As part of our Libraries in School program, this year, we decided to take Poetry to all the classrooms. As much as we would like to claim that English as a subject in school has all the requisite factors tick marked for the children, Poetry as a fact is generally negligible and remains as something that has to be learnt by heart and recited and that’s it.
I have never shown much interest in poetry in my childhood but as I grew up, many factors such as friends who were amateur poets and different types of exposure to poetry forms managed to spark an interest in poetry and that remains.
Amidst some trepidation, we decided to sit and plan accordingly as a majority of the children can barely read and decipher the meaning of what they read. Introducing poetry and its finer nuances to them in easily understood language and activities definitely proved to be a challenge. The first challenge was to select different types of poems for each grade. Teams were divided accordingly for each grade and these teams had to pick out poems keeping their children in mind and plan accordingly.
For grade one, we selected poems which had themes that were easily identifiable by the children. These included a butterfly, an apple and their name. The children heard poems in three different languages- English, Hindi and Konkani. All the grade one classes had a poem tree erected in their classrooms which had drawings done by the children hung on it.
For grade two, copies of poems were given to children and choral reading took place along with understanding the poems and then illustrating what they understood. They also had written activities to fill in blanks with rhyming words (a key form in poems). They also selected poems for the lot and read it and came ahead in groups and enacted these.
For grade three, different poems were given to each desk to read and elicit response in the form of discussion and illustrations. The team also read aloud poems on different topics and the children tried their hand at imagery by listening to these poems. A word bank was produced with the children providing emotions, words that came to their mind after listening to these poems. They were then encouraged to use this very word bank and try and create their own new poems with support.
Children of grade four and five were given poems to read and enact as a group activity. They were also encouraged to fill in blanks for a given poem with rhyming words of their choice. They were also introduced to new forms of poems such as Cinquain and Acrostic poems and were encouraged to make their own such poems. A read aloud was done in these classes of the classic poem, ‘I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly ‘and they were given a week and complete independence to prepare a performance on their own.
The children were also encouraged to recognize poetry books from the collection in their classes to read aloud in classrooms and to take home and read and enjoy. It has been a satisfactory three weeks of poems, lively discussions, quirky illustrations, funny enactments, active participation and some really serious engagement with poetry and it was a joy to be a part of it.