WRITING POETRY IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS: A TEACHING EXPERIENCE
It is supposed that poetry for children means flowers, butterflies, birds, spring, Christmas and so on, with simple words and concepts. Based on such an assumption, a poetic literature for children flourished in the last decades, very simple but of very low literary value.
Such a literature is used as a support in reading or in memorizing, not for autonomous composition.
We strongly believe that the best way to approach poetry, also for children, is to address the topic through classic well known poetry, with many advantages from the point of view of aesthetic education, of the language learning and of the depth of though.
More, classic authors can be a strong guide for autonomously writing simple poetical composition.
Following the above ideas, we experiences a course on poetry for the fourth year of a primary school (9 old). The course consisted in four lessons, one per week, each of them of four hours, held by the prevalent teachers (three classes, 78 pupils in total).
The lessons were based on the following principles:
- the use of “classics” (from Dante to modern poets, including maudit authors, avoiding children literature);
- the use mainly of Italian poets, but with some foreign composition (e.g. English classics, as Blake or Wordsworth, being English a curricular topic; but also some Latin author, as Catullus, to make children feel sound and metrics);
- the use of the content of the selected works, to amplify the discourse, linking the composition to historical facts, to the life of the authors, to social problems, and so on;
- the use of many video clips (collected from Youtube), in which famous actors were properly reading the poems;
- the request to children to create, step by step, autonomously, their own poetic compositions, respecting all the provided rules.
In order to drive the pupils in understanding the poetic rules, we followed unconventional choices for primary schools, organising the content as we were in upper level schools:
- the presentation of metrics and prosodic techniques, to make children familiar with sounds and rhythms: from bysillable to hendecasyllable, and more, including Latin meters; the request of creating simple composition with each of the selected meters;
- the analysis of the rhymes (a simple rhyming dictionary was provided), and the creation of composition with many different rhyming structures;
- the analysis of poetic structures (distich to sonnets), with consequent exercises; in addition, haikus and limericks;
- the presentation also of many contemporary authors, rich of linguistic jokes (tautograms, calligrams, antonymic compositions, etc.).
The experience produced astonishing results, among which:
- enforcement of scholar practices (grammar used for word analysis, hyphenation, use of dictionary, etc.);
- evaluation and count of accents;
- the discovery of anagrams, mono-vowel compositions, creative compositions: everything for playing with the language.
The relevance of the rules to be respected kept all the attentional effort on them, reducing censorship on the contents, and allowing thougths emerge freely, with poetic effect and very interesting results.
All the results have been collected in a printed book, announced at the beginning for stimulating to work, given to each pupil at the end of the course.
The paper will present in detail the experience, the organisation, the results, and will provide a lot of examples of the best composition produced, with some critical remarks.