Poetry Night at Your Elementary School
Children often seem to 'get the concept' of poetry faster than many adults: the idea that words and phrases can transcend their literal definitions to communicate a deeper meaning. Listening as children read their poetry in a mixed audience of children and adults is a magical experience.
The key to a successful Poetry Night is community involvement, best achieved through publicity. Your parent / teacher organization (PTO or PTA) can be a great help with publicity. Poetry Night needs kids to attend and parents to bring them. Contact kids through their teachers and parents and teachers through the PTO or PTA. Put up posters in the halls of the school. Launch an email campaign to contact as many teachers, parents, and students as possible. If you have a Facebook page, create a Facebook event and invite your Facebook friends who are part of your school community. Email key members of the community and ask them personally to attend.
Be sure to schedule the event so that it does not conflict with other events in your school. You want to give as many people as you can the opportunity to come.
Offer refreshments, and include the fact that cookies and juice or whatever will be served in all your communications. Consider also offering a door prize or two, perhaps a couple of childrens' poetry books.
Event Location and Format
Arrange for the event to take place at the school. People are accustomed to going there, so they will not be worried about finding the place. The school library is ideal because students can print out poetry or find poetry books on the spot if they come to 'just listen' but end up inspired to read. A classroom is also good.
Basically you want to be able to set up chairs in a semicircle so that there is an audience feel without people being isolated from each other by row, as in an auditorium. People should be able to get to the refreshments anytime between readings. Up front, set up a lecturn or music stand for people to lay their poems on as they read.
If possible, have your readers sign up in advance so a schedule can be created. A nice touch would be to create an actual program with a short blurb about each reader, including whether they are reading their work or another poet's, but at the very least there should be a pre-established order to how things will go so that people aren't waiting around. There should also be flexibility so that people can spontaneously decide to read while at the event.
A moderator or master of ceremonies should keep the event on track, encouraging people to put their name in for the door prize, announcing readers and perhaps reading poems between readers. It is good if the schedule can be flexible, because often readers will remember another work they want to read as they listen to the other readers. The moderator should lead the applause for each reader, so that the audience knows it should applaud. Kids in particular like to get applause.
At the end the moderator can draw the name for the winner of the door prize.
Poetry is worth promoting because it, in turn, promotes thinking outside the box, advances language processing skills, and nurtures an improved ranged of expression for the individual.
A poem is improved by reading. The words hang in the air, and their weight is felt on psychic and spriitual levels. Seeing a parent or a teacher read a poem, not as an authority figure, but as a reader equal to the students in the event, broadens the students' understanding of what it means to be an individual. Kids feel the power of the poem and of the reader from both perspectives, both as reader and listener.
Poetry night is a magical event, worth doing.
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