Saturday, May 10, 2014

From Page to Stage - Hosting a Poetry Cafe

 Can I be honest with you all? I've been teaching for the past nine years and every year I would quickly introduce poetry to my students and move on....I did just the bare minimum. I was never comfortable with it and quite honestly found that my students didn't get excited about it.  However, I know that my enthusiasm (or lack of) can bring on that of my students.  So this year I made a point of doing a full unit on poetry and mustering up every bit of encouragement and excitement that I could.  It began simply enough with me creating a UBD on the book Tuck Everlasting.  As I continued to expand this unit, I found that it led itself perfectly to poetry.  So I headed online to find something this would help me link up this awesome book to a poetry project of sorts.  I ended up on TpT and came across Mrs. Renz's independent poetry unit.  The best part about it? It came with everything I would need (and so much more!) and there were parts that were editable!  Say no more - I snapped it up and never looked back.

Between using Mrs. Renz's Unit and my very own literary device posters, I was able to have students write their own poems. The goal was to write a minimum of three poems per type.  The first poem was always the intro one we did in class and I would pick the theme.  The second poem the students were required to write for each type was a theme of their choice, and the final third poem had to be a theme that we identified when reading Tuck Everlasting.  Students wrote their poems and then using our iPads set to work to create the final draft.  Using an app called Book Creator, my students created their entire poetry book which they later ended up sharing the ebook with me so I could print a final copy for them.  Book Creator (there is a free version but I upgraded my students to the paid one) allows the user to share their books in e-form.  This was perfect, as my kids could email it off to family members near and far.  The whole time they were working on their poetry book, they were also reading and reflecting on poems of published poets.  Simply put - they loved it! I heard time and time again how much they enjoyed the project!

After I saw their final projects, I KNEW I had to find a way to share these books with their parents in a special event.  And so the idea of hosting a Poetry Cafe was born, especially when I came across this teacher, Robbin Hughes,  and how she did it in her own classroom.  In order to prepare for the Poetry Cafe, my students were required to pick two of their poems that they would be reciting for the event.  Soon, I had invitations go out inviting family members to come witness their children and the work they produced.  I spent the past few weeks preparing for the cafe and sent home a request for donations for the cafe.  Using the other teacher as a guideline, here is a list of things I asked for:

  • flowers
  • vases (I told them to hit up the Dollar Tree - you can get GREAT vases and only for a buck!)
  • flameless votives (again Dollar Tree)
  • Plastic black table clothes (I asked for one for each grouping of tables I would have, plus an additional two for my stage background)
  • Hot Chocolate and Hot Tea
  • Cups with lids
  • Biscotti and Cookies
Things that I had on hand or was going to create that I planned on using were:

  • mic and stand (From my Garageband game) ;-)
  • stool
  • hot beverage container (borrowed it from our PTO)  
  • program with author bios (each student wrote a quick author bio which I put in the program with their picture.
  • invitation
Finally the day of the even was upon us.  I arranged it so my students (who usually have to wear uniforms) could show up dressed in what we called Poet Garb which consisted of all black clothing.  They loved it!  Some even came with artist hats (including myself).  The students went to lunch and while they were gone I set to transforming our classroom into a cafe.  

Program I created - inside were Author Bios
Author Bios
I put the black tablecloths against my whiteboard and hung a spotlight from the top so the students on "stage" would be lit up.  I had the stool in the front along with a the fake mic and stand. (In the future, I would take the time to figure out how to have some sort of real sound system for those soft spoken students.)  I rearranged our classroom so I had a large open space in the front for the students to sit, and put our pillows on the ground.  The students' desks were covered with a table cloth and I had a vase of flowers and flameless votives around them.  And our back table had our hot beverages with cookies and snacks.  I left the lights off and only allowed whatever light that came in from the windows and my spotlight be the only sources of light to give it a dark cafe stage feel.  On my other whiteboard, I had put magnetic words with the poster below to encourage parents to write some poems.  It looked awesome!  The parents started to arrive and our show began.  Here is small clip of one of my students reciting her awesome poem. 
Overall the event was a success! Both parents, students and PRINCIPAL loved it. I received so many compliments (especially when they learned it was the first time I had ever done a poet unit of that size and this event.

Have you ever done a Poetry Cafe?  How did you do it?


1 comment:

  1. Most of the time I don’t make comments on websites, but I'd like to say that this article really forced me to do so. Really nice post!


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