excited about a piece to share with my students only to find that the last two minutes’ word choice push it beyond what I feel comfortable sharing with 6s and 7s.
I still love this form and these poets will continue to move me to tears regularly.