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March 19, 2013

Poetry, Language Play and Song Writing

Written By: Brandi Jordan
X Bring Learning to Life with Poetry in the Classroom

Bring Learning to Life with Poetry in the Classroom

Guest article by Debbie Clement

A MONTH of poetry!!! A full month to celebrate the play of words, the lilt of language and consider my roots as a song writer — all at the same time! What is the distance between song writing and poetry? Songs are poems set to a melody!! As a singer-songwriter who has over 100 original songs to my credit, I suppose that makes me something of a budding poet as well.

Poetry in the Classroom

When asked by my workshop participants where my songs originate, I pause to consider a few of my creations specifically before answering. That’s when I realize that often my ideas start with the play of language itself. My second picture book, “Tall Giraffe” originated from one of my earlier song-creations, by transforming my song lyrics into the text for the book.  Bingo-bango. Poem becomes song, song becomes book.

Rewind the time machine and take me back to the very origination of “Tall Giraffe” the song, which became “Tall Giraffe” the book. It all began with my playing with a total of six syllables; the first three: ‘tall giraffe,’ followed in sequence with: ‘makes me laugh.’ Those six syllables became the backbone of the first verse of a poem and they simultaneously established the meter and pattern for all that would follow. Six syllables turned into a total of six verses. Sweet symmetry.

I knew sitting there with roller-ball pen in hand, doodling spots on an empty piece of paper that I had the makings of an exciting creation. Simple. Clean. Rhyme. Lean. Fun to repeat. Oh-so-sweet. The play of those six syllables brought out its own sing-song babble of a melody. Just as a toddler falls off to sleep repeating happy bits and pieces from the day, strung happily together in language-glimmer. That is the way that I construct my songs, my ‘poems’ with the same syllabic simplicity as the toddler babble.

In a month devoted to poetry, what insight can we gain from my introspection? How do we use this example in working with our budding ‘student poets’? How do we encourage their stringing together of syllables of simplicity? What exercises can you create to turn the poetry-queasy, the poetry- resistant into the language lovers – willing and eager to edit their work to its very foundation?

One possibility is to have your students examine works that are written for children, even those intended for young children. Have them dissect what works at a foundation level for beginning readers. Encourage them to write a song.


About the Author

Debbie Clement lives an amazing life as a ‘music-lady’ turned nationally award winning author/illustrator and travels to exciting places where she is invited to share her work. Her blog is the chronicle of all sorts of incredible opportunities and delights and can be found at RainbowsWithinReach. She is also the editor-in-chief of the brand new collaborative blog concerning all issues of young children at PreKandKsharing, where 35 authors contribute regular monthly articles for parents and teachers. Her favorite social media resource and addiction is Pinterest, where she is followed by thousands of like-minded pin-people.

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