Monday, October 19, 2009

Promoting Poetry in Non-Poetry Classrooms

I've been catching up on blog reading, and I just came across this post where Sandy Longhorn mentions teachers who start or end every class with a poem (not their own), even non-literature classes. I might say especially non-literature classes.

I've often thought that if I go back to teaching Composition, I might try more of the exercises that I have my poetry classes do. It would be interesting to see if those exercises got the creative juices flowing for Composition students in different or similar ways to the tried-and-true exercises that I traditionally use in those classes (freewriting, brainstorming, clustering).

My Sociology friend went to a conference last week that was primarily peopled by English faculty from all over Florida. She was amazed at what those folks fought over. I saw a handout from someone who allows blogging in his classroom--as if this is such a shocking thing. She told me about the uproar that ensued when he admitted that he lets students use those e-mail/Twittering/instant messaging symbols, like lol, in their writing.

But when I looked at the handout, I saw that he was using the blog as an update on that old standby, the reading/writing journal. For at least 40 years now, Composition teachers, at least some of us, have allowed less formal writing (like those journals) in the classroom as a tool to lead people to more formal writing.

I remember years ago, in 1995, I ventured the opinion that actually writing a poem or a short story would help students learn about that art form in a way that writing analytical essays about them would not. I was the only creative writer in the room, and I'll never forget the look of horror on my colleagues' faces. I've gone on to experiment, and for some students, I was right.

Now I wonder about Composition. For most of us in the field, we'll be teaching far more sections of Composition than anything else, even if we're trained in literary fields. Could weaving poetry into Composition classrooms be constructive?


Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for the link, Kristin. You raise questions that go round and round in my head all the time. We English instructors do get a bit mad for our pedagogy. I do think experimentation and creative work belong in comp classes, as long as it leads to better academic writing in the long run. As they say, the proof is in the (academic, argumentative) pudding.

Serena said...

I like that other classes beyond English are using poems. Fantastic idea. I think creative writing helps students realize that learning can be useful and fun. If nothing else it will keep their attention.