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TOS.nov.2012.PursuingPoetry.mullins

TOS.nov.2012.PursuingPoetry.mullins

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Published by: The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine on May 07, 2013
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Pursuing PoetryBy Dari Mullins
 “I think that I shall never see / a poem as lovely as a tree.” So begins the immortal poem “Trees,” written by Joyce Kilmer. Memorization of this poem in second grade ignited a love of poetry in me that exists to this day. That second-grade poetry project consisted of compilingan anthology of poems, illustrating them, and choosing one to perform in front of the class.The total time allotted for the project was only a few weeks, but the fruits have lasted alifetime. A love of poetry instilled in students is a gift that they will always treasure.For many homeschoolers, the study of poetry remains a daunting task that often getspushed to the bottom of the lesson plans. However, including poetry in those plans
is
anachievable goal. Poetry adds an exciting dimension to school life! Many questions pop upregarding this overlooked topic, including these: “Why teach poetry?” “How do I teachpoetry?” and “How can I make it interesting?” 
But I’m Too Busy for Poetry!
Covering the “basics” as homeschoolers takes time, energy, and effort. Deciding which “extras” to include can be an overwhelming endeavor, but poetry is one of the extras thatshould be placed at the top of the list. Poetry enhances the literary experience and adds anew dimension by merging pictures, words, and sounds to create a masterpiece. Poetrycommences the listening and literary life of a child. Some of the first sounds a baby hearsare the lyrical notes of Mother Goose, the beautiful harmonics of the lullaby, and thesemantic rhythm of Biblical verse. By including poetry in our studies, we continue tocultivate and feed that literary bud within our children.Poetry also awakens the imagination and helps us to see the world in a new way. Poets areartists who help us visualize and hear what we otherwise might have missed. Poems mergethe worlds of art and music like no other medium. The beautiful pictures painted by thepoet’s words expand and deepen our children’s imaginations and creativity. By encouraginggrowth in these areas, we sharpen our children’s wits and exercise these pathways in theirbrains.Every civilization throughout history has utilized poetry to express emotion and ideas.Throughout the centuries, poets have asked the major questions in life. By connecting ourstudents with these great minds, they connect, on a personal level, with poets who havehad the same struggles, battles, and triumphs that we experience today. Teaching ourstudents the historical value of poetry helps them appreciate the rich heritage of this artform.Poetry often reflects the beauty of God. It can encourage us to know God better, love Himmore, and walk in His ways. Poetry often reveals an aspect of God’s character. Augustinesaid, “In every poem there is some of the substance of God.” Robert Browningacknowledged this when he stated, “God is the perfect poet.” We can use poetry toappreciate the majestic characteristics of our Creator.
Can Poetry Be Entertaining?
Poetry
can
be entertaining—when approached with the right attitude. You can teach poetry,regardless of your educational background, past experience, or knowledge of the topic. All
 
you need is a willingness to try. With a few simple steps you
can
enjoy studying poetry withyour children! Here are three helpful tips to equip you to succeed:1.
Start early.
By reading, singing, and reciting poetry to young children, you begin tocultivate and instill a love of the lyrical language in the novice ear of the child. Lullabiessoothe the soul, Mother Goose rhymes reinforce the ability to put words together, and Dr.Seuss teaches us that poetry can be humorous.2. When teaching poetry to the very young,
read aloud with feeling and emphasis, stressthe rhyming words and the visual imagery evoked by the vocabulary 
. Use poetry as aspringboard to learn about other topics. For example “Forgiven” by A. A. Milne is awonderful story about a beetle. Read and recite these verses several times. Use this poemas a starting point to learn about beetles, and then branch into learning about other insects.3.
Introduce young children to different types of poetry 
. Nonsensical poems, such as thosewritten by Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss, help children see the “funny side” of life. Imaginarypoems, such as “The Land of Nod” by Robert Louis Stevenson, can transport children into afairyland world and unleash their inner creativity.Moral lessons can be taught through poems such as “Whole Duty of Children” by RobertLouis Stevenson. As children mature, stories in rhyme such as “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” by Robert Browning or “The Duel” by Eugene Field can be introduced and contemplated.Historical poems, such as “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow or “A Balladof the Boston Tea Party” by Oliver Wendell Holmes, can be used to examine and expand onactual events that shaped the world we live in today.A full poetry course such as
The Art of Poetry 
by Christine Perrin is a wonderful resource forhigh school-aged students. Helpful anthologies such as
The Harp and Laurel Wreath
or
Favorite Poems Old and New 
provide great choices for reading aloud.
How Do I Get Started?
Enjoying poetry begins with listening. Teach your children to listen to the way a poemsounds. Focus on the sounds rather than on the meaning. As they read a poem, teach themto experience the poem by rereading it, emphasizing the rhyme and rhythm.The exercise below will help children focus on the sounds and then use vivid vocabulary todescribe and paint a picture of those places. • Fold a piece of paper into fourths. Have each square represent a different place, such as abeach, forest, city, etc.• What sounds would be heard at each place?• Describe each sound with at least three adjectives.• Younger children can simply draw pictures and list the sounds beneath each picture.Another way to teach listening is to have children record nature sounds or listen to them onthe Internet. They can listen to birds, wind, water, insects, rain, etc. and then create a list of words that describe each sound. Have a thesaurus handy so that they don’t rely solely ontheir limited vocabularies.Teach children to observe the environment around them. Take note of the sights, sounds,and feelings of the seasons. What colors are evident in autumn? What emotions do those
 
colors trigger? What about winter? How does each season evoke different feelings, scents,sounds, etc.?Learning to observe and describe their world helps students learn to read and appreciatepoetry. Consider the word choices and the sounds of words used in a poem such as “TheEagle” by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Ask how the rhythm, rhyme, and repetition of certainsounds all help to sculpt the feel of the poem.Once the children learn to “listen” to a poem, more in-depth information can be introduced.A great way to begin is to introduce the poet. Do a short background study or have yourstudent to do it, and discover what influence the poet’s life had on his work. For example,Robert Louis Stevenson spent much of his childhood in bed due to sickness. This wouldexplain much of his “imaginary world” content.As children mature in their familiarity with and enjoyment of poetry, they will begin to noticethe styles of different poets and be able to identify the works of certain poets by theirunique styles. The Poetry for Young People
 
series (from Sterling Publishing) is an invaluableresource for teaching poetry. Each book focuses on one poet, providing a short biographyand several age-appropriate selections.
What Next?
Add copying or acting out short poems. Use your personality and talents to enhance yourteaching. If you are a gifted artist or musician, incorporate those talents within your poetrylessons.Young children may enjoy acting out a poem such as “The Pancake” by Christina Rossetti,and they also can illustrate the poem. One fun activity we did with the poem “Color” byRossetti was to cut out pictures from magazines with the colors she mentions in the poemand then paste them on a piece of construction paper of the corresponding color.Students can also memorize a poem, perform it, and share it with friends or relatives.Keeping a poetry notebook in which a student illustrates the poem and then writes thestanzas beneath the illustrations makes a great keepsake. This could grow into a lifelonghabit: keeping a poetry journal.Please note that there will most likely be poems that simply don’t appeal to your children.That’s okay. When this occurs, just move on to a different poem, topic, genre, or activity.Once your students have learned to internalize a poem, older elementary-aged children caninteract with poetry. They can read it aloud with you or to you. As children grow, they canfocus on the deeper meanings and themes of longer and more ambitious works. They alsocan begin to learn about the technical aspects of the poem and memorize and perform morechallenging works.
The Roar on the Other Side
by Suzanne Rhodes is a great tool forteaching poetry to older children.
Poetry—Gift for a Lifetime
Perhaps you are a little intimidated by the thought of teaching poetry. Don’t let this mindsethamper your willingness to jump in with a sense of wonder, adventure, and a little humor.Anyone can learn to appreciate poetry by doing these fun activities with their students. Youcan create a love for poetry and thus give your students a gift that will remain with themforever. My second-grade teacher introduced me to a lifelong love of poetry, and a few

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