Entering a Poem

by Sheniz Janmohamed

It’s that time again.

Kids are bursting through school hallways, exchanging lunches, decorating lockers and catching up with their friends. They’re also learning, of course—new vocabulary, new math problems, new facts about our world. Perhaps they’ll also learn how to paint with watercolours and write with joy.


As an arts educator, I look forward to September. I return to the classroom to share my love of words with brilliant, inspiring youth. I struggle through narrow doorways with bulky bags filled with paint chips, magazine cut-outs, colourful papers, markers, books, music and poetry. I arrange all the loot on tables and desks (and sometimes floors and walls) and encourage students to choose an image, pick a quote or stand under a word that feels just right.


Once they’ve fallen in love with the idea of words, they have to be inspired to stay engaged.


If you’re hoping to introduce your students or children to one of your favourite poems, encourage poetic experiences in addition to readings and critical analysis. Before kids write their own poems, it might be fun to enter the world of a poem first.


If they’re reading the “Road Not Taken”by Robert Frost, then it would only seem appropriate to take them on a nature walk through a yellow wood.


If they’re licking their lips through “This Is Just To Say” by William Carlos Williams, bring in an icebox filled to the brim with sweet plums.  Have them taste one.


If they come across Mary Oliver’s “The Uses of Sorrow”, wouldn’t it be lovely if they could construct and decorate their own little boxes of darkness?


If they’re trudging through “The Lady of Shalott”by Alfred Lord Tennyson, take them to a riverbank for a picnic, or a canoe-ride.


If they’re giggling through “Goblin Market”by Christina Rossetti, equip them with glitter and crafts so they can make their own goblin masks. Have a “goblin banquet”and set out a table with delectable fruits for them to devour.


If they are inspired by “Where Go the Boats?” by Robert Louis Stevenson, have them make their own paper boats, and take them to a river or creek for a boat race.


To make poetry relevant, we must make it come to life.


We must allow it to be malleable, danceable, paintable. We must deconstruct it to re-construct it.

Children are experts at deconstructing and re-constructing. They know when it’s time to dance, and when it’s time to doodle. Why not channel their innate creativity?


Next time you read one of your favourite poems, think about how you could make it come to life. 

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