Every school year we planned to teach poetry, and you could say we did. But, it usually went like this. OMG it’s April, National Poetry Month, let’s get some books from the public library to enhance the school library collection. Unfortunately, these were the same thoughts that all the other elementary and middle school teachers in our town had. So, here’s how it went: Boys and girls, here’s a haiku, now let’s write one, how about some concrete poetry, then the serious lesson on figurative language, followed by reading some classic poetry. We did get some good poems, but each year we promised ourselves next year we will do better.
And this year we have. Thanks to our work with the Illinois Writing Project (IWP) we connected with Kevin Cordi and are the second recipients of the Poetry Box. When we got this news we realized that we had to get to work. We wanted our kids to be prepared for this phenomenal opportunity. We began, like we always do, looking for mentors. We had a pile of books on the “How To,” but it was Georgia Heard, Paul Janeczko, and Sara Holbrook that set us on the right path.
We are experienced teachers of writing and reading. But, there was something missing, and we found it with poetry. Paul Janeczko wrote in his introduction to Reading Poetry in the Middle grades: “When a poem is presented well, you’ll see students who have been quiet suddenly look up, and speak up. A few days later you might discover alliteration showing up in a student’s writing.”
Janeczko shares that poems are the perfect short texts for teaching literacy elements. This is the missing piece for us. He has changed us as teachers. He and Heard and Holbrook have become the trusted resources that that have guided us these past two months. THANK YOU.