Thursday, August 21, 2008


A friend of mine recently asked me, "What is the best FIRST poetry class to teach students in the classroom, especially grade school students?"

I always start with MASK POEMS. Kids love to play pretend and in mask poems, where the speaker is the subject of the poem, students can pretend they are garbage cans, flowers, monkeys or anything else that makes their heart sing, or giggle.

The great Myra Cohn Livingston writes the following about Mask Poems in her book POEM-MAKING:
Poets never stop imagining what it might be like to be not only another person, but even something that cannot, in reality, think or speak. This aspect of the dramatic voice is what I think of as a mask or persona. It is as though we put on the face or the body of someone else and tell about ourselves through our words.
I start by teaching students what a mask poem is. I then read 6 to 8 mask poems. Next, I set the students free to write their own Mask Poems. (Hint: read the poems out of fully illustrated picture books; it will keep the students' eyes on you and help them connect more of their senses with the lesson.)

There are always students who cannot pick a topic. Never fear, simply ask those students to look at their desk, pick up the first object they see (pencil, tape, crayon) and write the mask poem in the voice of that object. Stops writer's block in a flash!

When they are done, students clamor to read their poems out-loud.

One last thing, many students write non-fiction animal reports in 3rd grade. When my son was in 3rd grade, I taught the class Mask Poems and asked the students to write a poem in the voice of their animal. I taught this class after the kids had done all of their research so they really knew who their animal was and how he would talk. These Mask Poems became the cover page of their animal reports.

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.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


It is almost midnight, and on a whim and a big push from many of my writer friends I have decided to start blogging. Now, what to blog about? I'll be thinking about that as I doze off tonight.
Sweet Dreams


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