Leave it to the first grade to sum it all up. People write books about the hows, whats, and whys of poetry. I know. I have. But here the first graders at Skano Elementary, Albany, NY summed it up and their teacher recorded the whole business about poetry on one sheet, in nice bold letters.
The fifth graders pulled out dictionaries, vocab sheets and social studies glossaries to draft their definition poems of geography terms. There was that moment when I introduced the concept to the kids, sitting with their writer’s notebooks open and pens poised. Here’s what, kids, I know you don’t know me. I know you don’t know these words very well. We’re going to take these words you just met and you are going to turn them into poems and then present them to the class. No problem.
And then that moment. When they just looked at me. The “are you sure about this?” cloud briefly shadowed us all. Every teacher knows this moment. The lesson has been introduced, but in order for the lesson to fly, a slight suspension of disbelief is required. But then, poof. The cloud evaporated and the kids started writing, writing about the words and writing about their world. And then they took turns sharing.
Another poet/teacher admonished me a while ago, telling me it is never okay to ask everyone to share. I didn’t argue (what’s the use when someone is so sure), but I do that all the time. Share with a partner. Share aloud talking over top of one another. Take turns. Speak. Listen. Communicate. I mean, isn’t that the entire point of writing? To share our ideas?
I’m not sure what happens to people between elementary school and adulthood, but I’ll take the open-minded instincts of youth every time. I had a great time at Skano — thanks to librarian Susan and all the teachers for prepping the kids so well and making the two days a learning experience for us all.