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Writers make poetry fun for Hinsdale students

Calista Change, left, Lara Schroeder (center), and Sofia Giannini (right) write poetry. Lara and Sofia decided to title theirs, “I Can’t Think,” because they couldn’t come up with a subject for their poems. | Kimberly Fornek/Sun-Times Media October 23, 2013
Children’s author Cathy Cronin asks Madison School second-graders Lilly Zock (left) and Calista Chang (right) for vivid words to describe a balloon, that could be used in a poem. | Kimberly Fornek/Sun-Times Media October 23, 2013
Poets Cathy Cronin, (left to right) Patricia Cooley, Eileen Meyer and Michelle Schaub (sitting) read poetry with lots of student participation at Madison Elementary School Friday. | Kimberly Fornek/Sun-Times Media October 23, 2013
Children’s author Cathy Cronin showed second-graders how to shape the words of a poem so that they illustrate the poem’s subject. This is a poem she wrote about a balloon. | Kimberly Fornek/Sun-Times Media October 23, 2013

Rock climbing is like writing poetry, author Cathy Cronin proposed to students at Madison Elementary School in Hinsdale.

Cronin first asked how many students had done rock climbing and many raised their hands. Then they know, she said, that rock climbers use all their muscles and all their determination.

“And you have to use your brain and look at all these options and decide which is the best way to go,” Cronin said.

Similarly, a poet has to consider all his options for format and word choice.

Before starting to write the poem, “Rock ’n Rappel,” Cronin, who lives in Aurora, said, “I sat and brainstormed.”

She wrote down all the words that could vividly describe the experience.

“I wanted people to feel like they were rock climbing when they read my poem,” she said.

Cronin was one of five writers who were invited to a poetry workshop Friday for first- through fifth-graders at Madison. The others were: Heide Bee Roemer, Patricia Cooley, Hinsdale resident Eileen Meyer and Michelle Schaub of Downers Grove. All had pieces included in a book of sports-related poetry, called “And the Crowd Goes Wild!”

Gail Conrad, the director of the school’s Media Resource Center, invited the poets after meeting Roemer, who co-edited the book, at a breakfast for authors and librarians.

Poetry is included in the new Common Core standards for English and language arts, Conrad said. And with the winter Olympics coming up, the sports theme of the poetry anthology also was relevant.

After the authors read their poems to all the children in the gymnasium, each author met with the students from one grade.

“We have never had five presenters that could work individually with every single grade,” Conrad said.

Cronin showed second-graders how to write a poem so that the words form a shape that illustrates the poem’s subject. For example, the lines in her rock climbing poem ascended to the top of the page and then went down to the bottom.

Patricia Cooley talked to the students about writing free verse.

“It’s a fun form for me,” Cooley said. “You don’t have to follow any rules. You don’t have to count beats or count syllables.”

After the authors discussed writing techniques with the students, they asked them to write their own poetry.

Second-graders Lara Schroeder and Sofia Giannini titled their poem, “I Can’t Think,” before they wrote it, because they said they could not think of what to write about.

Cronin suggested they write the poem in the shape of a light bulb, because cartoonists often use that to symbolize an idea.

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