My students are confused. I'm expecting them to memorize a poem and recite it to the class. As part of a grant our school is participating in a Poetry Out Loud competition. I decided to incorporate it into my poetry unit. The organization maintains that students learn many skills along with reciting poetry.
Poetry offers mastery of language, and stocks the mind with images and ideas in unforgettable words and phrases
• Poetry trains and develops our emotional intelligence
• Poetry reminds us that language is holistic—that how something is said is part of what is being said, with the literal meaning of words only part of their whole meaning, which is also carried by tone of voice, inflection, rhythm
• Poetry lets us see the world through other eyes, and equips us imaginatively and spiritually to face the joys and challenges of our lives
For the past few days, we've been reading poetry. We've been listening to an Elizabeth Alexander interview on NPR. We've been watching a Nikki Giavonni interview I found on iTunes. The kids have watched a video I made on "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes. This is the youtube version of the poem/song.
A lot of students have been whining.
"Not poetry! How boring!"
These are the same students who volunteer to read the poems. So, I totally ignore them. They're supposed to whine about poetry. It's expected.
One of our colleagues has worked diligently on this program. She set up a visit from Diane Tribbit who presented the program to our students. She talked a lot about Poetry Outloud and how one poem can save a life. She really connected with the students when she told them about when her husband died. I hate to admit I had a few tears in my eyes. Some of the students wiped a tear from their eyes too. The students watched a DVD of some of the winners from the national contest. They were on the edge of their seats.