Parents were invited to join their tweens for a two-hour dinner and wordsmithery event. After a quick potluck and opening remarks, we were given time to get creative at a dozen different poetry creation stations that teachers had set up all around the multi-purpose room. Encouraged to visit as many or as few stations as we wanted, families were set loose to choose their own path. A bell sounded every 15 minutes, letting us know it was a suggested time to rotate, but my daughter and I ended up spending all of our time at just two stations – “Visual Poetry” and “Roll of the Dice Poetry.” (Details/pictures below)
As a parent, I was surprised by my 12-year-old daughter’s focus. Instead of racing from station to station, she wanted to stay put, giving deep and thorough consideration to our writing. We worked elbow-to-elbow on our “Roll of the Dice” poems (our favorite of the night), and she patiently helped me hammer out a sticky stanza toward the end of my piece. Later in the evening, she surprised me again by volunteering to read one of her poems to the audience of more than 100 people in the evening’s Spoken Word finale.
As an English teacher, I was inspired, snapping idea photos and plotting to bring a similar experience to my classroom. While I don’t have the bandwidth to create a full-school event, I could definitely adapt the centers/stations to my next poetry unit. I’ve already built a solid four-week poetry unit, but the addition of a final poetry experience like this would definitely get my students excited about poetry in a whole new way.
The evening was organized by Barbara Comstock, my kid’s sparkplug of a 7th grade teacher who convinced a merry band of English, Art, and Spanish teachers to volunteer for the event. Bummed that many students don’t view ELA as a “fun” class, she decided to do something to change that perspective, she told me. She even tapped into technology, promoting apps (Verses Poetry, The Poetry Foundation, and Instant Poetry), setting up a hashtag for participants to follow the event via Instagram and Twitter, and using a Sound Booth to create a digital portfolio of students’ work from the evening.
By the end of the night, my kid had written two original poems, recorded one of them for online publishing, and performed one of them live before an audience. I’d say that’s a great reason to stay up past bedtime on a school night!
Here’s a sample of Mrs. Comstock’s Poetry Night stations:
(Click on the image to enlarge. All images and ideas are shared here with permission.)