Bringing Words to Life Workshops at Seth Paine Elementary Turn Poetry into Child's Play

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CORRECTION/date 01-21-2004: To correct a story in Thursday's Neighbor section, children's poet Bill Buczinsky's new CD is titled "Kiss the Fish."

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What makes writing poetry fun?

It's probably being able to let your imagination run.

And if you thought words are dull and dry, then maybe a song will spark a gleam in your eye. If you ask students at Seth Paine Elementary School in Lake Zurich, they would sing you a verse about how poetry's cool.

That's part of the training students received from Arlington Heights poet Bill Buczinsky.

The weeklong poetry workshops last week were sponsored by the school's Parent Teacher Organization.

Buczinsky is an author who uses singing, rhythm and other animated techniques to teach students how to write poetry.

"He also plays the guitar and bongos," said Colleen Johnson, third-grade teacher at Seth Paine. "As I watched the children's faces, it helped them (feel) the joy of poetry and experience the written word coming alive. They were involved totally with what he was doing."

Buczinsky spent the entire week with students during his artist in residency and shared some of his own poetry from the book "Pied Poetry," written by him and his brother Chris. He will also be releasing a compact disc of his works titled "Sleeping with the Fish."

All grades were involved in the poetry workshops. Johnson's class used Web sites to research poetry and find information that would supplement what they were learning.

"The thrust of doing this is to help the children enjoy and love poetry and find creative ways to help them enjoy reading," Johnson said.

Buczinsky's method was not only entertaining, but also engaging for the students, said Sandy Tassi, a PTO parent who organized Buczinsky's visit.

"They really got into it," Tassi said. "He calls poetry playing with words, and he taught the children how to play the game of poetry."

Buczinsky will return to the school on Jan. 27 for an open-mic night in the school gym. It will be a pizza, pop and poetry event.

Before then, students will edit and refine the poems they wrote during the workshops in their classrooms.

"We're going to mount all the kids' poetry on the walls," Tassi said.

Student is a semifinalist: Libertyville High School senior Jessica Hui has been named a semifinalist in the 2003-04 Coca-Cola Scholars program.

Hui was among 79,000 applicants for the program that recognizes high school seniors who have demonstrated academic and civic excellence in their high schools and communities.

Hui and about 2,000 other seniors now are in the running for $1. …