I had a lovely surprise when the presenters at an IRA session performed one of my poems! The session was The Power of Poetry to Provide Teachable Moments, and the presenters had no idea I was in the audience (until my friend Janet Fagal told them afterward). Here they are: Diane Bottomley, Ph.D,? plays the Beginning; Renee Huffman, kindergarten teacher, plays the Middle; and Peggy S. Rice, Ph.D., plays the Ending.
There was a funny blooper video (but I forgot to ask permission to share that one!), too, because they initially stood in the wrong order (and the order?is kind of a central idea of the poem). What was great about it, though, was they just laughed it off. Don’t we do it all the time? We screw things up constantly–whether we’re students or teachers or visiting authors. And what do we do with it? We laugh, rearrange ourselves, try again, and have fun, of course. That’s what they’re referring to as the video begins.
I got something even better than seeing these poetry lovers perform my poem, though. They?made me see so many new possibilities for kids presenting poetry! In the video, they’re doing a traditional shared reading where they? each read one part. But in the session, they demonstrated and we?tried out?many ways to perform poems in groups.
Take my very short poem “I Am Fog,” from Seed Sower, Hat Thrower: Poems About Weather (Capstone, 2008):
I Am Fog
I gulp headlights
seep under your skin
until slices of sun
sizzle me away
–Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved
Here are just a few possibilities that come to mind after participating in this super session:
1) 5 kids: 1 reads the title; each kid reads one line
2) 2 kids: 1 kid reads most of the words; the other reads all the S words (emphasizing the alliteration)
3) 1 kid reads and makes motions for?“I gulp” and “blanket” and “seep”; other kids finish the lines and act out being headlights, bridges and skin; another kid comes in as the sun and reads the last two line (and maybe the kid being fog slowly backs away during those last lines)
4) All the kids read all the words except the verbs; 1 kid reads (and acts out?) “gulp,” “blanket,” “seep,” and “sizzle”
5) Several kids unison read the first stanza softly as they spread throughout the classroom; 1 student is the sun and reads the second stanza while the fog students scatter quickly
Those are just quick ideas. The possibilities are limitless. We saw some really cool acting out and reading during the session! And the best thing about this process is that it not only lets kids be creative?and have fun with poems, but it makes them think about the actual words in a poem and what they mean and how they can be shared. So it’s kind of a way of analyzing a poem without dissecting it in a dry manner. So fun!
(And adding the simple physical movements in addition to the reading really adds to the comprehension. Here’s a blog post I recently read about using pantomime in the classroom that might spur some ideas for you.)
Thanks, you wonderful educators, for helping me see poetry performance in a new way, and also for giving me permission to share the video. I really enjoyed your session!