Poetically Speaking with Eden from Blogging Between the Lines

poeticallyspeaking2Eden is a Teen Librarian and YA Lit reviewer. You can find her on Twitter –@edynjean– and Blogging Between the Lines. Eden also contributes to Teen Services Underground and YA Books Central.

Eden is here today to share her suggestions for leading a poetry workshop for young people.

Running a poetry workshop or writing group for teens and pre-teens can be a very fun and rewarding experience. Teens have a wealth of creativity, and you can show them ways to tame their wild imaginations.

You want to show the participants that creative writing takes work and that creative work can be fun. As the instructor, you are the fun generator. You are the one teasing out their creativity into tangible words and lines – helping these kids make something completely new and original (at least to them!). Keep that in mind if you feel frustrated or stifled during the workshop.

There are a million different ways to run a poetry workshop for kids and teens, so I’m just going to go over some of my favorite creativity-generating activities. I always start my workshops with idea-generators, weird activities to get the participants thinking in new and strange ways. It keeps them thinking, gets their brains active, and helps them create outside the lines they’ve placed around themselves.

Fun strategies for generating poem ideas:

  • Post a list of numbered words on the wall and roll dice to choose words to use.
  • Purchase Sobe drinks for the participants and write the sayings on the insides of the bottle caps on a whiteboard or easel, then use those phrases in a poem.
    • For a challenge, construct a poem just out of the Sobe cap phrases.
  • For a descriptive poem, challenge the participants to write about another person in the room, without using any anatomical terms.
  • Free write based on sound or images put together in a slide show.

Another important thing to get across when working on poetry with pre-teens and teens, whether in a classroom, library, or home setting is that writing is always a work in progress. The words will not spill out of your hand and onto the blank page fully formed into perfect prose. It takes time, effort, and many revisions before a poem is completed. In some cases, a poem may be constantly revised – never finished.

Emphasize the concept that writing is a process, it takes work and thought and effort, and that the teens should not expect to write a final piece in one sitting.

Techniques & activities for revising poetry:

  • Play vocabulary musical chairs: give everyone a word, play the music, and when you stop pair everyone up and create a compound word that you write on a whiteboard or easel.
    • This shows the teens creative use of words that wouldn’t normally belong together.
  • Rewrite the poem backwards and think about how the meaning changes. Encourage the teen to move lines around – the poem is more like a puzzle than a script.
  • Rewrite the poem onto a new sheet of paper, changing a single thing (word choice, word order, punctuation, etc) per line.
  • Read poems aloud. Hearing a poem aloud is very different from hearing it only inside your own head.
    • If the teen doesn’t like public speaking, read poems anonymously, or have the instructor read them all.

Whether the workshop is run in a school, library, home, community center, or youth group, the instructor should always keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to create and have fun. Those are both equally important goals of the workshop!

Recommended Reading:

Empowering Young Writers: The “Writers Matter” Approach by Deborah S. Yost, Robert Vogel & Kimberly E. Lewinski

Fearless Writing: Multigenre to Motivate and Inspire by Tom Romano

Don’t Forget to Write — for the Secondary Grades: 50 Enthralling and Effective Writing Lessons by Jennifer Traig

Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writing by Karen Benke

Thank you to Eden for this instructive post!

If you want to see more of her writing, be sure to check out her blog: http://edynjean.wordpress.com

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