PASSING POETRY ON: TWO LESSONS

LESSON 1

Source of Poems:

Elderly residents of students' communities.

Teacher's Reflections:

The best poetry is lasting, and will speak across historical and generational divides. Through poetry, this exercise encourages students to connect with someone from another generation and to reflect upon the power and longevity of poems — rhythms, ideas, feelings and images.

Teaching Ideas:

  • The teacher will need to make arrangements with some retirement communities and nursing homes, so that students will be able to conduct interviews at these places (a parent volunteer may help with coordinating this). The teacher may ask an administrator to identify particular residents who enjoy reading and/or poetry, and help set up visits with the students. The students will make appointments to visit someone in a retirement community or nursing home, asking if the person has a poem he or she holds dear. They may read the poem and discuss it together. Does the person associate the poem with a particular memory? If the interviewee does not have a copy of the poem, but knows the title, it's the student's responsibility to track down a copy in print.

  • Before a second visit, the student acquires a copy of the poem, reads it, and writes a paragraph or two about his or her response thoughts about the poem.

  • The student visits the elderly resident a second time and shares his or her response to the poem. On this visit, the student will also bring a favorite poem that he or she has chosen to read the elderly resident, sharing reflections on the poem's personal significance. The student will also bring a copy of the poem, written out by hand, for the resident to keep, and should invite him or her into a discussion of the poem.

  • In a subsequent class, each student will do a short presentation on the experience — reading both the poem chosen by the interviewee and the student's own selection. (These presentations could also be video or audio recordings of the readings, if the student has the resources to create those records).

Lesson by Sean Cusick, Shepherd Hill Regional School, Dudley, MA

LESSON 2

Source of Poems:

FPP Videos, handouts of various poems, student choice

Teachers' Reflections:

Poetry was originally handed down from one person to another, whether linearly (within a family or tribe) or laterally (by visiting bards). The purpose of this assignment is to preserve poetry by passing on a poem to a person of another generation.

Teaching Ideas:

1. Discussion/Free Write: Is there a poem that you know because someone shared it or passed it on to you? Why did that person share it with you? Do you know why the poem was important to that person? Why are/were you important to that person? Would you share the poem with someone else — who? Is there another poem you'd like to pass on to someone else? (If students have not "inherited" a poem from someone in their lives, let them write during this time about something that's been passed on to them — an object, or song or recipe or piece of art).

2. Students will choose a poem they wish to share with someone else — not necessarily the poem they've received, especially if it's a nursery rhyme or children's poem. They should choose a poem that is relevant to them now, that speaks to their current frame of mind and experience. The person they choose to share the poem with should be someone old enough to read and understand the poem.

3. Show some of the Favorite Poem Project videos. If students would like to share that experience with a family member or other person, the teacher may choose to lend the tape in turns, or students could access videos on the website.

4. Assignment to students:

Find some time to share the poem with your chosen "inheritor" — time enough to read it aloud to him/her and have a real conversation about it. You should explain the idea that poems can by passed on in an ongoing cycle and tell the person about someone who "gave" you a poem once, and any other links in that chain. Invite the person to share the poem with someone else, and to tell you about that, or to share another poem with you.

Write a short response/journal piece about the experience. Where do you imagine this poem will "be" by the time a year has passed? Ten years? How many people will be linked together by this poem?

Lesson by Kate Oneschuk, Holliston High School, Holliston, MA

 
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