Thursday, June 27, 2013

Syllabus for a Poetry Class

“I think that an awful lot of American writing since the 1950s was in some ways anti-modernist, and that one of the reasons that poetry is undergoing this small boom is that people are turning to it and finding is surprisingly accessible, despite many years of education by teachers trained by New Critics to think that poetry was the best way to teach children analytic and interpretive skills in school--which could certainly kill off anything, you know? ~ Robert Hass, American Poet.  An interview with Robert Hass on the office of the Poet Laureate, poetry, and its role in American culture  
“Poetry is metamorphosis, change, and alchemical operation, and therefore it borders on magic, religion, and other attempts to transform man and make “this one” and “that one” that “other one” who is he himself...Poetry puts man outside of himself and, simultaneously, makes him return to his original being: returns him to himself...Poetry is entry into being.” - Octavio Paz, The Bow and the Lyre
We will begin our class with a look at what our perceptions of poetry are and how we formed them.  We will discuss the first pleasures of language and then move into a discussion to find a way back into an appreciation of language.  Throughout our time together, we will explore what poetry is and what it can do.  In addition, we will discuss a creative way of thinking and artistic approach.  We will honor the artists inside us and tap in, creating an environment conducive to creativity, intellectual growth, and sharing. 
McKim, Elizabeth, & Steinbergh, Judith. (1999). Beyond Words: Writing Poems with Children, Brookline, MA: Talking Stone Press. (or order directly:
Nye, Naomi Shahib. (Ed.) (1996). This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks.
Padgett, Ron. (Ed.) (2000). Handbook of Poetic Forms: Teachers and Writers Collaborative.
Additional readings provided. 
This workshop will have a multiple focus:
* to provide a wide variety of poetry-writing experiences, from a writer's view
* to experience a process from warm-up to raw material to revisions to finished
* to sharpen critical skills through a positive workshop format
* to gain practical ideas for infusing poetry into the classroom 
The emphasis will be on writing poetry and a poetic way of seeing, getting our whole hearts and minds and bodies involved, and exploring the ways we think and feel about poetry.  Then this transformation will be applied to our work in the classroom.
The poetry workshop weekend  is based on the following tenets:
1. We learn to write by reading and writing.
2. Writers benefit by having  readers respond to their work-in-progress, rather than just having readers  evaluate the work when it is finished.  Bring xerox copies of your papers/poems  for your group when asked.
3. A supportive working atmosphere  is crucial if a writing workshop is to succeed.  Your input is valued  and is necessary to the course.
4. We will develop ourselves  as writers of poetry and as teachers of poetry.  
1. Students will read and write a variety of poems and other pieces in and out of class.
2. Students will keep a source  journal of visual and verbal images.
3. Students will participate  in movement poems, poem enactment, and visual poetry.
4. Students will read and respond  to a variety of poems.
5. Students will read children's  poetry and explore approaches to sharing poetry with children.
6. Students will read outside material related to the understanding of poetry.
7. Students will value the  imagination in childhood, and learn how to set up an environment that  encourages expressive writing.
8. Students will demonstrate  the ability to design and implement poetry writing within the classroom.  
The poetry-writing exercises from which we'll draw include:
Letter Poem
Photo Poem
Found Poem
Object Poem
Poem Hike
Exquisite Corpse
Dream Poem
Memory Poem
Newspaper Poem 
We'll explore ways to write poetry from the world around us, from the media, from our thoughts and feelings, and from other poems. Other exercises will be adapted from the textbooks, and shared from our teaching experiences. We'll do exercises individually, in small groups, and as a class. The focus will be on active, engaged writing.
We'll also watch videos of poets, and share and discuss poetry from the textbooks and our individual reading.
Our aim is to saturate ourselves in the reading and writing of poetry, in order to build our skills, awareness and confidence, so that teaching poetry in the classroom is a natural outgrowth.
In-Class Participation. Active and engaged participation in our poetry writing exercises, sharing of readings, and discussion. Please save a written copy of your work for the portfolio. 
Oral Report on Lesson Plan. Due the second weekend. A 10-15 minute presentation of the poetry lesson plan you have done in your classroom, accompanied by a 1-page summary/recipe for everyone. A poetry lesson may stand alone, be infused with movement, drama, music or art, or be integrated with another subject area such as social studies or science. (Remember to tap into the imagination and not just integrate facts.)
To expand everyone's repertoire, avoid familiar exercises (haiku, acrostic, diamente, cinquain), something you've done before like alphabet poems, and exercises we have done together in class.
Instead, choose something new and different: use a new form from "Handbook of Poetic Forms," imitate a poem from "Same Sky," or build on one of the exercises in "Beyond Words" (anything but
pp. 128-130). Please email me if you have questions or get stuck.
It's important that the lesson plan include:
- Page # and title of poem or exercise from our textbooks, on which you based lesson
- A warm-up activity, physical or mental or both
- Gathering of raw material
- Shaping the raw stuff into a first draft
- Revising into a finished form, with some kind of presentation
Make your presentation lively and engaging. You may bring in samples of student work, show materials you used in class, and invite our participation--if we have time, we'll try it ourselves!
FINAL PORTFOLIO. Must be postmarked no later than three weeks from our last class. Mail to my home address. Include a large, self-addressed, stamped envelope for its return; be sure to use stamps and not a meter strip, as it will expire.  Include:
Your Poems. One typed copy of each poem you wrote in class. Revision is encouraged (expectation is 2-3 poems). Include all typed drafts. Staple last, best draft on top, first draft on bottom.
Oral Report Handout. 1-page handout/recipe from your oral report.
Reflection Paper on Lesson. 2-3 page paper that expands on your handout/recipe. It should address your project's successes and ways it could be improved, and should also include your ideas and plans for future uses of poetry in the classroom. You might also tell anecdotes of how individual students struggled and, in some cases, made breakthroughs. You may reflect on this class as well, and your changed (hopefully) attitudes toward poetry.
Book Responses. Two 1-2 page responses to two books of poetry by an adult for adults, written since 1960. No anthologies. Avoid Hallmark-like inspirational verse, or books by songwriters (like Jewel). Check out your local libraries and bookstores. Include personal reactions, favorite poems and lines, how it expands your ideas of what poetry can do, how it makes you think and feel. Please check with me if you have any questions.  Explore:
- Why you chose the book and how it appeals to you
- Favorite poems and lines
- Observations on the subject matter (family or nature for example)
- Thoughts on the poetic style (how the poems look on the page, sound 
Weekend One - Getting into Poetry
We'll focus on experiencing and responding to poems through reading, listening, and watching videos. We'll begin to write poems, moving from raw material in exercises to more finished work, and start to explore how they can be presented in different formats, perhaps including choral and dramatic. 
Weekend Two - Poetry in the Classroom
We'll continue writing and discussing poetry, but the emphasis will shift to applying what we've learned to the classroom. Oral reports on lesson plans will be presented to the group, and we'll talk about translating our ideas to many grade levels. We'll conclude with a coffee house-like group poetry
reading--ideally at a student's house. Note: bring books of poems to share, and any classroom
resources--great books, visuals, etc. 
For Poetry Writing and Expressive Writing: 
Goldberg, Natalie (199O). Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life. NY: Bantam (see her other book as well, Writing Down the Bones (These books introduce you to writing, but do not go into poetic techniques). 
Oliver, Mary. A Poetry Handbook.
Twitchell, Chase. The Practice of Poetry.
For Teaching Poetry Writing in the Classroom: 
Collom, Jack (1985). Moving Windows: Evaluating the Poetry Children Write. NY: Teachers & Writers Collaborative. (Elementary and up.) 
Dunning, Stephen, et. al. (1966). Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle...and other Modern Verse. NYL: Scholastic. (A solid anthology of modern and contemporary poetry ; elementary and up.) 
Edgar, Christopher, and Ron Padgett, eds. (1994). Educating The Imagination: Essays & Ideas for Teachers & Writers. 2 volumes. NY: Teachers & Writers Collaborative. 5 Union Square West. NY NY 10003-3306. ANY BOOK PUBLISHED BY TEACHERS & WRITERS COLLABORATIVE IS FINE. 
Marzan, Julio, ed. (1997). Luna, Luna: Creative Writing Ideas from Spanish, Latin American & Latino Literature. NY: Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 1997. (Middle school and up.) 
Flynn, Nick and Shirley McPhillips (2000). A Note Slipped Under the Door: Teaching from Poems We Love. ME: Stenhouse. 
Kennedy, X. J. and Kennedy, Dorothy M.(1982). Knock at a Star: A Child's Introduction to Poetry. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. (Elementary; 3rd-middle school.) See new edition. 
Frank, Marjorie (1979). If You're Trying to Teach Kids to Write, You've Got Have This Book!. Nashville; Incentive Publications. (Eelementary, a pot pourri of ideas.)

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