Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Celebrating World Poetry Day

At this time of year as a classroom teacher, I always looked forward to April and teaching poetry during National Poetry Month. I was usually successful in finding some poets and specific poems that resonated with my third and fourth graders. Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky were class favorites as was the poem “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll. The students loved the fun nature of poems by these poets. Their reactions were in line with one of the goals of National Poetry Month – to celebrate of the art of poetry and poets.

My students often used poets and poems as inspiration in their own writing, and they certainly enjoyed performing their poems for others. One year, I worked with some colleagues to organize a “Poetry Day” for our classes where we spent all day reading, writing, and performing poetry. Looking back, although we all enjoyed the poems we read, there were certainly more poets we should have explored from around the world. World Poetry Day is a good day to discover poets that may be new to you and your students.

World Poetry Day is held annually on March 21. It was originally declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1999. The purpose of the day is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world. When UNESCO declared March 21 as World Poetry Day, the stated goal was to “give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements.” To mark this year’s World Poetry Day, UNESCO will pay tribute to Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who was also a Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature.

With my class, I would begin by researching more about Pablo Neruda – where did he come from, when did he live, what was his inspiration?

  • My students would discover that Neruda always wrote using green ink, the color of hope. I would encourage my students to choose a color to write in and have them explain their choice. I think I would choose a metallic silver pen for my own writing. I would love how my writing would shimmer!
  • We would examine his poem “Ode To Conger Chowder” and read about the ingredients and dishes native to Chile. I would encourage my students to write a poem about a recipe native to their own state or country. I would love to write a poem about my grandmother’s rhubarb pudding, made from the strawberry rhubarb she grew on the farm.
  • My students and I would learn together more about the time and place in which Neruda lived and how that may have affected his writing. What was Chile like in the early to mid-1900s? If we wrote about our world today, what would we choose to write about?
  • The class would also learn that Pablo Neruda was very involved in politics throughout his life. He died in 1973, two weeks after a change in government in Chile. My students and I could write a poem in the voice of Neruda, reacting to this change.
There are so many possibilities with poetry. Reading, writing, and performing are obvious choices. How else can poetry be part of the curriculum? Find a poet unknown to the class and engage in an inquiry project. Learn as much as you can and share with others. Find poets and poems that students can make personal connections to – how do they see themselves represented? Much like the celebration with my students, how can poems be used to celebrate language and all of its richness?

So as March 21 approaches, invite students to share their favorite poetry, go out into the community and attend poetry readings, or find books of poetry at the library or bookstore that can help you celebrate World Poetry Day.


Len Milner said...

Thanks for the information about World Poetry Day--and the great classroom ideas. I'm doing an inservice with the elementary teachers in my district later this week, and I'll be sure to pass this along to them!

Melissa Kath said...

So many children become overwhelmed with writing, grammar, punctuation, complete sentences and the like that it inhibits their ability to share thoughts and ideas. Poetry is an excellent way to relieve students of these "hang ups" and let the creative juices start to flow. Wonderful ideas to include poetry across the curriculum Lisa. I am sure the "classroom" misses you as much as you miss it!

Lisa Fink said...

Len - good luck with your inservice. It would be great to hear how teachers react and if and how they choose to celebrate World Poetry Day with their students.

Melissa - I love what you wrote about students being able to write what they want without focusing so much on spelling and conventions. That is so true!

Greg said...

I have my students write poems from famous authors into their writer's notebooks on Mondays and Wednesdays. Tuesdays and Thursdays they emulate some element of the poem they copied the previous day--whether it be structure, a rhyme scheme, use of imagery, a certain line length, a theme etc. On Fridays, we share our work. At the end of the month, I have students type their favorite three poetic creations from the month and we put them all into an anthology.

Lisa Fink said...

Greg - thanks for sharing! That sounds like a great idea. I like the variety in that project. It's also great that the students have a published anthology at the end.

Jeana Rock said...

Have you thought about using the film _Il Postino_ with you unit on Pablo Neruda? I teach the movie and include Neruda poetry with it. I have found it very successful to have my students write odes to common objects, just like Neruda did in his Elemental Odes.