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Not just for English class anymore: Poetry lives in all subjects

June 6, 2013

By Marilyn Hazelton
Swain Poet-in-Residence

This year as Swain’s Poet in Residence, I collaborated with 3rd through 8th grade teachers.  As a poet who teaches, I model creative writing and thinking in subjects as diverse as mathematics, history, memoir and studies for peace and justice.  My role at Swain is to be a mentor, facilitator and technical advisor on creative writing skills.  As a rostered artist with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, I’ve been trained to integrate the art of writing with diverse subjects across the curriculum.

Recently I worked with Ms. Armstrong to lead the 5th graders in playing with the idea of Book Spine Poetry.  Divided into teams, students looked through the library shelves for books to create a poem from titles. Ms. Armstrong then recorded several of the groups reading their poems.

In Mr. Stansbery’s class on “Comparative Culture: Peace and Justice through World Leadership”, 6th graders wrote haiku on war and peace.  They were inspired by examples from a haiku anthology that my husband and I produced for an editor who is a veteran of the conflict in Bosnia.  The students read poems from writers in Serbia, Romania, Vietnam, Croatia and the U.S. before adding their own voices to the issues.

Here are two of the wonderful poems from those classes:

the bullet

snaps the truce apart

bleeding through our hearts

– by Zoe

 

light fills the darkness

people arise from their homes

there will be peace again

by Tomas

In Mrs. Kreitz’ and Mrs. Franzyshen’s Math classes, Math artSarah7th and 8th grade students used symmetry and geometric figures to create designs inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture.  Then, inspired by a poem I wrote,  The Line, they added poetic language to their drawings.  Here is a fine example by eighth grader Sarah (right).

For Black History Month, I collaborated with Mr. Burns in his 8th grade class, “U.S. History 2:  Reconstruction to Modern Day.”  Students chose a contemporary or historical man or OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwoman to celebrate poetically.  Five 8th graders read these poems at Grandparents & Special Friends Day, including Jeff (left).

As a teaching artist, I present my own writing and revisions in each class I work with. By doing the creative writing assignments myself, I can model the process that leads to success, that all students can share.

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