Tuesday 27 August 2013

How do you teach poetry ?

The idea of "teaching" poetry always leaves me filled with panic!  I love words and the clever use of words can be a real pleasure to enjoy in poetry. For me however, when I think of teaching poetry my mind drifts to school days. At school we had to dissect poems and try to work out what the teacher thought of it.  We had to analyse it, search for symbolism and hidden meanings, look for and explain the rhythms and or patterns, categorise the different parts of speech and then the dreaded composing of poems ... 

I'm sorry this post will not contain a detailed how to on teaching poetry as this is a new season of home education for me. One of the methods I am keen to incorporate in my homeschool is a Charlotte Mason approach.  Charlotte says of poetry
"Children should practice reading aloud every day, and their readings "should include a good deal of poetry, to accustom him to the delicate rendering of shades of meaning, and especially to make him aware that words are beautiful in themselves, that they are a source of pleasure, and are worthy of our honour; and that a beautiful word deserves to be beautifully said, with a certain roundness of tone and precision of utterance. Quite young children are open to this sort of teaching, conveyed, not in a lesson, but by a word now and then." from volume 1 pg 227 Older (age 9?)

I'm always amazed at how life unfolds.  On Monday we had a home school mothers meeting and the theme for the meeting was Poetry. The guide for this conversation was taken from The Charlotte Mason Companion Chapter 29 Approach to Poetry.

Karen shared some of her view on teaching poetry online over at Homeschool World in her article The Charlote Mason Approach to Poetry.

My gleanings from Karen
  • Through carefully chosen poetry, mothers can teach their children to recognise sin, be inspired, and be filled with admiration of God's gifts to man.
  • Poetry is not just a means to moral instruction. It is part of the humanities.
  • It's a deep expression of thought and feeling.
  • It should be permissible to have a different taste for poetry than that of the teacher. Making a connection with poetry 
  • If you do not like poetry, there is an obvious remedy: introduce the child and the poem and leave them to make friends for themselves.
  • Poetry is strewn with ideas. Saturate yourself in the words - they can have an intoxicating effect on the intellect.
  • After years of a relationship with poetry, built on shorter poems, children will be capable of enjoying and comprehending longer and more abstract works.
Ways to incorporate Poetry
  • Read out loud daily (no twaddle allowed)
  • Mark the seasons 
  • Use poems in nature journals
  • One Poet a week.  If you have an anthology choose one poet and immerse yourselves in their poems for a week or two.
  • Use a child's favourite poems in copy work.  If it's a long poem choose a stanza a week.
  • Memorise poetry and present it at a special tea or a homeschool co-op
Poetry Books

On the WWW
Charlotte explained that “the magic of poetry makes knowledge vital, and children and grown-ups quote a verse which shall add blackness to the ashbud, tender wonder to that ‘flower in the crannied wall,’ a thrill to the song of the lark(Vol. 6, p. 328)
I would love to know your thoughts and favourite books in this area of your home school


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  1. What a great collection of inspiring ideas and resources. I agree that children naturally grow to like longer and more abstract poems as they mature, if they have been allowed to enjoy simpler poems.
    And honouring the seasons - absolutely! it comes so naturally to us when we select our poems for poetry tea, and many books have poems listed by the time of year or even date.

    1. Thank you Lucinda. I used to read poetry a long time ago when my older two were younger and really enjoyed doing so. As for honoring the seasons I'm going to try that as spring is just around the corner :)


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