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Celebrating Poetry in the Pacific Northwest

Posted By Michelle Schaub, Friday, October 21, 2016

What do you call a group of 38 children’s poets gathered together from around the country?  A collection of poets? A stanza of poets? A plethora of poets?  I call it a priceless opportunity, and one in which I was thrilled to participate.  Over the weekend of September 30th, I flew to Seattle to take place in the first annual Poetry Camp, sponsored by Western Washington University’s Poetry CHaT (Poetry for Children and Teens), and coordinated by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, the editors of The Poetry Friday Anthology series.

The Poetry Friday Anthology series is a collection of books comprised of original poems by award-winning and up-and-coming children’s poets. Each book includes a poem a week for an entire school year, all linked to key Common Core skills. The anthologies are designed to inspire teachers to share, teach, and celebrate poetry with their students. 

Last spring, Sylvia and Janet invited any poets who had contributed to one of their anthologies to share their penchant for poetry with teachers, librarians, and parents at the Poetry Camp conference.  Since I had published two poems in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, I was one of the lucky invitees.   A chance to rub shoulders with some of the most preeminent children’s poets in the county and visit the breathtaking Pacific Northwest? I jumped at the chance.

Some poets crafted presentations on specific poetic devices, such as using metaphor or alliteration. Others focused on how to perform poetry.  Another group zoomed in on ways to connect poetry to school curriculum.  Since I regularly use poetry in grammar lessons with my Seventh and Eighth Group students at Avery Coonley, I decided to connect these two concepts.  The title of my presentation:  Grumbling about Grammar? Revive Your Approach through Poetry. 

I built my presentation around my classroom-tested practice of teaching functional grammar.  Functional grammar, as explained by grammar and curriculum guru, Constance Weaver, focuses on how language works in context.  The end goal of functional grammar instruction is to enhance students’ ability to use the language to communicate effectively and eloquently.  To this end, functional grammar maximizes the use of mentor text and encourages students to explore grammar concepts in their own writing.  And poetry, because it is concise yet rich, provides great mentor text and writing opportunities.

While I can talk in front of middle school students all day long, presenting similar content to a group of adults was a bit intimidating.  I shared the lesson I had just launched with my Seventh Group students earlier that week: “What makes a sentence?” After exploring the concepts of subject-predicate, abstract versus concrete nouns, and subject-verb agreement, the audience broke off in pair to create their own terse verse poems.  They were challenged to create a poem of at least ten lines, each line comprised of a two-word sentence.  At first the audience was stoically concentrating, then they were smiling, and finally, freely talking and laughing as they played with words on the page.  The results were impressive, but not as impressive as the poems my own students had crafted for the same lesson. 

My weekend presenting and learning at Poetry Camp was enriching and inspiriting, both as a poet and a teacher.  I believe in the power of poetry and think it should be integrated into the curriculum whenever possible. Poetry helps students digest content, gives them permission to play with language, and invites them to explore new ways to express themselves. And who knows, the poems my students create for today’s grammar lessons might just make it into a future Poetry Friday Anthology.

~ Michelle Schaub, ACS 7th & 8th Group Literacy Teacher


Examples of students’ “terse verse” poems:

 

The Little Things

War whispers,
Pain stings,
Appreciate,
the little things.
 

Life is hard,
We know,
But it's harder,
Without your glow.
 

Be happy,
Make others smile,
Make a sad world,
Bright for a while.
 

Hunger bites,
Disease tears,
Show them,
Someone cares.

-Cate



Sun shines
Sand heats
Rain splatters
Leaves appear
Pumpkins grow
Ground glistens
White with snow
A pop of colorful flowers
 create quite a show
Each season
Its own beautiful

-Anathea

 

 

 

 

Tags:  grammar  poetry  poetry friday anthology 

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