I never enjoyed poetry when I was in school – reading or writing it. All of the analyzing and dissecting – ugh! I never got to just read it and feel it. And I really don’t remember writing any kind of poem but an acrostic poem or maybe some haikus.
I guess you can say that I never experienced the joys of poetry until I became a teacher. I use poems for different purposes in my classroom – word study, read alouds, shared reading, writing, and the list goes on. When I was a kindergarten teacher in NYC, I taught my first Poetry writing unit. It was during this unit when I fell in love with poetry. I saw, firsthand, it’s magical powers. My reluctant writers who struggled to write/draw three page stories with a simple sentence on each page were pouring out poems. They were writing list poems and circular structure poems on topics they loved. They were using sound words and repetition, and looking at ordinary objects with “poets’ eyes.” They were motivated and were experiencing success with writing for possibly the first time all year. This may have been when they finally felt like writers. On the flip side, writing poetry provided my more proficient writers with a challenge. Writing poems pushed all the learners in my room to different places. It touched them all in some way (and me too!)
Since that first teaching experience with a poetry writing unit, I was hooked. I’ve always made time to incorporate poetry writing into my curriculum (even if it wasn’t on our calendar – shhh). I have a poetry literacy stations – reading, illustrating, and writing. My kiddos have poetry notebooks where they keep copies of the poems we read together. Sometimes, they’ll even choose to write poems during morning or afternoon choice. Poetry inspires kids to express themselves in a different way and motivates them to write.
Over the weekend – I saw the effects that poetry had on a very special person in my life and I fell in love with it all over again. My daughter, Emma, is a reluctant writer (and reader). Literacy has always been more challenging for her than other areas. This has probably been harder on me because I’m a lover of literacy and I read to her since before she was born. Her comprehension is great – cracking the code is her challenge! Anyway, she has writing notebooks. Many, many notebooks – all filled with drawings. She’s an illustrator. Don’t even ask her to write words to accompany her illustrations!
I’m not even sure how it happened, but over the weekend, she started talking about poetry. Maybe I read her one of the poems I posted? I’m not sure. But she just started talking about poems and then said what sounded like a poem. I asked her to repeat it, and I wrote down what she said.
I told her “you know, what you just said sounded just like a poem.”
She looked at me with her eyebrows raised and shoulders up – “I did?!?”
I showed her the paper I recorded her poem on and told her if she wanted to write more poems that maybe I could post them on my blog for other people to read. Well, that did it. She put her hands to her mouth, gasped, smiled so big – there may have even been some tiny tears in her eyes. She hugged my neck – squeezed actually. And ran right over to the computer.
“Ready, Momma – let’s put my poem on your blog.”
She wrote one poem that first day and then two more the next day. (You can read them here and here if you’d like). I’ve never seen her smile and beam with the pride she did those two days when writing her poems. Maybe, just maybe, my girl fell in love with poetry like her mom. Yup, I’m sold – poetry inspires reluctant writers.