Poetry is a word that can bring someone a sense of fear depending on the poem. I, for example, are one of those many people that remember dissecting and analysing poems in high school for months on end to then find out that that specific poem didn’t appear in the final exam. Pointless and time consuming? Perhaps. However, after thinking about poetry on a vast scale, outwith the environment of the high school classroom, it is apparent that poetry is a fun and memorable thing to do within the context of a language lesson. So why poetry and why incorporate it into a language lesson. It could be suggested that poetry breaths life into language, and I hope to convey this within the context of this blog post.
Firstly, it could be argued that people’s love for poetry dies when they reach high school level. This is down to the fact that poems are over analysed and deciphered to a point that it becomes a tedious task. This feeling was always at the forefront of my mind in high school and it completely sucked the life out of the poetry that I was trying to learn. However, I loved poetry in primary school, especially Robert Burns. Every January my school had a recital competition which required everyone to learn a Robert Burns poem. The person who won received a certificate and an immense sense of pride in memorising Burn’s tricky poems in Scots tongue. Competitions like this have stood the test of time and are still apparent in schools all over Scotland. This, along with this afternoons poetry lecture, allowed me to see a different side to the ‘frightening’ concept of poetry that I learned to loath.
So what is poetry? Carter (2012) describes his interpretation of what poetry is:
- it is a box of spoken words
- a spoken song
- a fresh way of looking at something
- language at its most playful
- music and meaning
- the most fun you can have with language
I found Carter’s interpretation of Poetry to be quite intriguing. I never knew that poetry could be related to music. However, after thinking about it, poetry could actually be made into a song, or it is music without the melody or instruments. It does have rhythm, however, and you could almost imagine the beat and the rhythm in your head. This is good for children because it can help them grasp the concept of rhythm and beat and this could be an activity to do with the children (clapping and singing to the poem). In addition, poetry is much more achievable to perform and write than writing an actual story. The children can play with the language and delve into it and this, to me, seems much more enjoyable than writing a descriptive and detailed story. The fact that poems come in many shapes and forms allows the children to be more creative and structure their own poems in their own ways. The only thing, however, is that the children need to have a good idea of language to convey emotions and meanings because the space in a poem is very short. However, poems do not have to be complicated pieces of text. For children, poems need to be short, chunks of text in order for the children to understand and comprehend the meaning of the poem. However, some style of poems like sonnets may require a bit more work (especially Shakespeare). This is because the language is very complex and this could be difficult for children.
Poetry should display a number of key characteristics (Cremin, 2009):
- Sound Effects – including repetition, alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhythm and rhyme
- Visual Effects – including similes, personification and metaphors
- Powerful vocabulary in order to convey emotion and passion
- surprising word combinations in order to encourage discussion
This is very beneficial for the language development of children because they are learning new skills and this will convey their understanding of the poem and make it exciting and fun. Effectively, poetry should demonstrate the playfulness and musicality of language so children can enjoy and find poetry fun. In addition, poems encourage children to explore feelings which allow them to develop empathy and self-awareness. Ultimately, children can explore the emotions within the context of a certain poem and they can feel attached and sad towards a specific character in the poem. In addition, the children are picking up key terminology like stanza and metre which is good for their understanding of poetry because they become more aware of structure and can contribute well to discussions about certain poems.
In conclusion, poetry needs to be playful. In early to middle years, poetry must be enjoyable and the children should have the opportunity to play with the language and the nonsense of poems. In the upper years, the children can delve into why specific language has been used in certain poems and they should experiment using their own language in their own poems. Secondary school pupils should be able to deconstruct and analyse poems. However, I have rekindled my love for poetry within the primary school context. It all links back to active learning and the children having fun and enjoying learning about poems.
here is my favourite poem from my childhood – enjoy!!!!!
by J.K. Annand
When doukin in the River Nile
I met a muckle crocodile. He flicked his tail, he blinked his ee,
Syne bared his ugsome teeth at me.
Says I, “I never saw the like.
Cleaning your teeth maun be a fyke!
What sort of besom do ye hae
To brush a set o teeth like thae?”
The crocodile said, “Nane ava.
I never brush my teeth at aa!
A wee bird redds them up, ye see,
And saves me monie a dentist’s fee.”