Thursday, March 22, 2012

Clipboards, Poetry, and Third Graders

Student at Jamaa Learning Center observing poetry
On March 2, I organized a mixed media poetry exhibit for the students at Jamaa Learning Center, an elementary school in St. Louis. The 40 or so young people who attended seemed to have a good time. They read the poems, listened to poets reading on our audio devices, and observed the photographs.  

Since Illinois schools usually invite us to organize exhibits, I was pleased with the opportunity to work with a school in the city of St. Louis. The visit was arranged by one of the school's "Village Advocates" Christian Cooper, an SIUE grad who was a contributor to our black studies program activities when she was a student here.

I view our exhibits as "gateway" poetry experiences, providing many students with their first exposure to major African American poets such as Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, and Nikki Giovanni. The exhibits provide young people with special opportunities to learn about the sights and sounds of black poetry. The exhibits also provide me with chances to observe and learn how young people experience poetry and the processes of reading in general.

The organizers at Jamaa provided me with a useful idea for enhancing our future exhibits. In addition to giving the third graders who attended questions about the poems and poets, the teachers at Jamaa provided each of them with clipboards so that they could write as they were standing and looking at the display panels. The students looked like small-sized scholars, and more importantly, the clipboards seemed to empower the young to take their reading and response assignments seriously.

No doubt about it, I'll see to it that we provide students at our future poetry exhibits with clipboards.

Mixed Media Poetry Exhibits

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