Friday, April 8, 2011

How To Teach Poetry: Bits and Pieces

I could write a post every day on how to teach poetry.  There are that many (and more) methods to use.
So today I'll talk a little bit about the bits and pieces.

You know: metaphor, simile, rhyme scheme, onomatopoeia (love that word), meter, form, and all of those other good things.  Because they are good.  My one complaint about a bits and pieces approach is that then you have a poem that sits in bits and pieces and you can miss the wholeness.

And of course it begs the question, do you need the bits and pieces to write good poetry?

I don't know.
I'm not sure that Emily Dickinson had much formal education in that area before producing her brilliant (and sometimes completely confusing) works.  But of course then some pieces rely on bits and pieces.  And I personally prefer more traditional, formally composed poems than modern ones. 

So it's really about preference.

But for teaching bits and pieces, I wish wish wish I had had this book as a 9th grade teacher:
R is for Rhyme: A Poetry Anthology by Judy Young

Each letter of the alphabet is accompanied by the following: a term related to poetry, a poem that illustrates that term fabulously (written by Ms. Young), a wonderful illustration, and 3 or 4 paragraphs that include an explanation, history is applicable, and questions/activities for the student to work with the poem.  

This book makes my brain itch in a very good way.  I want my daughter to suddenly be 8 and 12 and 15 so that we can use it and see how her sense of poetry changes as she matures physically, mentally, and academically.  Because you really could use it that often.

Wait, you thought I was actually going to talk about the bits and pieces?  Not all in one post!  But a little bit here or there.  It will come out -- I can't prevent that from happening!  But I won't be covering them from the book -- no, find your library, order on Amazon, whatever floats your boat.  This book is a fabulous foundation.  And it's also a great model for a cool activity to do with students as well . . . 26 days of learning about poetry and composing your own based on 26 different bits and pieces.  I love it, but it would be pretty intimidating to a class of 9th graders.

I can already hear the groaning!