Poetry-in-the Schools Needs YOU!

Poetry team, 2017-18 Kristen Nielsen-Drake (Pen Friend) ; Linda Bridges, (Branch Vice-President); Leslie Kyte (Pen Friend).

The delight of helping students find their inner voices through poetry cannot be replicated. In times where testing, testing, testing, in the public schools takes a priority–and where creative teaching is subverted to fit into the boxes of the testing mode throughout the year, poetry often falls by the wayside.

This retired teacher joined the ranks of Pikes Peak Branch of the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW)—and their Poetry-in-the-Schools Project, where this  small dab of light–a snippet once a month–is the only taste of poetry to which our students are exposed. As a recently retired school teacher, I know this need first hand.

The hidden truth about teaching children poetry is that this craft crosses all genres, including the ‘testing genre,’ (if you could call that a genre). Teaching the love of language helps students on standardized tests. When I teach poetry, I am teaching powerful word choice, similes, metaphors, personification, sentence structure, and meaningful punctuation.

Life changing? Maybe. . .

These past two years during my ‘voluntary’ teaching of poetry at Rogers Elementary School (Colorado Springs, CO), I have had fun teaming up with artist, Leslie Kyte, and Lori Sampson, a school psychologist. Combining the teaching of art and poetry as a cross-curricular opportunity has been an enriching and joyful experience for all of us. Leslie taught the children to visualize their words through art, while Lori brought fresh eyes and insight to some of the deep issues the children might have been dealing with.

Poetry-in-the Schools Project was expanded this year (2017-18)to include one volunteer poetry teacher per class, for one and a half hours per month, in kindergarten through fourth grade classes–September through May. While it doesn’t seem like a lot of time, the teachers we worked with, as well as children, affirmed that it was a valuable time for all.

First Grade Teacher: Ruth Gibbs, shared with us what this program meant for her, as well as for her class.


Teaching Volunteer, Linda Bridges with Ruth Gibbs,First Grade Teacher

It is very difficult for me to put in a few words what your visits have meant to my class and me this past year.  You have not only brought us a love for poetry beyond nursery rhymes, but you also introduced us to the world of beautiful words and inspired us to use them in our own writing.  I will always remember some of my most rambunctious boys completely absorbed in writing their poems trying to find beautiful words to put on the paper making a windy fall day or a cold, snowy day come alive.  You showed my students the beauty and joy they can find in poetry and took them above and beyond the requirements of state standards.  What you gave them will stay with them past first grade and past elementary school.” 

Photo: (Used with permission) Ruth Gibbs (right)  receiving her Certificate of Appreciation for opening her classroom to our PEN Women Poetry facilitators. Standing with her is Linda Bridges, Poetry Facilitator

“Maybe it has been just as life-changing for us, as it has been for the children!” says one of the volunteer Poetry facilitators.

How about you?

Are you a retired teacher, writer, poet or artist? How about extending your love of words and art to amazing children–in rural, or under-resourced schools?

Maybe you’re thinking you might like to try being part of this amazing work. Don’t worry. Pikes Peak Branch of Pen Women will match you up with a partner who’s done it before, and you’ll experience first hand the joy of teaching poetry to kids who’ll love it!

Don’t wait. Let us know soon so we can meet you or direct you in how to begin in your area. We do hope you’ll join us in this most worthy, rewarding, once a month endeavor.

NOTE: Pikes Peak Pen Women will start up Poetry in the Schools Project again in September, 2018.

If you would like to know more about this program, go here: http://www.pikespeakpenwomen.com/outreach/   or write us at (info@ppb-nlapw.org); Attention: Linda Bridges, Poetry Chair. We also would like to invite you to our September Pen Women’s Luncheon, (see http://www.pikespeakpenwomen.com/monthlyluncheons/) where you will meet other PEN Women who have participated in this worthy project. Perhaps you cannot participate this year, but would like to contribute to Children’s Literacy; consider making a donation to our Bucks For Books fund, which  is used to buy one new book for every child at Roger’s Elementary for Christmas. You can find out more by going here: http://www.pikespeakpenwomen.com/outreach/.  Click on the DONATE tab.

This article was written by Kristin Nielsen-Drake, retired teacher, poet, hobby photographer and PEN Friend