Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Postcards as Poetry and Prayer Flags

I've been following Donna Vorreyer's teaching experiment with great interest since I first read about it here.  And this week, we get follow up posts!

Donna's class of 7th graders read Dave Bonta's poem about ghosts and wrote him postcards with both poems they wrote inspired by his poem and questions.  And he created this post, with pictures of the postcards strung like prayer flags and answers to the questions.  How cool!

I've spent the morning thinking about how this idea could be expanded and could be used to introduce students to poetry that will be more inspiring to them than the traditional approach of teaching dead white guys and one token woman.

Or maybe no one really teaches that way any more.  But still, the world needs more poetry evangelists, and I'd be willing to be part of the plan.  I think that Donna's approach would work well with both younger and older students, even college students.  I think that one of the reasons why her plan works is because it ties in to the fast-approaching holiday of Halloween.  Those of us who write holiday-themed poems could certainly play along.  And for teachers who need an analytical idea for Composition classrooms, it would be interesting to compare the poems written by poets to ones we find in greeting cards--of course, some holidays would work better than others.  I could see that Mother's Day would yield rich analysis--Halloween, perhaps not so much.

I think it would also be interesting to talk about poems rooted in place with students who could then go on to write poems about their own place.  My poem "Ash Wednesday on I95 South" that recently appeared in Hobble Creek Review offers interesting possibilities.  I wrote one version, the one in print, as a rhyming sonnet and one version that doesn't rhyme.  Students could think about Interstates and what they mean.  My poem is rooted in a theological holiday which reminds us that we're not here for very long.  Lots of interesting analytical approaches, should a teacher decide to go that route.

I like assignments that ask students to interact with a source both by using a creative writing approach and an analytical approach.  I like having students write meta-essays about their experience trying to do each--what did they learn from the writing?  I like that these kind of assignments generate excitement, in a best case scenario, and discourage cheating--to my knowledge, there aren't many essays written about my work that already exist for students to download.  And I remember how cool it was as a student to write letters to living authors and presidents and to get answers back.

So, if any teachers out there want a poet who's willing to write to students, I'm volunteering!  I'm visualizing a future data bank, full of writers like me, writers who aren't famous but who are willing to help educate and inspire the next generation.


Beth said...

I hope somebody takes you up on your offer, Kristin! Dave's post and the surrounding story were a highlight of my day and week.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Kristin, I'd like to join the database! This looks like such an awesome project! Thanks for sharing it.

Kristin said...

Beth, thanks for commenting!

Sandy, I think your fairy tale poems would work beautifully in a class exchange. Should anything come of my idea, you're at the top of my list!

Donna Vorreyer said...

Thanks, Kristen, for your kind words. Dave's response may inspire some of my colleagues to try a response project - I would love to have a database of poets for referrals to other teachers!