Friday, 13 December 2013

Evidence that Fran's teaching of poetry can ignite passion for literature in the most unwilling young hearts


I've got a great book by Ruth Padel called, '52 ways to read a poem'.  

I love teaching poetry.  It's one of my Favourite Things.  But the students don't always feel the same. And I've discovered that they, too, can think of lots of ways in which to read a poem.  Here are 25 of them.  

  1. with head on desk
  2. with head nodding involuntarily until nudged by classmate
  3. with head shaking from side to side in disbelief that anyone could find poems exciting
  4. with head in hands
  5. with hands on head while leaning as far back on a school chair as humanly possible without crashing to floor
  6. with head inside blazer, hiding from cruel fact that current poem is only one of 36 to be studied
  7. with fingers in ears
  8. with hands over face
  9. with hand round own neck, mocking self-strangling
  10. with hand over open mouth in 'no, no, don't tell me I have to write about this' gesture
  11. while writing note to classmate which says, 'do you know what she's talking about?'
  12. while writing note to self saying, 'where did I put that arsenic?'
  13. while writing note to Robert Browning saying 'this is all your fault, mate'
  14. while writing note to Mother saying 'can you write me a sick note for the next three weeks?'
  15. while writing Maths homework
  16. while writing Physics homework
  17. while writing any other homework that yesterday seemed difficult but today seems, somehow, like a walk in the park
  18. while etching 'Watching paint dry rules OK' into the desk
  19. while staring blankly at the page just in case there's a miracle
  20. while hoping for a fire alarm
  21. while hoping for an earthquake
  22. while hoping for a fully-fledged military attack on Room 3, English corridor
  23. while wondering what is on the lunch menu
  24. while wondering whether deadly nightshade is on the lunch menu
  25. while wondering whether deadly nightshade is on the staff's lunch menu

Extract from school report: 'Ben has really enjoyed our unit of work on poetry and demonstrates his enthusiasm
with regular insightful contributions to class discussions.'



Somehow I feel sure that some of my followers will be able to draw on their painful memories of poetry lessons and school and together we can get the list to 52 ....

32 comments:

  1. I didn't get poetry until I became a hormone-addled lovesick teen with a tragic hero complex. Then it suddenly all made sense. Even e.e.cummings.

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    Replies
    1. Something must have gone right, because you've written your own collection! I enjoyed reading them.

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    2. Aw shucks. Thank you.

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  2. I can send you some of the poems I've written. I guarantee they will get your students' attention. Lotsa sex and drugs involved.

    Love,
    Janie

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    Replies
    1. They might also get the attention of senior management, Janie, and then where would I be? Without a job, and having to stay at home, eating biscuits and reading and putting my feet up by the fire and .... please send the poems immediately.

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  3. Oh, I should have said that I have no painful memories of poetry lessons, just memories that make me laugh a bit. One teacher told us that the final lines of The Hollow Men were the most significant words written during the 20th century. I think not.

    Love again,
    Janie

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    Replies
    1. That made me laugh. I'm sure I make random hyperbolic statements very similar to that!

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  4. Hmmm, think I bunked off from poetry lessons in English. It showed up in my degree when my dissertation professor commented that I really didn't get meter did I?

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  5. You must surely have crept into one of my classrooms here in Massachusetts before I retired. After reading a poem aloud to the class, I would be certain that the intent look across so many of their faces was proof of how I'd touched their very souls.
    And then with the room still reverberating with the magic of words, one of them would say, "How many kids do you have, Miss?"

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    Replies
    1. Yes! Or, that old chestnut, 'Do you KNOW the poet meant all that metaphor stuff, Miss?'

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  6. Replies
    1. Ah yes, that one. I think that's to stop the poetry germs getting in.

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  7. I can't remember ever doing poetry at school. Perhaps there was just no one there to nudge me. Or possibly because I spent the poetry lesson writing my epic adventure thriller, which was supposed to have been a one page short story three weeks ago, but which ... developed ... a bit.

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    Replies
    1. No one has ever said to me, 'Sorry I wasn't concentrating, Miss. I was writing my adventure thriller.' I will await that happy day.

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  8. I really enjoy reading poetry but I don't like critiquing the poetry of my fellow writers. It's just too personal.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, it's a shame that we don't have so much time in the curriculum to just read for pleasure. Generally there's a purpose - they have to analyse it or write about it. I'm sure that doesn't help.

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  9. We didn't do much in the way of poetry, but that little was enough to put me off. Best poem ever was Fleas. Adam Had'em. I understand there are a few light-hearted poems around and they're easy to read and easier to understand. If we'd done some of thos ein school maybe I'd think differently about poetry. I remember A Bush Christening as being fun, also Mulga Bill's Bicycle.

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    Replies
    1. I love 'Fleas'! I'd forgotten that! I might introduce that at school and then ask them to write a 3 page essay on it.

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  10. Come and work in Holland . When I , recently arrived , asked my eleven year-old's teacher why there seemed to be no poetry on the curriculum , she looked blankly at me ,
    "That won't help them get jobs , will it ? "

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    Replies
    1. Noooo!! Are you serious? They don't teach any?

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    2. Not to eleven year-olds , apparently .
      Later on , when not learning Life Skills ( how to read How to care for this garment labels and the instructions on the back of packets of soup ) she joined an after school drama club .
      There's more than one way to skin a cat .

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  11. While trying to find anagrams of rude words from the first verse. My desk-mate and I once found about 31 from 'Upon Westminster Bridge' before the teacher took my list off me.

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    Replies
    1. Well, at least you were being creative with language!

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  12. I've got the Ruth Padel book, and it's brilliant. Poetry rarely grows on me. More often than not it either gets me or leaves me cold. I've had a stab at writing some, with mixed results.

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    1. Well, I've read some of your poems on your blog and I think you really have a voice.

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  13. I sat as low as I could hoping the teacher wouldn't pick me to read out loud.

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    Replies
    1. Ah, this explains why I find so many students sitting under the desks!

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  14. I don't know why being taught poetry at school puts people off poetry for ever. It doesn't put people off French irregular verbs and quadratic equations!

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    Replies
    1. Are you quite sure about that?!

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  15. @broken biro; my French teacher managed to instil in me a lifelong hatred of everything French, especially her. It's 46 years now since I left school and I still have an aversion to the French language.

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  16. Mon dieu!
    Zut alors!
    C'est incroyable!
    Jeux sans frontiers!
    French lessons available at £69.99 an hour.

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