If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you might remember that I led a third-grade writer’s circle for six years. Weekly, during those six years, I’d return to the elementary school where my boys attended and work with six students, two from each third-grade classroom, on creative writing.
Over those years, we worked on many different units, newspaper writing, narratives, Pourquoi, and my favorite – poetry. It was always at this time of year, mid-February to mid-March, that we worked on creating poems. Of my thirty-six students, thirty-two of them were published authors by the time their time with me was over. I loved it and I like to think they did, too. I know many expressed their sadness when I told them I would not be “following” them into their fourth-grade year for another writer’s circle. They progressed but I stayed in third grade. The greatest reason for me doing so was the teachers I got to work with during those years. They were fabulous supports for this enrichment group – everyone benefited – the students, me, and their classroom teacher.
I digress. In one of the introductory lessons, I told students that their poetry did not have to rhyme! You can imagine their surprise! I do not know whether it was an early childhood focus on phonetics or just being told poems rhyme that gave rise to their thinking. We worked on many kinds of poetry with a focus on flow, not rhyming. Of course, rhyming was allowed if it produced the best word choice but in many cases, it did not. I wanted their vocabulary to grow and improve. Arguably, I did not see rhyming as a way to make that happen, so it was never a requirement of their poetry writing (unless the form of poetry called for a rhyme).
Hopefully, prior to school, young children are exposed to nursery rhymes and Dr. Seuss’s stories, both of which rely heavily on rhyming couplets. Just think about Little Boy Blue and Mary had a Little Lamb, The Cat in the Hat, and Green Eggs and Ham! All this rhyming serves important early phonetic recognition and vocabulary building but can take on a smaller role as children grow and become more creative with abstract thought.
Yesterday, I wrote a post about Karen Carpenter, the singer who passed away in the early 1980s from anorexia. As I was thinking about what to post today for Poetry Friday, I listened to a few of her songs. Of the recordings I listened to, such as “Close to You,” I noticed that many included rhyme. But, because of the music, cadence, and chosen words they also flowed.
By the end of their time with me, the students in Writer’s Circle hopefully understood that flow is more important than rhyme in poetry. Once they could banish their preconceived notion of required rhyme, their creativity soared!
Today is Poetry Friday. The host is Karen Edmisten. Please visit her blog to make a submission or read some awesome poetry! Thank you for hosting!