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Poetry in Washington County

December 14, 2016

POL

As part of Maine’s Poetry Out Loud program the Maine Arts Commission provided a learning opportunity for teachers and students in Washington County. Teaching artist Brian Evans-Jones went from school to school spending a half day at each school including several classes. Brian is a member of the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster located at HERE. At each school Brian provided a slightly different program that fit the needs of the students from each school. Calais, Washington Memorial, and Narraguagus High Schools participated in this first time project.

machiasBrian used a variety of instructional techniques to guide students in their learning around poetry and writing. He recited his own and others poems and students responded by answering two questions: What happened in the poem and what were the emotions? Students picked up on the emotions of the poem and the specific moments and poetic techniques that conveyed  the feelings. Brian taught a method to memorize called “chaining”. One key word per line to memorize those first, and then each line one by one. Brian led students through ways to convey emotions using voice—pitch, volume, pauses, speed, emphasis— and asked them to try out different ways to convey the emotional “hot spots” of the poem.

With one group Brian focused on writing poetry. He asked them to write The down words and phrases that were linked with an activity they really enjoyed doing. First they wrote things they might use, then where, when, and with whom it happened, and lastly how it made them feel. These were all on small pieces of paper. Then on longer strips they wrote a few words to describe or follow on from each of the first set of words. Then they changed the sequence of what they’d written to make a poem. Brian left with everyone’s poems “shaping up to be lovely”.

Brian also taught a smaller class for interested students where they each made a short free write about a memory and then selected phrases from it to be the backbone of a poem.

calaisI’m sure that you can tell from the description that Brian’s time spent teaching and supporting poetry in Washington county was a success. The Maine Arts Commission is so glad that they received a small amount of additional funding from the National Endowment for the Arts for Poetry Out Loud this year to provide this opportunity. We’re looking forward to the feedback from students and teachers to get a clear picture of the impact.

There are 45 Maine high schools participating in Poetry Out Loud program. Each school has scheduled a school based program to determine who will represent them at the Northern or Southern Maine Regional Finals. The State Finals are taking place at Waterville Opera House on March 13, 3 p.m. and is open to the public at no cost.To learn more about the Poetry Out Loud program in Maine please CLICK HERE. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to email Argy Nestor, Director of Arts Education, Maine Arts Commission at argy.nestor@maine.gov.

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