Sunday, April 2, 2017

Slammin' National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month. One of my favorite parts of National Poetry Month is Poem in Your Pocket Day. That's April 27, if you're curious. That can be a really fun event for students across grade levels, especially if faculty and staff participate, too.

But I've also been thinking about poetry slams and how spoken art can be powerful. Then I found this video of a couple of kids performing at a TEDxYouth event. Their title? "If You Give a Child a Word."

Before you watch the video, just think of the potential of inviting, encouraging students to write a poem about a word.

In her Master Class with Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou spoke about the power of words. Angelou said,
Words are things. . . Some day we'll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and your upholstery, and your clothes, and, finally, into you.
If kids write and speak about words, they have to think about words and they have to think about the words they want to use to describe, explain, declaim, and express their word.

Yea, that's pretty powerful, isn't it?

 I started putting together a list of words for kids to choose from to write their poems, just in case they didn't know how or where to start. I started to create a list of words by grade level but quickly abandoned that. It occurred to me that students of any age may have some unrealized or unexpected connection with some words, so better to let them choose from a broader list. If you do this with first or second graders, the words might need to be more concrete, but maybe not. I've learned not to underestimate kids and how they see and experience their worlds.


Then I wondered what the experience might be like to write a poem about a word that has meaning to me. So I picked "future" which might seem like an odd for a woman of a certain age, but it was the word that resonated with me at the moment and mostly because I've been contemplating my future, and thinking about balance, and thinking about possibilities and passions. Thinking about change, which is actually one of my favorite things. ;)

Anyway, I know I don't have a future as a professional rapper, but I have to say this was fun to do and not just because it forced me to think in very specific ways although, I confess, that is one of the happy byproducts of this kind of an activity. I hope you'll encourage your students to try to write their own poem--limerick, haiku, or whatever moves them--using "If You Give a Child a Word."


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