Sunday, February 17, 2008

Provincetown Elementary African Presentation

Click on the title of this post to view Cape Cod Times photographer Steve Heaslip's photo gallery of Provincetown's elementary school using the arts to learn the global education curriculum.
Photo credit: Steve Heaslip/Cape Cod Times

Provincetown uses the arts to teach global education curriculum

A recent article in the Cape Cod Times reports on how the Veteran's Memorial Elementary School in Provincetown, Massachusetts uses the arts in a day-long celebration aimed at teaching African culture. Click on the title of this post to read the article.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Someone is Always Listening

What is poem?

Don’t give me some long, convoluted definition. Just answer the question. Could you? Don’t worry, I can’t either. I can’t say definitively what poetry is and I can’t say with certainty what poetry isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you and I don’t understand the general concept of poetry. I know we do. All I am saying is that neither you nor I, not even the Poet Laureate, has the ability to say that something is or isn’t a poem unless we have written it ourselves. (If you happen to meet him, please don’t tell him I said he couldn’t!)

One of the first things that I try to drive home with my students is that if they say that something they have written is a poem, then it’s a poem, and no one has the right to tell them otherwise! Around Christmas time, I was invited by the parent council to perform a poetry/storytelling evening at my school. About 200 students and parents (Grades 5-8) came back to school on a Thursday night to take in the show, have some hot cocoa, and hopefully learn something. Over the course of an hour I discussed many of my thoughts on poetry and the arts that I will be discussing in these articles, had student volunteers participate with me on stage in a number of activities including the creation and presentation of poems, and storytold. One of these musings about poetry was the statement that only the poet can decide if something is a poem or not, and not to let anyone convince them that something they have written is not a poem if they believe it is.

Jump to the next morning when I placed a before-school work assignment on the board. “Write a poem about winter in your Writing Journal.” Thirty seconds later, one of the students, who tends to have some difficulty focusing, approached me, holding his Writing Journal. I assumed that he had a question. When he reached me he said surprisingly, “I’m finished!” Then he asked, “Would you like to hear my poem?”

“Of course!” I responded.

He cleared his throat and with a put-on passion said, “SNOW!”

Looking me dead in the eye, he smiled a rye smile and said, “I was really listening last night and I say it’s a poem!”

Brilliant!