Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Poetry Pushback: Bridging the Disconnect with Older Children

So it's time to read today's poem at your house. You hope for happy smiles and murmurs of appreciation, but you get wailing and much gnashing of teeth, perhaps manifested in heavy sighs, dismissive shrugs, and pained expressions. And let's not forget the adolescent's coup de grace: the eye roll. Frankly, it would be easier to just zip through the thing and be done with it.

Consider this: when your child(ren) whined about simplifying fractions, you did not throw in the towel. You persevered. You kept your end goal -- a well-educated child -- in mind. We study fractions; we study Tennyson.

To my way of thinking, a complete education includes exploration of and experience with poetry. A well-educated child should be acquainted with Browning, Coleridge, Donne, Wordsworth, et al. Reading poets such as these supplies our minds with beautiful and meaningful imagery, rich language and expression, and noble and profound ideas.

That's all well and good, but when you're faced with teenage (or pre-teen) ennui, what can you do? How can you make the experience more meaningful for your older children?

First off:

  • Read poetry together. A resistant (or even a developing) appreciation needs shoring up
  • Take time for discussion. Explore the poem with your children. Encourage them to connect with the poem. What emotions does the poem excite (or at least prod)? What images come to mind? What do you think the poet wants us to do with his/her words? What's the point? What is your favorite line or phrase?
  • Consider keeping a poetry notebook, journal, or commonplace book of favorite lines of poetry. Do some research on poets' lives. Search for interviews with poets to discover what they say about their work. Have children jot down their own impressions of a poem or a line of poetry.

Whoa. I just looked at the clock. We need to get started with our day! So I'll have to leave my next tip (it's a biggie) for tomorrow. Check back for part two of this post: Jolt Them Out of Their Apathy.

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