Magazine article NATE Classroom

Any English Questions? A Series in Which Classroom Invites Questions for Different Guest Respondents Each Term

Magazine article NATE Classroom

Any English Questions? A Series in Which Classroom Invites Questions for Different Guest Respondents Each Term

Article excerpt

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Our guest for this Poetry issue is Dr Sue Dymoke, Poet and Senior Lecturer, School of Education, University of Leicester. Sue is also Principal Investigator for 'Poetry Matters', the ESRC Seminar Series in 2011, which is described in more detail on page 43.

1. Do you agree that it's not poor teaching that kills poetry for pupils but a starvation diet?

I don't think it is that simple. It is crucial that teachers are supported to become confident teachers of poetry, teachers who feel able to select poems from an extensive personal repertoire and develop lively, flexible teaching approaches. Pupils definitely need to be experiencing poetry as a regular part of their English diet not as a sudden glut or, alternatively, as the meagre crumbs on the curriculum table. Poetry as it lives and breathes in its wide variety of forms must be embedded within teaching and learning about English at all stages.

2. The teaching of poetry would improve overnight if we worried less about mediating meaning and focused on encouraging performance. Do you agree?

It is fair to say that, to paraphrase Billy Collins, wherever poetry stays tied to a chair and is beaten for meaning then young people's experiences of the genre will remain impoverished. To my mind performance is at the very heart of making and understanding meaning. With my own PGCE English students my first poetry session always focuses on performance. Until you have read the words aloud, rolled them round your tongue, heard the way they work together, felt the rhythm of the poem and physically experienced the impact it can have on you then you can never fully begin to engage with it.

3. Is there a connection between the effective teaching of poetry and a commitment to creative writing in the English classroom?

Definitely! I cannot imagine how you could teach poetry without giving students the chance to write their own, to struggle with words and to find unexpected new connections between them. (More on this below.) In addition I don't think teachers can teach poetry effectively without trying to write it themselves and sharing those struggles and pleasures with their students. I recognise that, for some teachers, this suggestion could still seem like a scary prospect but it can be a very liberating experience too.

4. How important is it to get students to write poetry of their own? …

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