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  • This article was downloaded by: [Temple University Libraries]On: 20 November 2014, At: 13:03Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Design For Arts in EducationPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vzae20

    Look, Listen, Learn, and LeapJohn M. StewartPublished online: 03 Aug 2010.

    To cite this article: John M. Stewart (1980) Look, Listen, Learn, and Leap, Design For Arts in Education, 81:3, 13-18, DOI:10.1080/07320973.1980.9940006

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  • Look Listen

    Learn and Leap

    by John M. Stewart

    Hartsville, South Carolina

    JANUARYIFEBRUARY 13

    Teach poetry to elementary school kids? Well, I do have twenty-five years of experience teaching poetry to high school and college students. With, I hope, some degree of success. But how could I face up to the challenge when I was appointed an artist- in-residence for two Hartmille, South Carolina, public elemen- tary schools? My assignment was to spend a week at two schools, working with each class two or three times during the five-day period. I began my experience in the fall of 1977; I returned for a second go-round a t the same two schools the winter of 1978; I sin- cerely hope I am invited back.

    Here are a few things I learned. Some of these approaches may be helpful, perhaps, to teachers trying their hands a t the teaching of poetry-whether on the ele- mentary, junior high, high school, or college level. ( 1 .) If you are working in an elementary school, concentrate on the third through sixth grades. Working with kin- dergarten and first and second grades is-at least it was for me- largely a matter of entertaining them. (2.) At whatever level you teach, have a very flexible plan of procedure; the classes (even those of the same grade) will be completely different from one another-different responses, dif- f eren t attention spans, different students. What works like a charm in one class may fall like a lead balloon in another. I have dis- covered that fourth and fifth graders are usually the most en- thusiastic. Sixth graders, on the other hand, may need several sticks of dynamite to st i r them. The girls especially seem neither fish nor fowl-and are inclined, alas, to giggle. But I can never be

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  • sure. I worked with one sixth grade class that I despaired of-l bombed completely: others went like a house afire. (3.) Ask ques- tions-and more and more ques- tions-and insist that students raise their hands; otherwise com- plete bedlam may result. (Glance a t the accompanying pictures; you will see students raising their hands like crazy.) Try to get every student to say something; what i s said may be of l i t t le value, but it i s said. (4.) Do what any good

    teacher does: use the blackboard. call for student volunteers to an- swer questions, distribute and pick up papers, etc.; move about; establish eye contact; and, most important, try t o find something positive in every student contri- bution.

    With these ground rules es- tablished, I center my attention on four activities: LOOK, LISTEN, LEARN, and LEAP. (It is impossible, of course, to separate these four; they all melt together. But some specific activ- ities emphasize one aspect over another.)

    First, LOOK. In each class, I begin with this question: "When you see the words poetry and poem, what do you think of?" ( I always use the blackboard, and up go these words and the re- sponses of the students.) One sixth

    grade came up with this list:

    Rhyming words Pictures Descriptive words Repeated words or phrases Similes and metaphors Nature Seasons Feelings- Em0 tions Sadness- Happiness Boredom (I love this one!) Excitement Love Death

    Obviously this class was some- what sophisticated; other groups will produce astonishingly differ- ent results. (Don't, for heaven's sake, come into the classroom with a prepared list; let the stu- dents make their own.) Whatever the results of this class activity, you can make this point: Poetry and poems cover a great variety of subjects, and they use many d i f f eren t devices.

    Now that the students have looked a t the product of their own thinking, pass out copies of a poem. Use ditto, stencil, or one of the marvelous copying machines. Put one poem on a page; collect copies after reading and discussing each poem. Re- member: one poem a t a time-no more! (What a pleasant surprise to see how eager kids are to act as monitors, distributing and col- lecting materials, writing down lists for you, etc. After nine years of teaching in a liberal arts college, I found student responses astonishing and delightful.) Always, always have poems available for pupils to look at; don't depend upon all members in a given class having the same basic text; usually they don't.

    Next I ask something like this: "What must we do to understand a poem? There are two things we must do; what are they?" The answers will be various; someone will probably say, "We must thirik about the poem." I reply that such i s most definitely true, bult what must we do before we think about the lines? With a bit of maneuvering, I finally get the students to say that we must LOOK a t the poem and we must LISTEN to the words. We must, in other words, use both our ears and our eyes i f we are to under- stand poetry. (Thus we have moved in a relatively painless way from LOOK to LOOK/LISTEN.)

    To illustrate my point, I then read a poem to my students, te l l - ing them to look a t the lines while I am reading. I always say, "Don't look a t me; look a t the poem. "

    After I have read a poem two or three times, I begin to ask questions about it. Why are the six stanzas arranged on the page as they are? Why is the second stanza longer than the fourth? Why is the fifth the "narrowest" of al l? There are a t least twenty questions you can ask about the layout of the poem. All of these points are made to help the kids understand that a poem must be seen as well as heard. At this point, I hope that I have success- fully combined my first two ideas: LOOK and LISTEN.

    Reinforce the LOOK/LISTEN aspect by asking for volunteers to read the poem aloud. You will be astonished a t how many raise their hands. Classes love to read aloud in unison. Here i s a tre- mendous opportunity to teach the art of reading poetry, avoicl- ing the frightful tendency to hit

    14 DESIGN

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  • JANUARY/FEBRUARY 15

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  • the last word of each line (what- ever the punctuation or non- punctuation) with a great thump and varying the voice quality with repeated words or phrases.

    From these LOOKING and LISTENING activities, I try to move to some understanding of what a poem i s al l about-in other words, LEARNING. One poem which I have found help- ful here is Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout by She1 Silverstein. This i s a good poem for the kids; they love i t ! And, with some guidance, I can usually get a student to te l l the class that the poem i s really about conservation and ecology. One fifth grader actually used the latter word; and, although much time had been spent in say- ing, Oh, yes, thats the story of the poem, but what i s it really about? it was a real thrill to hear that word ecology. (Inci- dentally, this is a marvelous poem for the students to read aloud; just think of the oppor- tunities to teach something about breathing, as students attempt those long l ists in the first and third stanzas!

    Of course, the LEARNING process has been go

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