I am not good at writing poetry. I don’t understand a lot of it yet I want to instill an appreciation and basic knowledge of poetry to my children. That is my goal or the *where*. Knowing the ‘where’ dictates how we do poetry appreciation. Other families are different. Some don’t do it at all and others do it very indepth. Keeping the goal in my mind helps me to maintain a light, enjoyable atmosphere in the home. While we’re doing poetry appreciation though, we may as well multi task.
This very simple, time-efficient, gentle and enjoyable activity teaches us how to use beautiful words and how to use words beautifully. The recitation/speaking aloud part is the very beginnings of public speaking. I encourage the children to speak clearly and enunciate carefully. Copywork provides opportunity for handwriting, spelling, poetry structure, and word usage. Memorisation helps to build strong, healthy mental muscles. Learning research skills whilst completing the Author Bio sheet is another worthwhile activity.
We also look at a map of Australia to see whereabouts this poem is taking place. The Snowy Mountains. We have a look at the Snowy Mountains website. I show them the page about the Snowy Hydro’s hydroelectric power stations and we talk about this, for their grandfather (Hi Pop!) worked there as a cook, while it was being constructed.
We look at an Australian $10 note. If you look very closely you will see a likeness of Banjo Paterson…and using a magnifying glass you can even see, in very fine print, the opening stanza from the poem!
“There was movement at the station for the word had passed around…”
I may also strew some art books or pictures, if I have any that depict the location or similar scenery. It adds to our theme but is not necessary. I used to try and make a full blown mini unit study and connect all the dots for the children: explaining how everything was connected together. Now I don’t. I prefer more natural means like strewing. I now know that the children are more than capable of making their own connections and, in fact, when they do so, are more excited about it than when I attempt to spoon feed them with information.
During one morning tea session we got so carried away with reading Banjo Paterson’s poetry that we also read “Clancy of the Overflow” as Clancy is mentioned in Man from Snowy River. During yet another morning, I ask the children to tell me, in their own words, what the whole poem is about, and what their favourite part or line is. I’m not just looking for sentences like, “oh, I like it. It is good”. I have our Observation Sheet printed out and on the wall so we can refer to it often. I want to know Who, Why, What, Where, When and How of the poem.
For those that don’t know of the poem, you can read it here and you can listen to Jack Thomson reciting a snippet here. (#14) But even better is the free pdf download of a whole Banjo Paterson ebook, courtesy of the University of Sydney.
I might leave a copy of The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell lying around the place. One just never know, it might capture one’s interest! The other thing I do, at first without the childrens knowledge, is to play music from the Man from Snowy River music throughout the day. Jessica’s Theme is a gorgeous piece of music, written by Bruce Rowland. You can listen to snippet of it here #4. I used to play this on the piano when I was a lot younger. John and I love it so much that we had it playing in the background of our wedding video tape. Just as much as we can strew books, article, artwork, etc I think that we can strew music as well.
This may all sound like a lot, just for one poem. However, it is naturally how I learn and investigate things that I’m interested in…so it is natural that this is how I would present material to my children. It’s not hard or overly indepth. Everything is fairly accessible,, especially in this day and age of the Internet.
Tomorrow, I’ll write how we tie it together using our Activity and Observation Sheets.