Thursday, August 7, 2008


I love to teach poetry in the classroom.
Kathy Sena, writer for Newsweek, Woman's Day, Family Circle, USA Today, Child, etc. and frequent speaker at ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) recently blogged about one of my programs. Here is the link:

Hey Kids, Let's Have a Poetry Jam!
by Kathy Sena
What’s the secret for firing up grade-school kids and making them eager to read and write poetry? Just ask Jill Corcoran, an award-winning poet and mother of three who runs art-music-poetry workshops at elementary schools in Southern California.
“The workshops have been amazing,” says Corcoran. “The kids go from looking at me like I am a space alien, to slowly participating in the workshop, to boldly sharing ideas, to creating poetry with confidence and pride. It’s a fantastic, dizzying writing session that culminates in a coffeehouse-like poetry jam.”
Here are Corcoran’s tips for creating a one-hour workshop that teachers (or parent volunteers) can do in their own classrooms:
Jill Corcoran’s Art-Music-Poetry-Jam Workshop
Suggested grades: 2 – 5Time required: 1 hourSupplies needed: Boom box with selected music, 11” x 17” white paper, crayons, pencils, Post-it notes, scotch tape
1. Briefly discuss the power of art, music and poetry to evoke emotion.
2. Give each student an 11” x 17” piece of white paper and crayons.
3. Have students listen to music for several minutes and then draw whatever the music makes them feel.
4. Give each student a pad of Post-it notes and a pencil and have the students form a line to walk around the room and look at each picture.
5. At each picture, the students write the first word that comes to their minds on the sticky paper. They leave that word with the picture. Instruct the students not to write words like “cool” or “fun,” but to write nouns, verbs or strong adjectives.
6. The students then return to their pictures to find 20+ words written by their fellow students.
7. With their words and pictures in front of them, and the music playing once again, students create a poem from the words they have been given. (Once their poems are finished, have each student tape their Post-it-notes poem to the back of their picture. Otherwise the notes tend fall off.)
8. Ask the students to read their poems aloud. At the end of the hour, each student has created a poem that reflects the music they encountered, the art this music evoked from them and the words their art evoked in others.


  1. How cool is that! I'm going to forward your techniques onto my daughters third grade teacher. And then I want to do it with them!

  2. Jill! Love the new blog. You will be a wonderful addition to the blogosphere! Can't wait to read more. Thanks for the link love. I'm honored to write about what you do over at Parent Talk Today!

  3. Yay poetry!
    Thanks for the great info!

  4. Hi Jill,

    I did this exercise with a group of adult writers and it went very well. They loved it! I did another exercise before yours, to warm them up. They participated and seemed to like it, but didn't seem overly enthused. Then when I did yours, they were enjoying the coloring and the music (I swear, crayons are magical, aren't they?), and they played along with the posting of the Post-Its part, but when I told them that they were going to listen to the music one more time and write a poem using their PI words, they were absolutely delighted.

    I was amazed at the variety of pictures and poems. Some happy, some sad, some introspective, some silly. The energy level was high when the meeting was over, which was great to see.

    I'm really glad I tried this on adults before taking it into a classroom. I learned a couple of minor things, like for kids, I should probably cut the music to five mins. (the adults heard a 7-min. song and some were getting antsy toward the end). I also need to tell them not to write words on their picture, just draw (a couple of people did that).

    Thanks again for sharing this!


  5. Terry,
    So glad it went well. It is a blast with kids because they self-edit less than we adults do.

    A five-minute wordless song works great, but you will probably have to play it two or three times. Every time I do this workshop,the kids ask me to replay the song one or two times so they can finish their artwork.

  6. This looks like so much fun. I can't wait to do this next time I'm asked to come up with a "craft" project for my kids' classes (I'm so sick of popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners).

    Coupla questions--do you let the kids add any words when they write their poems? Do they have to use all of the words?

    Great post!


  7. Hi Hardygirl,

    Yes, the kids can add words ,but minimally. Most kids want to add words like a, the, and, with...but after students write their poems with those extra words, show them how beautiful their poems are without them. Lee Bennett Hopkins taught me to strike those types of words.

    But if a student wants to add a word here or there to add dimension to their poem, yes, encourage it. This is an exercise in creative freedom. Once the students let go of what they should or should not be doing and embrace their creativity, you will be amazed at what they accomplish

    Also, the students do not have to use all the words. Just the ones they choose to use. They will probably have some repeats, which is a wonderful opportunity to teach about repetition in poetry. Perhaps the repetition of words reflect the beat of the music.


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