Dr Mala Palani responds to a teacher’s query after conducting a webinar on Teaching Poetry Online to Nurture Competence.
Thank you for your interest in the poetry teaching session. Looks like the session has inspired you to look at strategies to teach very young children! This is great news. Here are a few you can add to your existing repertoire:
- Children are natural musicians. They sing and set words to music all the time. It is a good idea to use this tendency to help you in promoting love for poetry. Get them to not only read aloud poems in a musical way but also ask them to continue a poem in their own words using the same theme and tone. They can set their own words also to tune. This way they will become acutely conscious of rhyme, rhythm and other important aspects like tone and theme.
- Use game-play aspects to get them to write more poems. Try rolling dice to determine rules like number of lines, syllables or vocabulary words to include. Use board game figures for inspiration. Or, pull words out of a hat to determine subject matter or adjectives that need to be used within the context of the poem.
- Turn it into a guessing game. Have your students write half a poem, then distribute the poems randomly to be finished by a fellow classmate. Return the poems to the students who started them and ask them to share the finished poem and guess who wrote the closing lines!
- Introduce an element of competition. See who can come up with the most (sensical) rhymes in the shortest amount of time. Or, conduct a small, casual poetry contest in class by having everyone share their poems and then vote (anonymously) on their favourite. Have small prizes, such as stickers or fancy pens, ready for all participants, and include a special ribbon or certificate for the winner.
- Ask the children to illustrate their poems. This makes them think closely about the subject matter and become sensitive to colours, themes, words etc.
- Don’t forget to display the poems written by your children. More importantly, place their poem topmost on their work portfolio and show this with pride during parent-teacher meetings. You will create generations of artists this way.
Thanks very much for choosing to make a difference!
Dr Mala Palani is an experienced English language and literature teacher and is currently the Director of Indus Training and Research Institute in Bengaluru, where she prepares teachers to teach the IB curriculum effectively. She is a qualified teacher and trainer, and also a qualified Oxford Teachers’ Academy trainer. Oxford Teachers’ Academy is a joint collaboration between Oxford University Press and Oxford University Department for Continuing Education (OUDCE), and she is one of the trainers training teachers for these courses as well.
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