Poetry in a hat!

Poetry in a hat!

Can poetry fit in a hat? Well, it certainly can! And I am going to explain why later on in this post. A few days ago, I came across “My Hat!”– a children’s poem written by Tony Mitton, included in his “Plum” poetry book:

Here’s my hat.
It holds my head,
The thoughts I’ve had
and the things I’ve read.
It keeps out the wind.
It keeps off the rain.
It hugs my hair
and warms my brain.
There’s me below it,
The sky above it.
It’s my lid.
And I love it.
Source: Centre for Literacy in Primary Education *

Tony Mitton – My Hat! from CLPE on Vimeo.

*There this also website called Children’s Poetry Archive where you cannot only read but also listen to children’s poems read aloud by the poets themselves. You will really be impressed by the materials and suggested activities you can find in both sites!

For me, a poem is an array of intentionally or unintentionally placed words (this is called diction) in lines that can invoke images for your mind, exquisite music for your ears and a whirlwind of emotions for your heart! A poem can “disobey” grammar and syntax and bend the rules, thus taking away the fear of making mistakes! If you ever need instructions on how to grow poetry, you will find them at the back of a very special packet, carefully put together by Tony Mitton (again!):

Shut your eyes.
Open your mind.
Look inside.
What do you find?
Something funny?
Something sad?
Something beautiful,
mysterious, mad?
Open your ears.
Listen well.
A word or phrase
begins to swell?
Catch its rhythm,
hold its sound.
Read and listen to the rest of the poem here.

To cut a long story short, the “How to grow poetry” poem hit a creative nerve: why is poetry writing not a preferred activity when it comes to foreign language teaching? Most school textbooks avoid creative writing activities that have to do with poetry, with a lot of teachers not really interested in incorporating it into their lesson. The only exception is the 6th grade’s textbook, which includes an acrostic poem writing task (and it’s really fun, because the students get really creative, AND they get to decorate their poems afterwards!).

And here’s an acrostic poem, turned into video poetry, written by my students:

The answer to the above question is that it takes time and effort to write poetry in a foreign language, and that can be intimidating for foreign language learners. And most teachers don’t really want their students to feel frustrated when they are lost for words (in a literal sense. Because sometimes, when our students get stressed, they seem to have forgotten everything they’ve been taught!). But it shouldn’t be seen that way. Poetry is all about expressing yourself in unconventional ways, without worrying so much about what your grammar books say.

So, what I did was to create an activity in order to get my students to use their creativity and let them experiment with a genre they are not very familiar with. What I really wanted, though, was to make them all engaged in the writing process, so I had to think of something they could work on in groups. The “My hat” poem gave me the idea: let’s write a poem in a hat! After dividing the students into groups, you give each group the first handout:

What they have to do is work together and think of at least 15 words for each hat. Of course, this process cannot take forever, so it’s best to let them know there is a time limit for each task. When the time is up, groups exchange handouts and now it’s time for the challenging part: they get a new handout with a big hat and what they have to do is create a poem using the words (as many as they want) from the first handout. They are free to use pronouns, names, adverbs and linking words as many times as they want. And let the creativity begin!

You can download the pdf for the handouts here

Note: If you want a fast poem activity that you can use as a filler, I suggest visiting the magnetic poetry site (http://magneticpoetryplayonline.com/kids/) and create some poems just for the fun of it! Here is mine:




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