Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day Twenty Three - Teaching Poetry to Children - Rose, where did you get that red

I admire Kenneth Koch and the tireless work he did to inspire joy and foster creativity in elementary school students in New York City. Koch, a talented poet and college professor, tackled the "problem" of poetry's inaccessibility by taking it to children. The question that bugged Koch was how do you teach children great poetry that the world believes is too advanced for them and more likely to be understood by adults? It's a tough question indeed, but answering it thoroughly and thoughtfully could alter the way that a whole population of children approach poetry, and on a larger level, approach all art. In Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?, Koch details his experiences teaching the reading and writing of poetry to elementary schoolers. Koch believed that: "The problem in teaching adult poetry to children is that for them it often seems difficult and remote; the poetry ideas, by making the adult poetry to some degree part of an activity of their own, brought it closer and made it more accessible to them. The excitement of writing carried over to their reading; and the excitement of the poem they read inspired them in their writing." If any of this sounds interesting to you, I would highly encourage you to check out Koch's book of the aforementioned title, or at least to check out an excerpt of a related article at this website:

I'll leave you today with a poem by one of Koch's talented students:

Giraffes, how did they make Carmen? Well, you see,
Carmen ate the prettiest rose in the world and then
just then the great change of heaven occurred and she
became the prettiest girl in the world and because I love her.

Lions, why does your mane flame like fire of the devil?
Because I have the speed of the wind
and the strength of the earth at my command.

Oh Kiwi, why have you no wings? Because I have been
born with the despair to walk the earth without
the power of flight and am damned to do so.

Oh bird of flight, why have you been granted
the power to fly? Because I was meant to sit
upon the branch and to be with the wind.

Oh crocodile, why were you granted the power
to slaughter your fellow animal? I do not answer.

-- Chip Wareing, 5th grade, PS 61

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