Friday, July 22, 2016

Millersville Poetry Institute

Our whole group-- with everyone holding a book of poetry!
Janet (Wong) and I just wrapped up a wonderful week at the Millersville University Poetry Institute (in Pennsylvania) led, planned, and coordinated by Dr. Lesley Colabucci. (Intro and info here.) 

What a fun week-- and what a great opportunity to work with 23 teachers (K-12) in helping them get comfortable and confident with sharing poetry in all kinds of creative ways. Lesley had several "celebrity" readers start each day by sharing a poem (including the University President), invited local experts who lead various poetry projects and initiatives, and had several other poet speakers too-- like Jacqueline Jules, Heidi Mordhorst, Marjorie Maddox, Sandy Asher, and Linda Oatman High. Teacger Maggie Bokelman spoke about teaching with poetry and Karla Schmit presented the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award. (Sorry I missed you, Karla!) And I'm probably missing other awesome speakers. 
Janet has the group in the palm of her hand!

It was so fun to watch my good friend Janet (Wong) do her thing, presenting an awesome day of activities and challenges. She even had us collaborate to create a poetry suitcase-- which turned out amazingly well! Plus, Janet and I were able to take time outside the Institute to work together on our next project-- more on that soon. Hope you enjoy a few photos and feel inspired to try some of the things we saw here too. 

My focus was on modeling the "Take 5" approach to sharing poetry and showing how we can bridge oral and written language, involve kids actively, integrate skill instruction, and make text-to-text connections, among other things. I had a ton of slides, examples, and handouts, so I'll just share one nugget here below.

Reading Poetry Aloud

    Rachel created a poem poster
For each poem, we provide suggestions for how to invite students to participate in reading the poem aloud. Often the poem itself will “show” you how to perform it if you study the lines and their arrangement on the page. And when you invite students to participate in poem performance, you will find that they will have ideas about how to try a poem this way or that way. Follow their lead! Here are some general guidelines for involving students in reading poetry out loud.
  • 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.
Poetry suitcase with props
  • 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. 
    Poems on the sidewalk
  • 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. 
    Creating a "found" poem
  • Be creative and use art, drama, and technology to present the poem and to engage students in participating in that presentation. Find relevant photos, draw quick Pictionary-style sketches, make word clouds, create graphic “novel” comic panels for poem lines, use American Sign Language for key words, pose in a dramatic “frozen” tableau, collaborate on a PowerPoint slide show, and so on. Look to share the poem in a way that is particularly meaningful for students. Or better yet, let them show you!


Heidi Mordhorst said...

Sylvia, it was inspiring as always to be with you and Janet among all those classroom professionals who "deliver the goods." I'm excited for your new project and, as I mentioned, always so tickled by how to you just go and do it right away!
Thanks for hosting us all, too.

Charles Waters said...

Wow. What a great fun filled week. Once again, now and forever, VARDELL and WONG POWER!

Sylvia Vardell said...

So great to connect with you again, Heidi. Loved spending time together! And thanks for your feedback on our latest project. You may be shocked when you see how it finally turns out! Big changes!

Thanks to you too, Charles, for stopping by. Always great to hear from you. Love how you keep the poetry power going!