Friday, April 27, 2012

Word Play

Word play isn't just for kids, but they're definitely the best at it.  For the past 2 weeks, poet Eric Hull of the Vox spoken-word chorus has been doing a residency in my classroom.  Bringing a poet into the classroom has unlocked the sheer joy of playing with words in some beautiful ways.  Kids who have been notoriously reluctant writers all year are suddenly inspired.  The energy in the room is palpable.  They're beaming with their creations and rushing up eagerly to show me.  What's perhaps most surprising is how little it took, really.  Some time spent on rhythm and meter, a lesson on alliteration, one on similes and one on rhyming couplets.  

With all the focus we have on state testing and improving the basics of writing (spelling, capitals, periods 'til we're all blue in the face), I guess I've lost sight of the fun of words.  Poetry always gets the shaft in the curriculum for the sake of expository writing and longer narratives that will get at the kind of sustained writing expected by the state standards and the tests.  I'm saddened and mad at myself that I've let that thinking rule me.  What a breath of fresh air to remember how fun it can be to play with words!

I think this is a lesson for my writer self, too.  When I'm bogged in the slog of submissions and the killjoy of queries, maybe it's time for an internal rhyme or a little alliterative literature.  Even us serious writers need to remember to play with words.  Who knows what fresh visions the muse might conjure when caught up in the joy of word play?

A few samples from my kids:
"Murky muddy mighty mushy mountains."
"Oregon tastes like peanut butter."
"Oregon looks like a giant blob with two right angles."
"Oregon has a lot of beaches, but Ms. McGean still teaches."
"Oregon is as salty as the beach."
"I saw a raccoon that ruined my cocoon."

And the one that caused a giant grin to burst across one too-often sad boy:
"When there is a brain drain,
Ms. McGean goes insane."

That one made me laugh out loud.

Promise to self:  remember to play and have fun with words and with learning, no matter what "accountability measures" might be breathing down your neck.

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