Thursday, October 21, 2010

Because I Am One

The other night Jack and I snuggled in bed and read some poems out of Shel Silverstein's book Falling Up. I love reading poems with Jack. We have already cranked through Where the Sidewalk Ends, which Jack and I both enjoyed. It's no secret that I love poetry. But explaining to a 7 year old kid about what a poem actually is doesn't strike me as easy. And it wasn't the other night.

Let me back up.

Every single year I taught school I always started the year with a big poetry unit. I always felt it was a great way to let the kids be creative without the 'strict rules' of narratives. Punctuation doesn't always matter in poetry and I never stressed 'rhyming' poems. We just had fun reading them, studying their meanings, how they are written and trying our hand at writing some poems. For every poem I asked the kids to write I also wrote one. And I shared my poems. At the end of our poetry units we had big celebrations with a Poetry Reading and we invited parents and the principal. The kids were proud of their hard work, as was I.

It was my single most favorite thing about teaching: writing with my students. It makes me miss teaching a lot. I haven't really written poetry since I taught- except for silly things like this - but maybe that will change.

Back to the other night.

We're reading poems together (I'd read one, he would read one) and Jack asks me: "Mom- how do you write a poem?"

Hummm- I really didn't know how to explain that one. My students were older and came to my class already having background knowledge of poetry. Jack is JUST getting that background knowledge.

How do you explain to a 7 year old, who is always being told to use periods at the end of sentences and quotation marks when characters talk, that poems don't always have periods? It breaks the rules he's been working so hard to learn.

So- I am going to dig in the attic and pull ALL of my poetry books out, even the poems that I wrote years ago, and just share them with him. Maybe reading a bunch of poems will inspire him and I to write some together.

Ironically enough we did come across a poem in the book he is reading right now. It was an acrostic poem. I showed Jack the one he had read earlier in the day and he didn't realize he had even read a poem.

Then- for fun, we made our own acrostic poem:

J is for Jello, because I like it.
A is for athlete, because I am one.
C is for Connecticut, because I have been there.
K is for kind, because I am.

I only hope his love of the written language continues to grow.

Until next time...

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