Friday, July 12, 2013

Janet and me at ALA: The Movie

As I mentioned previously, Janet Wong and I were lucky enough to have a proposal accepted for the recent ALA conference in Chicago and presented a session on poetry and the Common Core. We had a great audience and were able to tape a few nuggets to share here-- thanks to poet, friend, and "filmmaker," Laura Purdie Salas. Here's Janet talking for a moment about how "ageless" poetry can be-- particularly how the poems in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School can work at the high school level, too. 

And here I am wrapping up our session with a quote about the value of poetry from First Lady Michelle Obama.

We talked about why poetry is important for young people, what poetry skills are included in the Common Core Standards, and demonstrated how to share a poem while gently incorporating skill instruction. 

What are the expectations outlined in the Common Core?
There has been a lot of discussion about how the Common Core Standards focus on nonfiction-- and that is an interesting and important new direction. But there is a misconception that fiction and poetry reading are no longer important and this is certainly not true. There are Standards that address explicitly important aspects of reading, sharing, and understanding poetry, in particular. Let me also note that good teachers and librarians have been doing these things for YEARS (with our without official "standards"), but we hope that this push to the Common Core Standards might provide additional ammunition for incorporating poetry where it may not have been included before. So, what does the Common Core say about poetry? In a nutshell:
In sharing poetry with kindergartners, we capitalize on their developing knowledge of language, their joy in learning and playing with words, and their emerging understanding of how words should be spoken, spelled, read, and written. First we focus on enjoyment and understanding, then we guide students in recognizing and responding to poems. We can explore the rhythm of poetry as well as the power of rhyme and the sounds of words. (RL.K.5)
With first graders, we continue to do many of the same things, but shift slightly to guide students in understanding how poets express feelings in poetry and appeal to the senses through language. We can also help them understand and identify the words and phrases poets use to communicate emotions and convey sensory experiences through poetry. (RL.1.4)
In second grade, we add to the mix by guiding students in responding to the rhythm of poetry and recognizing how rhyme is used in poems. We can also explore how repetition and alliteration can help shape a poem and how meaning emerges. (RL.2.4)
In third grade, we do all of the above, plus support students in responding to poetry in various forms, exploring narrative poems that tell stories, lyrical poems that explore questions and emotions, and humorous poems that make us groan or laugh. We help students understand how poets use lines and stanzas to build poems in distinctive ways. (RL.3.5)
In fourth grade, we also guide students in responding to poetry in various forms, articulating themes from key ideas and details in the poems. In sharing poetry aloud and in print, we can assist students in understanding how structural elements such as verse, rhythm, and meter help shape a poem. (RL.4.2; RL.4.5)
Finally, in fifth grade, the emphasis is to help students respond to poetry in various forms, articulate themes from key ideas and details in the poems, and explain how the poem’s speaker reflects upon a topic and shapes it with a particular point of view. We can guide students in understanding word meanings and how Higurative language such as metaphors and similes function in poetry. We can also discuss how structural elements such as stanzas and line breaks help shape a poem and how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a poem. In a variety of meaningful and participatory ways, we can celebrate poetry while gently introducing and reinforcing key skills. (RL.5.2; RL.5.4; RL.5.5; RL.5.6; RL.5.7)
The keys to remember are:
  • A poem should first be enjoyed for its own sake; 
  • Presenting poems in participatory ways (in various read-aloud strategies) gets children "into the poem;” 
  • The main idea is to help children see and hear the poetic elements after enjoying the poem through multiple readings—and to come through the "back door" to skills. 
As we shared a poem for every grade level, we demonstrated how it could be both meaningful and fun, starting with the grown up reading the poem aloud, then inviting children to join in on reading the poem aloud (with a variety of creative strategies). Next, we pause to talk with kids about the poem, connecting it with their lives and other reading or other poems. Then, we highlight ONE SKILL that  grows out of that poem organically and read the poem aloud again. Finally, we connect with another poem that is similar in some way or with a book of poetry that is similar. And all of this in five minutes! In The Poetry Friday Anthology we do all of this for you for every poem. These steps can also be applied to any poem in any other book of poetry, of course.

We had the audience reading poems with us and seeing how quickly and naturally poetry could be incorporated into weekly routines (or even more often!). I think the best compliment we heard was how practical and do-able this was. Exactly! We're trying to help people who don't already share poetry feel comfortable taking those steps. For more info, check out Pomelo Books and dig up my article, "Take 5 for Poetry" in the April 2013 issue of Book Links also available here.

And head on over to Todays' Little Ditty where Michelle Barnes is hosting the Poetry Friday party. See you there!


Leslie Bulion said...

What a wonderful session, Sylvia and Janet. I am sure you have encouraged a roomful of new poet-ambassadors. Thanks, as always for all you do!

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Amen to your ultimate goal: "for kids to make friends with poems, and have poems in their hearts that they can read over, and over, and over again." Sounds like a great session- wish I could have been there.

Bridget Magee said...

What an amazing conference to present at and what a stellar job you did. I, too, wish I could have attended. =)

Keri said...

I love how you make poetry accessible and emphasize the fun of it. My second grade teacher read poems to us daily, and I know that had a huge impact on me!

Renee LaTulippe said...

Great to see you two in action! Long live PFA!