Bull Run Middle School Celebrates ‘Poem in Your Pocket Day’

| May 1, 2018 | 0 Comments | Education

Reading Teacher Christy Laser talks to students about their poems during eighth grade lunch, Thursday.

Students from Bull Run Middle School in Haymarket celebrated National Poem in Your Pocket Day, Thursday, by carrying around a poem and sharing them with their peers.

April was National Poetry Month. In 2002, New York City designated April 26 “Poem in Your Pocket Day,” a day for residents to enjoy and share poetry. The idea caught on, and in 2008, the Academy of American Poets made Poem in Your Pocket Day a national event.

Christy Laser, a reading teacher at Bull Run Middle School, worked with the school’s literary committee to create a “Poem in Your Pocket” experience for BRMS students.

The idea was to have all students from grades six through eighth carry around poems and share them with their classmates. Teachers were encouraged to plan activities that incorporated the poems.

The literacy committee also created a premade lesson that teachers could use in their advisory classes so that students at least had that level of exposure to poetry that day.

“We try to do things that make reading and writing real and enjoyable,” said Laser of the role of the literacy committee.

The mini-lesson had students pair up in a “tea party” to read their poems to each other, then switch partners. Afterwards, the teacher could ask students questions about themes, figurative language, sound device, how they related to the poem, or anything they felt was relevant.

“We tried to make it as turn key as possible, especially for people intimidated by poetry,” Laser said, explaining that poetry may even outside the comfort zone of some teachers.

The committee chose 90 short poems from the book “Naming the World: A Poem a Day for Middle School Students” by renowned writer and teacher Nancy Atwell. Student members of the Junior National Honor Society students then spent two hours Wednesday cutting, coloring, and hanging poems on students’ lockers.

It was then the responsibility of every student to carry the poem on his person throughout the day. To encourage them, Laser visited lunch periods, pulling poems out of the hat and giving away prizes.Laser hoped the experience allowed students the opportunity to experience poetry in a more fun and less academic way.

She felt poetry was meant to be enjoyed, referencing United States Poet Laureate Emeritus Billie Collin’s “Introduction to Poetry,” in which he says “I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author’s name on the shore. But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it.”

Some students, such as Carolina Kamal, responded enthusiastically to the poetry day.

“I like imagery; I like calm imagery,” said the eighth grade student. “It makes me feel less stressed, less anxious.”

French teacher Verinique DeFusco arranged it so that some of her students received works from a selection called “Simple French Poems.” In her class, students read French poems aloud, listened to audio recordings and read translations. DeFusco told her students repetition of songs and poetry is great for learning new languages.

Other teachers found the activity useful as well.

Crystal Bransome had a small group of special education students who worked together to find figurative language or imagery.

“The kids really enjoyed it.” She said, noting they especially like the poem “My Name is America” by Todd Allen Herendeen, which talks about how Americans sacrificed for freedom.

But the poetry spanned a wide range of themes. They included a poem from collection on violence in America by David Baker; the simplistic and direct imagery of Williams Carlos Williams’s “Red Wheelbarrow;” Mathematics as a metaphor in Anna Mae Angana’s “X & Y.”

“Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye, which a student read aloud in eight grade lunch, describes a fame much more intimate than found on reality TV, YouTube or social media.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,

or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular

but because it never forgot what it could do.

For eighth grade students, Thursday was an SOL testing day. After the assessments most appreciated sharing poems and being allotted the opportunity to get out of their seats and interact with their peers.

Laser was happy by how the day turned out, and did not mind at all that it fell on an SOL testing day at all. “I think it’s the perfect time for this because it’s a little stressful. A lot stressful.”

Photos courtesy of Christy Laser and Bristow Beat. 

© 2018, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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