Tag Archives: poetry

Hip-Hop Ed Fosters Connections

An article in the New York Times highlighted the work of high school English teacher Brian Mooney, who uses the lens of “hip-hop ed” to engage students in the study of complex literary themes. A blog Mr. Mooney created to share his curriculum and student work caught the attention of a broader audience — rapper Kendrick Lamar visited the high school. Students from Mr. Mooney’s English class and the after-school poetry club performed spoken word poems and raps for Kendrick Lamar.

Link to article: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/09/nyregion/kendrick-lamar-rapper-who-inspired-a-teacher-visits-a-high-school-that-embraces-his-work.html


Exploring Toronto Through Poetry

To mark National Poetry Month (April), the Toronto Public Library launched the poetry map, an interactive map that allows users to explore Toronto through a collection of poems associated with the city’s neighborhoods and landmarks. The project was the result of a collaboration between the Toronto Public Library and the city’s poet laureate George Elliott Clarke. Clarke suggested, the “map brings the city alive in terms of it being a living, pulsing, breathing organism that gives creative people – poets – inspiration. It reminds us that Toronto is a great city for the arts.” The Library hopes to expand the project by encouraging the public to submit their favorite poems related to Toronto.

Link: http://www.torontopoetry.ca/

Sue Dymoke: Making Poetry Happen

I (Clare) am happy to share news of a newly published text by Sue Dymoke: Making Poetry Sue DymokeHappen. (Sue is pictured with her new text.) I was lucky to review this text and here is my endorsement. This is an outstanding collection that gives voice to teachers and students as they meet poetry. It is essential reading for those who want to make poetry happen. An invaluable resource for new and experienced teachers, reading this text will change how you approach poetry. Rarely have I read a book that is so transformative. will become a classic.

Here is a link to an interview with Sue Dymoke.http://www.nottinghampost.com/Making-poetry-open-book/story-25887273-detail/story.html

  Making Poetry HappenFor those of you who are literacy/English teacher educators or classroom teachers I highly recommend this text. I learned a huge amount and thoroughly enjoyed every chapter. The stories written by teachers and academics are inspiriting and informative. I used some chapters with my student teachers who felt transformed. Many said they had never experienced poetry this way. Here is a link to Bloomsbury Publishers: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/making-poetry-happen-9781472510266/

The Power of Children’s Voices

My (Yiola) first blog post of the year. Happy new year friends and readers. Over the course of the holidays I developed a list of interesting topics and ideas that I am excited to share here on the site. Just as I was about to select one of my ideas to share, a student teacher sent this video my way today and it took precedence.  The messages may be imperfect yet the voices of children ~ of young adolescent women ~ make it so incredibly powerful for me. The energy and the passion and the inspiration rising from literacy make it a worthwhile share.  The rhythm alluring, the tone inspiring, the messages thought-provoking, the effort immense.  If literacy inspires young people to speak in such passionate ways about such timely issues, then I say BRING ON LITERACY TEACHING.


The Danger of Silence

I came across this short yet powerful TED talk. Educator Clint Smith delivers a power piece of spoken word on what he believes  to be  the dangers of silence. Smith, like many educators, values students’ voices and opinions. He believes we must encourage our students to speak out against injustices because silence leads to discrimination, violence, and war. Through the use of poetry, Smith helps students shares their stories- share their “truths.” Smith begins his spoken work piece with a powerful Martin Luther King Jr. quote: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Smith also shares 4 core principles that he runs his classes by:

1. Read critically

2. Write consciously 

3. Speak clearly

4. Tell your truth

Watch Smith’s 4-minute video here to hear more about the dangers of silence:

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Language and power: A well “articulated” analysis

It is  a rewarding feeling when a student teacher from years past emails a link to an article, a video, or an image that is reflective of the messages we discussed in our teacher education class. The message it sends me is this, “I remember you. I remember your teachings. I learned and am still thinking about what it means to be a teacher and what it means to teach literacy”.  Today I (Yiola) received a short email from a student of four years ago. She sent the following link:

The link takes us to a spoken word presentation entitled “3 Ways to Speak English” shared on TED during a theme based session called “Examining Prejudice”.  Her talk as part of the series is described as:

Educator Jamila Lyiscott delivered an incredible poem called “Broken English,” in which she showed that she is a “Trilingual orator” able to speak fluently at home, with Caribbean parents, at school in “proper English,” and with her friends in a language that is as formal and rules-based as the other two. The poem raised a big laugh when she pointed out, “You may think it is ignorant to speak Broken English, but even articulate Americans sound foolish to the British.”

My favourite part is when she says:

So I may not always come before you with excellency of speech

But do not judge me by my language and assume

That I’m too ignorant to teach

‘Cause I speak three tongues

One for each:

Home, school and friends

I’m a tri-lingual orator

What stands out for me about the poem and what I will share with my students in class this week:

1) The power of language and how we associate language with power

2) Language and how it informs our identities — how many languages do you speak?

3) Linguistic profiling: the racial identification and discrimination of an individual or group of people based on their speech  and how that plays out in society and in the classroom

4) History — and how it influences our use of language

I was moved by her words as Lsyiscott describes:

These words are spoken

By someone who is simply fed up with the Eurocentric ideals of this season

And the reason I speak a composite version of your language

Is because mines was raped away along with my history

I speak broken English so the profusing gashes can remind us

That our current state is not a mystery

I’m so tired of the negative images that are driving my people mad

So unless you’ve seen it rob a bank stop calling my hair bad

I’m so sick of this nonsensical racial disparity

5) Awareness, ourselves and teaching — what do we as educators do with this knowledge?

Here is a link to a prezi that Lysicott has used at presentations:


6) How to take our linguistic diversity and turn it into power:

This is a linguistic celebration

That’s why I put “tri-lingual” on my last job application

I can help to diversify your consumer market is all I wanted them to know

And when they call me for the interview I’ll be more than happy to show that

I can say:

“What’s good”


And of course …“Hello”

Because I’m “articulate”

I look forward to my class on Friday and to sharing thoughts, feelings and ideas about what all of this means to children, their families and the learning environment in our elementary school classrooms.



My Favorite Canadian Children’s Poet

I llllooooovvee teaching poetry- especially Loris Lesynski style poetry. Her poems are often all over the page, graphically depicting how the poem should sound. My favorite collection of hers is Dirty Dog Boogie. Delightfully rhythmical.  She also has a wonderful sense of humor, both in her writing and in person. Even her facebook posts are funny. Here is what she wrote the other day…

I just got a call from The Humane Society — my cat is going to SUE me for posting her picture without permission and for the implication that I own the desk, not her. I didn’t even know she had a facebook page! I cannot keep up with technology!!!!

If young children in your life like tap dancing type funny- find a Loris book!

loris                                                                           Loris Lesynski

Louise Erdrich wins Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Author Louise Erdrich has been named as the winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. The Dayton prizes recognize “literature’s power to foster peace, social justice and global understanding.” Erdrich’s written works, which includes novels, short stories, poetry, and children’s books, candidly explore contemporary Aboriginal life. She has been praised for “weaving a body of work that goes beyond portraying contemporary Native American life as descendants of a politically dominated people to explore the great universal questions – questions of identity, pattern versus randomness, and the meaning of life itself.”



Maya Angelou’s Influence on Hip-Hop

Each year, Clare and I (Lydia) invite student teachers in the P/J and J/I literacy methods courses to explore the rich pedagogical possibilities available when poetry is included as an integral part of a literacy program. We consciously include the work of a variety of poets in an effort to provide student teachers with multiple entry points into the teaching of poetry. The recent passing of celebrated poet Maya Angelou brought to light once again the dynamic and influential nature of poetry. Angelou’s powerful poetry inspired a generation of Hip Hop artists who appreciated the beauty and complexity of her work. Upon hearing the news of her death, rapper-producer Q-Tip acknowledged the deep impact Angelou’s poetry had on him. In a twitter post he recalled trying to copy her voice during his early days with A Tribe Called Quest. He noted, “I tried to copy Maya’s fluid voice early on but failed miserably. But because of her I found my own… RIP Maya Angelou and thank u.”

Maya Angelou’s Legacy in Hip-Hop: www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/05/28/maya_angelou_s_legacy_in_hip_hop_poet_leaves_behind_a_history_of_appearances.html


Love that Dog: A touching book and useful pedagogical resource

In both my experience teaching pre-service literacy courses and my current research with student teachers I (Lydia) have witnessed the sense of anxiety and discomfort many student teachers voice when they are faced with the prospect of teaching poetry during their practice teaching placements. Often, their associate teachers are themselves not comfortable with poetry and therefore, they have difficulty scaffolding the teaching of poetry or providing supportive resources for student teachers. This awareness has motivated Clare and I to delve into poetry within the first few weeks of the P/J and J/I literacy courses, in an effort to ease some of the initial anxiety student teachers experience in anticipation of teaching poetry. We attempt to provide multiple entry points into the teaching of poetry by presenting student teachers with various forms of poetry, and by highlighting the creative expression and emotive potential offered by this medium. We also provide them with a number of resources and pedagogical strategies they can utilize during their practice teaching placement. I recently picked up a copy of the book Love that Dog by Sharon Creech, which I hope to use in the literacy methods courses this year because the insight provided into how students might feel about reading and writing poetry is useful for both teachers and students. Throughout the book, the main character a young boy named Jack journals back and forth with his teacher Ms. Stretchberry, cleverly expressing his initial resist and eventual connection to poetry. Jack initially pronounces, “I don’t want to because boys don’t write poetry. Girls do”; however, through his ongoing dialogue with his teacher Jack experiments with word choice, sounds, and rhythm as he is engages with various poetic formats. My favorite entry in the book is “November 22.” Hopefully the student teachers in the literacy courses this year will enjoy this touching book as much as I did.lovethatdog