Teaching Poetry in an English Workshop–Sakhnin, Israel, Day Two

imageToday the students worked on poems about a body part. I asked them to write at least four lines and to try to include a simile or a metaphor. We had a lengthy discussion about these concepts and they understood them. In fact, they already knew about metaphors, but they were less sure about similes.

I am trying to teach them to write drafts that can be corrected for grammar and spelling before copying the poem into their chapbooks. I also asked them to put a Table of Contents in their books and to be sure to give each poem a title.

How to Enter a Poem

Many of the students struggled today with what I often struggle with: starting a poem. They sat in front of a blank piece of paper and couldn’t think of what to write. To help, I shared with them the poem, “Two More Papayas” from Thanhha Lai’s beautiful book, Inside Out and Back Again. In the poem, Lai writes:

“I see them first.

Two green thumbs
that will grow into
orange-yellow delights
smelling of summer.

Middle sweet between a mango and a pear…”

They noticed that Lai’s poem is descriptive and contains a beautiful metaphor of the small papayas starting out as two green thumbs. From there Lai goes on, in just a few short lines, to talk about the papayas’ color, taste, texture, and then how easy they are to eat.

imageI suggested the students identify a body part and then make a list of characteristics. That seemed to help. They began to shape their poem around the characteristics they wrote down, coming up with metaphors and similes quite naturally. Several were able to shape a decent poem.

Would it be too corny to say, my heart was full of joy throughout the day? Because it was, not just for how well they are doing with English and poetry, but also because I really like these kids! I’m starting to know them by sight at least, and though I often butcher their Arabic names, I’m trying. It amuses them. Their English is far better than my Arabic. The time goes too quickly and I end up having to rush themimage out the door to their next class.

Tomorrow they don’t have Workshop, so they are working on their poems at home for the next class. I am anxious to see what they write!


This entry was posted in Books of poetry you should read, Craft in Poetry, Teaching Poetry, Uncategorized, Writing Poetry and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s