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In Awe! Dorothea Lasky at Huffington Post
There are almost 60 full-time performing arts high schools in the U.S., but no schools that focus primarily on poetry. How do you think kids could benefit from using poetry as a primary learning tool?
Poetry is a great learning tool for students of all ages, but especially children — for the sake of poetry itself and also for learning deeply in other subjects. When you write a poem, you make new language, and this act helps children see that they can construct their growing ideas in school within new phrases, sentences, and paragraphs in an infinite amount of ways. This helps them become excited about learning how to speak and write well and that their voices matter.
Also, poetry is helpful in learning other subjects more deeply. Studies show that learning in any subject is aided by mnemonics and the creation of narrative. I mean, who of us hasn’t benefited in school by making up a poem or song and/or funny story about a historical fact or set of scientific principles? Learning in and through a poem can help children learn facts more deeply and with more meaning.
Are there teachers or schools that are trying to teach a general curriculum through poetry right now? Do you think they should?
As far as I know, there aren’t any. (But I would love to learn about any that are!) I think that there definitely should be classes and schools that teach all of their subjects through poetry. Not only is reading and writing poems fun, a poem can be a wonderful place to start a lesson in any subject.
Integrating poetry into a general curriculum seems useful and easier than we might think. For example, if a teacher is teaching a class on a biological process, like say photosynthesis, it might make sense to have her students write a three-part poem about each step. I once visited a fourth grade geology class and had my students write poems dedicated to a particular rock. Their poems deepened their relationships to the scientific properties of the rock. In a history class, instead of simply asking students to read about the American Revolutionary War to prepare for a test, a teacher might have them write a poem about a particular battle. It seem unlikely that they wouldn’t have a more meaningful relationship to the material and do better on the test.
In this moment in the history of our educational system, student performance on standardized tests is very important. But I often think about how a whole school that uses poetry as a way to teach every subject might help students learn the material and do better on their tests. I often wonder: could poetry start an educational revolution? [...]
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