An Awesome Afternoon of Primary School Poetry!
Year 2 students at the Yew Chung International School of Beijing held an afternoon of poetry performances for their parents last week, both sharing their own poetry and performing teacher-selected poems. As part of a larger unit on composing and performing poetry, the afternoon was a great opportunity for parents to experience their children’s learning firsthand.
Year 2 Team Leader and principal organizer of the poetry afternoon Megan Banerjee shared more details about the event, the purpose of the unit as a whole, and how parents can get their own children more interested in poetry and literature at home.
Please introduce the poetry afternoon performance.
The poetry afternoon was part of two combined units. The first was on how to write our own poems, during which we learned about alliteration, similes, and other literary devices as well as writing our own poems. The second was on presenting poems. Our students practiced reading chosen class poems with actions and props. Our big celebration at the end of the unit got all our Year 2 classes together in our shared foyer space, both EAL and mainstream, for a performance in front of parents and their peers.
While teachers picked the class poems, students got to pick which poems they wanted to perform from the list. Many of them were quite long for Year 2 students, almost a page each! It was a great exercise for monitoring their own learning.
What did this unit seek to teach kids?
In addition to how to write poetry and deliver it effectively, poetry features a lot of different kinds of writing styles and devices. For instance, kids actually wrote similes as part of this unit. We incorporated this unit into some of our topic units as well, such as lights (many students wrote a poem about the Aurora Borealis), and feelings, where we used similes to talk about how we felt, e.g. my smile is as big as a river!
Why is poetry important to study? How does it benefit children’s development?
Poetry is important in so many ways. It helps with vocabulary and fluency especially. With fluency, we look at expression, phrasing, and other aspects of fluent oral delivery. Poems have this natural rhythm when you read, so they’re a nice starting point for students pick up these concepts.
It’s also so much more fun for learners, especially with kids with short attention spans. For example, our class poem was “school-itis,” a made-up illness about not wanting to go to school. The students learned about all kinds of diseases and got to act it out! It was a great learning process being able to act out the poem instead of just reading it in a book.
How does a performance like this enhance or improve student learning?
It helps to build confidence. Besides this performance, at the Yew Chung International School of Beijing we regularly get students out in front of audiences so they can feel comfortable and confident speaking. We have a lot of assemblies here, so kids have plenty of opportunities to do public speaking and you can tell by their confidence when they get up and speak in front of everyone.
This was also an example of giving students differentiated opportunities to grow themselves. By letting the kids pick their own poems, it improved their ability to monitor themselves and to self-regulate.
How did this performance and unit align with YCIS Beijing’s overall education/learning model?
Besides improving “soft skills” like confidence, creativity, and public speaking, which the school seeks to emphasize in all of its classes, it was a great opportunity for teacher collaboration in a true Learning Community style! All of our Year 2 teachers collaborated for this one event, and the kids got a chance to see one another perform in a group setting. The challenge for our Year team this year is to get out into our shared foyer space more, so this was a great step in the right direction.
A key piece of our motto is “Align with Technology,” and our ICT coordinator Alana Elias contributed a lot with that in mind. She sat down with all the students and taught them how to use Keynote. Each student was responsible for making one slide for the poem they wrote themselves. In ICT class, they actually went on the internet and chose a picture, copied and saved it to the desktop, and put it into their one slide with their poem. They also changed the text and made sure it had certain components. As the parents were coming in, the PPT slides were on display for parents to read the original poetry created by their children. It was a wonderful touch!
What can parents do at home to get their children more interested in poetry or literature?
Pick up a Dr. Seuss book! I think the biggest way parents can excite their children to learn would be to read with them. Finding literature and bringing it home also works. Reading with your child is so important. It also helps to have a lot of books at home, plus to interact with them during reading time and to ask them questions about what they’re reading.
Anything else you would like to add?
We have an exceptional team! I don’t think it would have been the success it was without everyone’s contributions and planning. It was probably our biggest event this year as a Year 2 team and I look forward to many more in the future!