Monday, April 10, 2017

Meaningful Minutes: Poetry

I just learned that April is Poetry Month.  Great timing because I was planning on talking about it anyway.  Poetry used to be pretty far down on my list of "important things" to teach my kids. However, as you read older books about education memorizing poetry is assumed and considered essential.  They talk about how crucial it is to kids understanding language, using their imaginations, memory, beauty and connecting with nature and history. Yes, poetry can do all this.  As you read the stories of older men - they knew their poetry and often wrote some themselves.

Poetry is truly a lost art.  Our kids rarely hear it.  Often, they read silly, playful poems (which have their place) but don't graduate to other poems.  I highly recommend just making sure your young child knows Mother Goose Rhymes.  I was shocked when my 2 yo was reciting Mary Had a Little Lamb to herself as she fell asleep the other day.  Knowing and remembering poetry can help overcome boredom, encourage bravery and do so in a much more memorable way than prose does. Poetry used to have clear "rules" and this actually encouraged great creativity.  Poetry requires precise and rich in vocabulary that help evoke great images.

What poetry should we read?  

Mother Goose Rhymes - sing them, say them, show pictures, draw pictures, tell them from memory - enjoy them!

Jack Perlutsky and Shel Silverstien (be warned not all his works are kid appropriate) are always fun favorites.  If you haven't read any Ogden Nash (this is the one we have)- my kids love his quirky poetry.

In the past, students were introduced to Longfellow, Wordsworth, Robert Louis Stevenson and others at a young age.  There is a whole poetry rotation at Ambleside Online.

A. A. Milne, of Winnie the Pooh fame, also has some great poetry anthologies: Now We are Six and When We Were Very Young.  Casey at the Bat is a fun poem and you can get a musical retelling here.  Another poetry book for younger children is Hailstones and Halibut Bones which has color poems.

As your student hits 4th and 5th grade I highly recommend ballad poetry - the kind that tells of battles, heroic deeds, pirates, love lost and won.  Historic Poems and Ballads is the one that we are using.   It provides some background on the event and then the poem.  It is a reprint of an older book and some pages that is obvious but it hasn't interfered with our enjoyment. Another option is The Book of Heroic Verses.

What do I do with it? 

There are lots of ways to interact with poetry. Please don't just analyze it; enjoy it.  Don't kill yourself trying to memorize it - repeat the ones that you like over and again and you will learn it.  Some people recommend reading a poem three days in a row - adding a new one and repeating two older ones and then rotating.  You can also just read a new poem (or part of one) every day.  Consider having a tea time once a week where you share favorite poetry with each other over lemonade.  Share a favorite poem once a week for a few weeks and you will learn it.  Copy poetry into a place that allows you to keep lines that you love - either individually or as a family.  Maybe you would like to focus on one poet for a few weeks and get to know their work well and then move on to another.  Perhaps variety is more up your alley.  The main thing is to read poetry aloud in your home!

If you really want to make poetry memorization official you can try this program from the Institute for Excellence in Writing.   Another option are the selections included in The Harp and Laurel Wreath. There are also compendiums of more well known poetry out there that you can use for reference:  Sing a Song of PopcornFavorite Poems Old and New, Random House Book of Poetry, 101 Famous Poems, 100 Best Loved Poems and Committed to Memory.

There is also a series of books called Poetry for Young People that gathers together the most well known lines of each poet from Robert Frost to Shakespeare to Maya Angelou to Rudyard Kipling. Each book focuses on one poet and has great artwork to accompany the lines they have chosen.

If your children are middle school and up and they enjoy poetry and you want them to learn more about analysis and poem construction The Art of Poetry or The Grammar of Poetry might help you out.  If you are looking for a poetry anthology these might provide some resources.  I am not a huge fan of their student workbooks - but it might fit your child.

I encourage you to add a bit of poetry to your life.  You never know what might happen!

Just for fun:

Keep A Poem In Your Pocket
By Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

Keep a poem in your pocket
And a picture in your head
And you'll never feel lonely
At night when you're in bed.

The little poem will sing to you
The little picture bring to you
A dozen dreams to dance to you
At night when you're in bed.

So - -
Keep a picture in your pocket
And a poem in your head
And you'll never feel lonely
At night when you're in bed.


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