Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Poetry Empowers

This is slice 18 of 31 for The Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by the 
talented team at Two Writing Teachers--thanks TaraStacey, Betsy
DanaAnna and Beth. Click over to the 
Two Writing Teachers' comment stream for seconds or to serve up your own slice.

"I want to talk to you about how poetry might just change your life."  - Dana Gioia, Poetry Out Loud

Poetry changes lives. It changed my life when I used it to write my way through hard times as a teenager. It changed my life the first time I witnessed a living poet perform and breathe magic into verse. Poetry inspires. It supports.  It pokes and prods. Poetry cajoles. There is not much poetry cannot do.

Today I watched poetry transform my students. We began a few weeks ago analyzing word choice and discussing poetry during our weekly Socratic discussion. We listened to poems from Poetry Out Loud. We chose poems to spend some time with and students took on Expressionist roles to illustrate them and analyze them in their Altered Analysis books (click here to see the project description).
Paul chose to capture Hamlet's soliloquy in his Altered Analysis book.
We are learning about art movements and applying what we learn to a poem every few weeks. 

Last week student experienced a bit of poetry heaven when Sara Holbrook visited. Consummate poet, she created poetry fire (the students' words)  with her stories, performances and poetry lessons. Students have studied, worked through, analyzed and memorized a piece of poetry. Today we plugged into poetry's power through performance.

"Poetry helps to enlarge our humanity and give us the power to express it." - Dana Gioia

Today, Paul tapped into that expressive power. Incredible, he took several pieces of poetry and put them together as if he were crafting an oral interpretation for debate. He put the text marking tips Sara gave us last week to immediate use. You can see his P.I.P.E.S. marginalia as well as Sara's advice to mark emphasis and vocal sounds as well as her tip to not "hit the rhymes too hard" and to "tell a story."

You can see his effort on the page. His preparation paid off. He absolutely wowed us. He stepped off those pages and became the words. I only captured a short clip, but here he is at the beginning of his piece: amazing, inspired, empowered.


  1. Oh no the clip is not visible (maybe because I am on an ipad?). Even without it I am struck by your sharing and it makes me want to learn with your students. I discovered the power of poetry here during the 2012 March challenge. It changed me to and still is.

  2. I was able to view (and hear) the clip on my laptop. The student's passion comes through.I loved your post and agree with your views about the power of poetry.

  3. Very inspiring! Thank you for this very important reminder!

  4. Thank you for bringing poetry to my mind, you are the second person to bring this to my attention, which is great because both the 5th and 6th grade in my school have poetry units approaching. Great ideas!

  5. You're so inspiring, Lee Ann. I mourn the little time I have left with my students. One boy whom I was told really wasn't a good writer, and struggled with every word just wrote a fabulous poem for his blog the other day. I know that poetry is so powerful. This work you've shown is beautiful. Bet the students will remember for a long time, maybe forever.

  6. This performance by your student takes my breath away. While I was the Director of ELA... I brought Poetry Out Loud to the district. I saw the fire in students' eyes as they performed, even the reluctant readers made their pitch. Students like yours need creative outlets and I would say you are providing them with that. I am xeroxing your Art of Analysis piece to show the HS teachers I will be working with in May. Thanks, Lee Ann.

    1. Lee Ann, would you consider having your students write poems for my Spring Gallery. They could even perform them in video format which would be unique for the gallery. If you offer a mentor poem for them I could probably include 3 student works in the gallery which is unnamed as of now.