Poetry in motion

The lesson: Performance helps children better understand the power of poetry.

Poetry got a boost among the second-grade set at Walker Elementary School thanks to a presentation by Michael Holstein, Ph.D., an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute performing poetry instructor, and two of his students, Maria Ciamaichelo and Irv Green.

In the corner of the school library, 25 young poets and teacher Lynn Fain eagerly awaited the day's special event. The students had just completed a unit of study on writing poetry and were ready to learn how to perform their original works.

Holstein jumped right in reciting the nursery rhyme "Little Miss Muffet." First, he read the words in a monotone: "Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey; Along came a spider, who sat down beside her and frightened Miss Muffet away."

Next, he delivered a vocally animated version. Then, he acted like the poem's subject. He curtsied, wiggled his backside and sat upon the tuffet (a footstool) and ended the rhyme with a very believable look of fright. Needless to say, this got the point across.

Performing poetry is not only entertaining, it helps bring more meaning to the audience, says Holstein. For the performer, it brings more engagement and fun.

With humor and lively actions, Holstein's two OLLI students brought to life "The Goops" by Gelett Burgess, "The Little Turtle" by Vachel Lindsay and other poems. The second-graders hung on every movement and word.

As Holstein says, "If it's fun for you, chances are greater it will be fun for your audience."

— Heidi Monjure

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