Saturday, November 15, 2014

Talking about poetry at the YALSA Symposium

I’m off to the YALSA Symposium in Austin, Texas, and looking forward to presenting alongside these fabulous poets:

K A Holt /
Guadalupe Garcia McCall/
Janet S. Wong/
Jacqueline Woodson /

Our program title: Keepin’ it Real: Sharing Poetry with Tweens and Teens

Session Description: What is true and relevant in providing meaningful connections between students and poetry? As they are poised between childhood and adulthood, we seek out poems that are fresh and authentic, along with approaches that are engaging and interactive. This session will feature a diverse panel of published poets talking about their poetry, their process, and their inspiration, as well as the educator perspective on sharing poetry using the latest media and technology for promoting involvement and participation. 

Of course we’ll be featuring our middle school anthology of poetry, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School,  with 110 poems by 71 poets for grades 6, 7, and 8, along with “Take 5” activities for every poem. We're so proud that this book was selected as a Poetry Notable book by NCTE. Here are a few tips from the book:

Poem Read-Aloud Strategies
  • Take the lead, be the first to read the poem, and don’t be afraid to “ham it up.” Take the pressure off students by showing how the poem sounds, how words should be pronounced, how the meaning and emotion might be conveyed. Don’t ask them to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.
  • Use props whenever possible to make a concrete connection to the poem, focus attention, and add a bit of fun. Choose something suggested by the poem. It’s even worth planning ahead to have a good prop ready beforehand. Students can then use the props too as they volunteer to join in on reading the poem, taking the focus off of them and giving the audience something specific to look at while listening—the poetry prop.
  • Try using media to add another dimension to the poetry experience. Look for digital images or videos relevant to the poem to display without sound as a backdrop while reading the poem aloud, or find music or sound effects suggested by the poem to underscore the meaning or mood as you read the poem aloud. 
  • Offer choices as you invite students to join in on reading the poem aloud with you. They can choose a favorite line to chime in on or volunteer to read a line or stanza of their choice or ask a friend to join them in reading a portion aloud. The more say they have about how they participate in the poem reading, the more eager and comfortable they will be about volunteering.
  • Make connections between the poems and their lives and experiences, between one poem and another, and between poems and other genres like nonfiction, short stories, newspaper articles, and songs). We provide example questions and poem connections for each poem, but once you have established that pattern, be open to the connections the students themselves make first. 
We also connect poetry with a lot of technology—so appealing to young readers. Here are a few of my favorite websites that we use in the Take 5 activities to introduce or extend the poems.

The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School: 
Fun websites we link with poems
  3. (blackout poems)
  4. (this one is hilarious!)
  5. (feeling hectic? Check this one out!)
  7. (who knew?)
  9. (great for new drivers)
  10. (for making digital posters)
  13. (weird and fascinating!)
  14.  (say it in sign language using ASL)
  15. (sound recordings)
  19. (awesome vintage photographs)
  20. (recording sounds yourself)
And if you’re looking for more guidance on sharing poetry with young people, here are some excellent resource books.

Professional Resource Books for Sharing Poetry with Teens and Tweens

Ambrosini, Michelle and Morretta, Teresa. 2003. Poetry Workshop for Middle School. International Reading Association.
Collom, Jack and Noethe, Sheryl. 2005. Poetry Everywhere; Teaching Poetry Writing in School and in the Community. Teachers & Writers. 
Franco, Betsy. 2005. Conversations With a Poet: Inviting Poetry into K-12 Classrooms. Richard C. Owen.
Frost, Helen. 2001. When I Whisper, Nobody Listens: Helping Young People Write About Difficult Issues. Heinemann.
Heard, Georgia. 1994. For the Good of the Earth and Sun. Portsmouth, 
Heard, Georgia. 1999. Awakening the Heart. Heinemann. 
Holbrook, Sara and Salinger, Michael. 2006. Outspoken: How to Improve Writing and Speaking Through Poetry Performance. Heinemann. 
Holbrook, Sara. 2003. Wham! It’s a Poetry Jam: Discovering Performance Poetry. Wordsong, Boyds Mills Press.
Holbrook, Sara. 2005. Practical Poetry; A Nonstandard Approach to Meeting Content-Area Standards. Heinemann. 
Janeczko, Paul B, comp. 2002. Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for Young Poets. Candlewick.
Lipson, S. L. 2006. Writing Success through Poetry: Create a Writers’ Workshop. Prufrock Press.
Livingston, Myra Cohn. 1991. Poem-making: Ways to Begin Writing Poetry. HarperCollins.
O’Connor, John S. 2004. Wordplaygrounds; Reading, Writing, and Performing Poetry in the English Classroom. National Council of Teachers of English.
Ruurs, Margriet. 2001. The Power of Poems; Teaching the Joy of Writing Poetry. Maupin House.
Salas, Laura Purdie. 2011. Picture Yourself Writing Poetry: Using Photos to Inspire Writing. Capstone.
Sloan, Glenna. 2003. Give Them Poetry: A Guide for Sharing Poetry with Children K-8. Teachers College Press.
Tiedt, Iris McClellan. 2002.Tiger Lilies, Toadstools, And Thunderbolts: Engaging K-8 Students With Poetry. International Reading Association.
Vardell, S. M. 2012. The Poetry Teacher’s Book of Lists. Pomelo Books.
Vardell, Sylvia. 2007. Poetry People: A Practical Guide to Children’s Poets. Libraries Unlimited.
Vardell, Sylvia. 2014. Poetry Aloud Here 2: Sharing Poetry with Children. American Library Association.
Wolf, Allan. 2006. Immersed in Verse: An Informative, Slightly Irreverent & Totally Tremendous Guide to Living the Poet’s Life. Sterling.
Wood, Jaime R. 2007. Living Voices: Multicultural Poetry in the Middle School Classroom. National Council of Teachers of English.

I hope to share some moments from our session afterward, too. Stay tuned.

Image credit: YALSASymposium12.ning;;;

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2014. All rights reserved.


Janet Wong said...

When I think about the amount of TIME that you spent finding sites like . . . HOW did you even know what search words to enter to find THAT?!

Charles Waters said...

Another informative post by the good Doctor! I wish I could have been there for the shindig.