Exploring Poetry: The Reading and Writing Connection

Article excerpt

Connecting reading and writing has become an important trend in teaching the language arts. Poetry, as a salient facet of the reading curriculum, integrates well with different purposes in writing.

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Carefully chosen poems should be read aloud to pupils in class. Poetry read aloud to pupils should:

* encourage optimal listening on the learner's part.

* emphasize securing the interests of listeners.

* stress meaningful learning in that the content read makes sense.

* possess purpose for reading.

* provide intrinsic motivation for pupils to do more reading of diverse kinds of poems.

* assist learners to enjoy reading activities.

* help listeners in wanting to write poems.

* guide learners to perceive relationships between reading poetry and writing.

* develop the feeling and aesthetic dimension of learning.

* stimulate wanting to learn more about creative use of words and language (See Gunning, 2000).

There are a plethora of kinds of poems which need to be emphasized in teaching and learning situations. Each kind involves a newness in reading poetry. Boring experiences must be avoided in poetry reading. Poetry stressed in the language arts needs to be on the developmental level of each pupil so that understanding of content is in evidence.

Introducing Poetry to Pupils

The teacher needs to have a definite strategy planned to introduce a poem to learners. When supervising student teachers in the public schools, the author noticed that an entire unit on poetry was taught by a student teacher with cooperative teacher assistance. The two teachers, in many cases, had worked together as a teaching team. Whether it be an entire unit taught on poetry or a poem is correlated with a science, mathematics, or social studies unit, it is vital that a proper introduction should be in the offing The teacher may then read orally a poem to pupils using appropriate stress, pitch, and juncture to actively engage pupils in learning. If there are related pictures pertaining to the poem being read aloud, they should be shown to learners as the oral reading progresses. Young children, in particular, need to see illustrations dealing with the poem read so that meaning is attached to the read aloud.

Reading poetry emphasizes holism in that the entire poem is read to pupils before a discussion to analyze its contents follows. Holism in poetry reading needs to stress providing background information to pupils prior to the read aloud. Background information provides readiness for listening and for later reading of the poem by pupils (Ediger, 2001, Chapter Seven). Thus to understand the ensuing poem to be read by the teacher, pupils may need the following experiences:

* knowledge on the subject matter content. An illustration, object, and discussion, directly related to the poem, may provide the prerequisite knowledge.

* novel use of selected words in the poem need attention at this point. The teacher may print these words contextually on the chalkboard for pupils to see and discuss, prior to reading the poem.

Holism in poetry study is needed so that pupils reflect upon the inherent ideas, not on segments. Beauty of language needs to be noticed in the poem. To take care of word recognition problems, pupils should follow the print discourse from their textbooks or from duplicated content at their desks, as the teacher reads aloud. The second reading should involve pupils in the read aloud. Rereading can be good as long as pupils remain interested in the poetry selection. Unknown and unrecognized words by pupils might then be mastered within the poem.

A discussion in small groups may follow the reading of the poem. How much segmentation of a poem should occur? Wholeness and meaning of the poem needs to remain intact. However, there are salient questions which may be raised by the teacher and the pupils to stimulate interest in the latter's literary achievement. …