(Note. My first job was as a teacher--English and
math--and education has been a lifelong interest. Here
are ways you might use these poems in some interesting school
The poems in
Outside The Lines: Poetry At Play (OTL) are graphic, which
by definition means the words in each case are placed
in unusual positions on the page, creating a visual
pattern. But even compared to most other graphic poetry,
these are unusual: They are not about things, but
about activities--and often about collaborative activities,
too, since the topics are play activities.
This is the key part, I
think: These poems can lend themselves to being read
aloud by several students, working together. Not only are
they are about activities, but they are often
about collaborative activities, and thus they suit an
educational idea: collaborative reading
A poem like "Catch," for
example, mimics the tossing of a ball between two
friends. Here's part of it--which, of course, you would read
in a zig-zag pattern:
GLOVE . . .
Clearly, this could be
effective if read by two students (or two groups), perhaps
from two corners of a classroom--or by two
halves of the entire class.* Either way, such a
reading also lends itself well to an assembly or
other performance situation, because it has a built-in element
of drama (both the spatial aspect and the back-and-forth aspect)
and so might be an interesting surprise, as a change from
teacher wrote an e-mail about trying this sort of
Obviously, many choral
readings and group readings exist. But OTL poems are
about playing, and recreate the experience of it--so the reading
part could have a helpful buit-in "fun" aspect; and the spatial
aspect makes them unusual, perhaps unique. Since the book
consists of lyric poems, I realized that this choral
aspect might not suggest itself, but it's there.
There are a number of poems in OTL which could thus
be read collaboratively, by pairs or groups
of students, as the following titles indicate. The
number involved could vary, except where
individuals, or two groups)
Softball (the player at each position in the field has a
players would be in a circle. They might pass an actual Frisbee
Fireflies (a group is chasing
them--and letting them go)
Tail On The Donkey (those waiting their turn comment,
as one wins)
Kites (there are four kite
poems, for four friends on one
addition, even the poems about individual activities could be read
by more than one student, since they are activities which could
involve children side by side in "parallel play:" Hula Hoops,
Skipping, Bubbles (blowing), Slide and Swing. Swing or Slide, for
example, might be done as spoken-word "rounds," at least by kids old
enough to handle the overlapping.
Besides all this, since the poems are about play,
they of course have built-in possibilties for movement; and,
as this site shows, I'm adapting some of the poems
into songs, which of course can provide still
more performance possibilities.
(See also a teacher's e-mail re graphic poetry).
P.S. A bit more on
educational aspects--including more traditional "English-teacher"
stuff: As noted, these poems do not deal with objects and
the way they strike our senses, but with subjective
experience--how it feels to do something, on the
have kinetic and psychological aspects, and they often take
place not just in time, but in space. Of course, that's a lot
for any short poem to have on its agenda, and I don't mean to
exaggerate the complexity of this material.
But it does mean that there can
be interesting possibilties in this poetry, which may not
be obvious at a glance, and which may be useful for
teachers, in relation to many educational concepts. The sections
above discuss readings and performance, but there is also room
for a lot of more essentially literary activity, too: analysis, and
experimentation, and poetry-writing:
1. How do
you write a poem that's almost all about an experience,
and feelings, but does not describe the outsides of things?
Or--what about doing both? Or writing about the experience only,
then inserting descriptions? (Perhaps read the first step aloud, for
others to guess what's being described.) This could be
tried with: An amusement-park
ride. Snowboarding. Skateboarding or skating. Riding a
scooter. And so on.
2. What about writing a
poem re-creating a group experience (like Tag or Soccer). What
about an experience like a school bus trip? Or museum visit?
3. The preceding example is, in effect,
approaching dramatic writing, instead of lyric writing.
So: What about writing a poem that is purely dramatic?
That's another exercise, and a different focus. In fact, why not
just write a poem for two or more voices? That's something kids
might enjoy a lot. (It might be pointed out a
guy named Shakespeare did this
4. What about writing a poem about
a subject, with regular rhythm and rhyme, and then moving the words
around to create a graphic poem also, with the same
material? Better make sure to write about something simple
enough to "diagram" with words, of course...and then do that
"assembly required" part. Or start with words that create
the shape, and then edit them to be a regular poem also. (In writing
the OTL poems, in fact I worked with words creating shapes,
but often read them over, checking for both visual and
verbal compliance with the rules of the writing game that I'd set up