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Why study poetry?

Discussion in 'English' started by figgins, Jan 6, 2011.

  1. I might not have started with what I hate about poetry - I know it recognises their issues but seems to get you off on the wrong foot. As with all stuff they don't like I'd try to get them involved through taking some kind of 'angle' or doing some poems they think of as a bit risque so they can get animated. I find this works as a starter for negatively inclined groups even if the focus is not unseen poetry. A task where poetry is turned into prose can be good at explaining the value. For your stroppy boy after the fact, I think emphasising the intellectual challenge might help, but is that something he values?
  2. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    Fantastic practice, roaming!
    Remember, klaproos, that studying poetry is the last thing you should do. Too many children's experience of poetry consists of simile-spotting exercises, and that is a turn off.
    Firstly, expose children to poetry, as roaming has done. Immerse them in it and allow them to make choices about what they like and don't like. Set out as many poetry collections as you can - and not just the dog-eared ones from 1958 from the book store, but modern, vibrant magazines -and let them browse and share.
    In addition, get them to write their own poetry - and not a "let's see you all use at least five metaphors" type exercise - just allow them to express themselves. If you're looking for a starting point, in my resources there's a link to an article I wrote with some useful ideas on stimulating creative writing that has an exercise you might find useful and adapt to suit yourself. You can download it at
    "Doing poetry" - whatever that means - is a whole bigger ball game than "studying" poetry! [​IMG]
  3. Poetry is rather unpopular amongst schoochildren, because they are the wrong age for it.
    CS Lewis explains this rather well in his autobiography. Very young children live in a world of fantasy, of magic bunnies and the like. Sexually aware young men also dream. But schoolboys are very pragmatic. Their ambition is to be captian of the cricket team or form prefect. They are realistic and mundane, and so they like literature that appeals to the ambitions rather than to the emotions.
    So young children love rhymes, and young men love poetry about war and romance and thenobility of the human spirit. But there's not much childrens' verse. There's plenty marketed as such, but nothing children buy for themselves and read under the bedsheets.
    You do have to teach some poetry in English lessons, of course. But don't expect much.

  4. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    Sorry, bgy, I have to disagree. Firstly, you say "schoolchildren" but then talk about "schoolboys": there's half of your target group deleted straight away! And to say ALL schoolboys want to be captain of the cricket team or form prefect is a little stereotypical, and even then of a particularly rarefied social class that CS Lewis was acquainted with. So - the your target group is even smaller.
    I think there's a tremendous amount of fantastic children's verse that is well worth using in class and that "mainstream" boys and girls respond exceptionally well too.
  5. I was a schoolboy once, but never, obviously, a schoolgirl. And I didn't like poetry much until well into my preparation for Oxford entrance. So CS Lewis's experience matches my own.
    On the other pop music, which always has lyrics, is popular with a rather younger age group.So I don't think the matter is quite as simple as I have painted it. However the general rule is that dfferent things appeal to different age groups. I still read Tolkien and Lewis, but I'm no longer interested in Biggles.

  6. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    I absolutely agree, bgy - but of course, you point out that there are prose writers who appeal are "age specific", for want of a better term, but don't acknowledge that poetry does exactly Rhea same thing. I read the poetry of Seamus Heaney and Edwin Morgan, but no longer read the poetry of Roald Dahl and Vernon Scannell.
    Ah - another former Biggles fan! [​IMG]
  7. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    What a mess of typos that post was!
    I absolutely agree, bgy - but of course, you point out that there are prose writers whose appeal is "age specific", for want of a better term, but don't acknowledge that poetry does exactly the same thing. I read the poetry of Seamus Heaney and Edwin Morgan, but no longer read the poetry of Roald Dahl and Vernon Scannell.
    Ah - another former Biggles fan! [​IMG]
  8. Thanks for the reponses - I appreciate them. I really hope I didn't come across as someone who was going to teach the 'five metaphors' type of lesson. I know from teaching experience that my teaching needs to be lively and varied and I've got some great lessons planned (like tomorrow - Salome - solving the crime scene!). My main concern is making it relevant. II teach in a rural school in a deprived area and a lot of the children have very low aspiration. They are coming at me with the 'why do we have to do this? How is it relevant to us?' So my OP was about my starting point I suppose. Ah well, it's going well so far, and you have given me some great ideas. Thank you. x
  9. JosieWhitehead

    JosieWhitehead Star commenter

    What you are saying is right, and five years ago I was a visitor in my local primary school and children told me that some poetry is "boring". They showed me a sentence spiralling down a page and said "That's not poetry is it?" I agreed with them for I remembered the poems of my own childhood - so very different. They were packed with rhyme, rhythm, stories, things to stretch your imagination, and some funny. I started writing for these children and today I have written almost 900 new poems, exactly as the children wanted them and not only are they great for the children and the children encouraged me to write, but 344 were chosen by teachers all across West Yorkshire for publication last year. I have made a big website at the insistence of the children and now during last month 18,243 pages of my poems were accessed by people in 146 countries of the world. In the three years since I made the website for the children, almost half a million people have visited it, and yet three years ago I was unheard of outside of the children's classroom. As for the boys, go to my website and see the fun poems I've done for boys, and go to my Olympic Games Index and read The Joy of Snowboarding. The boys love the animal poems too, and the funny poems etc. I wrote these poems week by week for the children in this school and the headmaster said I'd really inspired them. I met two of the boys the other day and now they are 13 yeas of age, and guess what? One had a poem in his hand that he had written for our Literature Festival. He said: "We all love writing poetry now Josie, and you inspired us." So if you haven't been to my website, do Google JOSIE'S POEMS. I'm not exactly young to have done this and I had never written a poem before the age of 65 years, but all that I've done is in the last five years and thanks to the encouragement of the children. I have been a teacher all my working life, and if I can leave something behind me which will inspire children, delight them and be useful to teachers, then that is all I ask.
  10. You can't say you don't like poems if you haven't tried them all...the study of poetry is a bit different, though. Poetry is language distilled. If you want to have any skill in reading or writing then poetry is a good place to hone your skills.
  11. There's a limit to the amount of free verse it's worth wading through.

  12. Then avoid free verse

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