Carmen Benitez teaches English B at Prepa Tec Eugenio Garza Lagüera ,Tecnologico de Monterrey
Writing effectively in order to express a point of view is a competence that can be developed through the production of argumentative essays, a task that requires good analysis and synthesis of information. In this sense, writing poetry, is also an exercise of reflection that allows students to explore their thinking processes, vision, creativity and feelings. Through poetry writing, students can develop their persuasion skills in order to write essays and speeches that are more effective through the use of metaphors, synecdoche or figurative language in a meaningful manner.
Creation is a complex process that requires higher-order thinking abilities; according to Anderson’s revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Iowa State University, 2019). After comprehension, analysis and evaluation, creation is the next step in terms of cognitive skills. And writing poetry is quite effective for practicing this skill.
As a part of the literature component of my International Baccalaureate English class, my students are encouraged to write poems as an activity that goes beyond the classroom and connects them with their feelings and thoughts at a deeper level. Given that English is not their first language, writing poetry could be thought of as a very challenging effort. However, I am always awed by the way they connect to that experience which Ethel Krauze, extraordinary contemporary Mexican writer, calls “finding the poetic word that inhabits our body”.
Over the last few years, in our school, we have had the opportunity to have online interactions through Zoom and Skype with other students in the United States. In these conversations, students are able to talk about their likes, interests and challenges at school. I decided to allow some of my students to explore the impact of their own poetry by sharing what they wrote with their American counterparts. As a result, we have had poetic expressions that are quite powerful and inspiring.
By having the opportunity to be read by native teenage speakers, students can have a clear sense of audience that an adult can very possibly not give them. Only a listener their own age can provide them with the confidence and support that a burgeoning writer needs. My students’ essays and speeches have greatly improved as a result of creating poetry and their writing has become more compelling and persuasive, which has been reflected in their external examinations such as Pearson and the International Baccalaureate.
Here are two examples of the poetry that some of my students have written:
These poems were inspired by the recent Syrian migration:
Get Ready, Fly High
Somebody once told me
To turn my future brightly
But how was I supposed to know?
How can I be shiny?
People have future, people have rights
But sometimes obstacles arise
The wheels of justice turn slowly
And we feel like we’re burning in our own country
But you have to fight
You have to make them proud
The ones who got lost
And the ones who got found
So get ready, get ready
Set your wings on fire
Show them you can deal
With this little gift called life
- Ana Victoria Chávez Ochoa
Never give up when the way is dark
When the rain is rough and heavy
Never give up your dreams at the half of the road
At hard times you will never walk alone
You must walk on through the wind
And through the rain
Though your dreams may be tossed and blown
Keep walking with hope in your heart
Because at the end of the path there will be the light
Walk on through the dark with light in your heart
Fight with toil, tears, blood, and sweat
To wake up at the field of dawn
To enjoy the breeze of the wind and the cherry blossom
While waiting for the sun seeking for the morning glory.
- Arturo González
Creative Exercises to Stimulate Poetry Writing
The following are three examples of the kinds of exercises that can be done to stimulate creativity in your students so that they can prepare before they write their poems.
#1 Be Walt Whitman for an Hour!
Walt Whitman was a keen observer of humanity and nature. Norman Foerster in his article “Whitman as a Poet of Nature” comments on Whitman’s detailed description of trees, animals and insects in his poetry.
- Take a few moments to observe nature around you. Sit quietly and observe anything you find interesting. If you want, you can take a picture or record a brief video of what you observed.
- Write a poem about it.
- Upload it to the discussion board of our course along with the picture or video of what you observed.
#2 If You Were…
This exercise is adapted from a task included in a writing workshop offered by Patricia Laurent Kullick, author of “La Giganta”.
Complete the following phrases:
If I were a color, I would be…
Read your responses aloud or share them with other classmates.
This exercise opens up the whole area of exploring metaphor, so you might like to make use of the following pages:
#3 Peer Feedback
Students can ask these questions to each other to give feedback of their poetry and make it more expressive. This exercise was adapted from young poets network (2019):
- What do I think this poem is about?
- What is most interesting about this poem? Do I have any questions or uncertainties?
- Are there any verbs that could be stronger?
- Are there any synonyms that would be more musical than the ones present in this version?
- Could you suggest a change in the grammar or lineation anywhere to improve the poem’s fluency?
Once students have gone through this creative and reflective process, make sure they proofread their poems to work on the necessary improvements. This practice allows them to develop independent skills in editing their own work, as they exercise critical thinking when they analyze and ponder about the expressiveness of their writing.
Students report a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction after writing their poems. Below you may find some of the opinions they have expressed:
“Being able to write poetry has given me a true voice. I'm able to show the inner parts of myself without being scared.”
“I love this class, it is the one I expect more eagerly every day. It has motivated me and taught me a lot about poetry.”
“Writing poetry has been a way of sharing my point of view in such a way that people can easily understand it, but also see the deeper meaning behind it.”
“Poetry in class is an opportunity to set free our inner artist and to feed our souls.”
The poems some of my students have written are now published in a plaquette produced by Poetazos, a light-hearted humorous editorial concept that aims at promoting a positive and delicious contact with literature, in the form of poetry and short stories. You may find further information about this plaquette here.