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Notes to Notes: Teaching Poetry Week 3

By: Brooke Davis, Spring Program Intern

It’s no secret that writers are a varied species.  Some like to create vast universes completely unlike our own, while others devote over a hundred pages to one man’s struggle to catch a fish.

To get such varied content, authors approach their work in their own unique ways.   Every writer has his or her own process.  For my third teaching session at Northeast Elementary, we talked about how the kids can go about choosing the right approach and preparing to write.

A lot of people prefer to be quiet and relaxed before they start working.  We tried this method first, doing breathing exercises to slow down our heart rates and relax our bodies.  We focused on releasing tension in one area at a time—from our jaws to the tips of our toes.  They were allowed to go wherever in the room they felt most comfortable as long as they were isolated.  Then I turned on some relaxing music and let them go.  I asked them to do what many writers call a “brain dump.”  They had to write down whatever came to mind, trying not to think too much, and they couldn’t to pick up their pencils until the allotted time was up.  The exercise was more about quantity than quality, as some of the students were having trouble producing work, so just getting something down on paper that they could come back to and draw from later was encouraging.

This method helped some of the kids relax their minds and focus, but there were others who started to fall asleep.  They felt too at ease.  They couldn’t get their minds moving, let alone their pencils, which is why we decided to try a different approach.

Some people work better in high-stress situations.  A deadline can push people who are otherwise indecisive or hesitant to get anything down on paper.  For our second “brain dump,” I gave them a condensed amount of time.  We tried to wake up their bodies and their brains by running in place and doing jumping jacks.  In the background, I played more fast-paced and energizing music, like the kind most people work out to.

Afterwards, almost all of the kids said they liked the first method, where they got to unwind and relax.  However, looking over the work they did, many of them produced more focused writing during the high-stress exercise.  Not to mention there were a lot fewer yawns.

All writing is different, and all writers are different.  Putting a routine in place can teach students how to get their minds going when motivation is lacking.  Encouraging kids to find a good writing space at home and to figure out what approach works best for them is a great way to get them inspired to be creative.

 

June 24, 2014

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