CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 7 . . . . December 1, 2000
For the Love of Poetry, Nancy Lee Cecil's second book for teachers, follows her award-winning book, For the Love of Language: Poetry for Every Learner. The new book contains a brief introduction which is followed by 35 poetry writing ideas which Cecil calls "literary scaffolds." Each "scaffold" includes a description of the writing exercise, suggested lead-in activities, examples, and possible cross-curricular extension activities.
I have strong reservations about For the Love of Poetry. Its colourful cover clearly states that its contents are appropriate "for Grades 4-12," but this grade level recommendation range is very misleading as the activities are not appropriate for senior high school.
I am not an advocate of this style of teaching poetry. Too often, this type of "poetry-writing-by-recipe" results in bad poetry. The highly structured "scaffolds" elicit a "fill-in-the-blanks" rhyming where the importance of meaning, rhythm and evocative writing are sacrificed.
Having said that, there are a few valuable nuggets to be gleaned from this book. (But I emphasize the gleaning.) Cecil's occasional suggestions of original poems by published authors, (Appendix A) could be helpful to a teacher looking for good poems to read to her/his students, although it must be noted that none of the poets are Canadian. (Dr. Cecil is a professor at California State University.) In the "Introduction," there are some good ideas about how to integrate poetry into the daily classroom environment. I think that it is extremely important that students hear good poetry daily.
I would try Activity #6 with students. It's called Tutti-Frutti, and the product is a four-line nonsense poem. The activity allows students to play with language and is perhaps the least unstructured of the collection of "literary scaffolds."
With reservation, I would allow that a beginning teacher of poetry could take a quick look through the introduction for some sound ideas, skip most of the suggested "scaffolds," and utilize the appendices as resources for discovering good poetry to share with students.
Recommended with Reservations.
Terry Vatrt is on the Board of Directors for the Winnipeg International Writers Festival. She doesn't read poetry every day, but she should!
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