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A Battle of Words at Ridgefield Academy

Ridgefield Academy third graders gathered to participate in the 1980's tradition of performance poetry.

Finger snaps and teacher Pam Clasby’s oversized pink sunglasses got the kids in the mood to share their own poems last week, as well as odes, couplets, and verses from famous poets such as Shel Silverstein, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson and Edward Lear.

Third grade students at Ridgefield Academy gathered in Clasby’s classroom last week for a "poetry slam" with assistant teacher Gail Heaslip’s help. Beth MacInnis's class also took part.

“This is our fifth annual poetry slam,” Clasby stated. “I love poetry; it’s a great time of year for this.”

A few of the usual expectations of a poetry slam were foregone. Students used props to express the meaning of their poems, and the poetry was left un-judged. Each student performed, everyone a winner. Students maintained the tradition of incorporating catchy beats into the poems they recited in front of an audience of peers and parents.

Before reading their own poems, each student took the spotlight and explained the meaning of specific poetic devices and the uniqueness of particular types of poems.

Third grader Gunner Desantis explained the meaning of an ode and then proudly read his poem, “Ode to Dirt Bike.” His humorous description and dramatic reading kept classmates and parents laughing.

Fellow third grader, Mark Garavel read the description of a color poem, and then looked to his peer Christian Ely to give an example of a color poem, which was inspired by the color red.

“My favorite thing was writing and sharing the poems,” Octavia Comerford said.

Throughout the month of April, students celebrated poetry month by preparing for the slam, according to Clasby. The teachers enjoyed seeing their students pair up and learn from each other -- the poems were recited flawlessly and confidently by the third graders.

“I was excited but pretty anxious,” Chiara Signorelli stated. “I liked the onomatopoeia and the acrostic poems.”  

Regardless of her nerves, she recited “True Story” by Shel Silverstein, as well as her own poem based on animals in a cheerful and upbeat manner.

“They are learning how to annunciate and use harder words,” parent Annette Hunter stated. “They are learning how to speak in front of people and it’s great.”

“I thought it was excellent,” parent Petra Comerford agreed. “I liked that they got to choose more classic poets.”

Clasby enjoyed being able to provide a variety of poems and poets for her third graders to explore. The level of some pieces surprised the parents in attendance. Poets like Lord Alfred Tennyson and Emily Dickinson, who could be found in college level anthologies, were studied by the third grade classes.

“You’ve had quite a bit of deep poems,” Hunter said to Clasby. “I loved it, it was fantastic. I love how there were humorous poems as well as deep poems.”

Some of the poems that were read by students included “Eighteen Flavors” by Shel Silverstein, “When the Speed Comes” by Robert Frost, “The Owl and the Pussy Cat” by Edward Lear, “The Eagle by Lord Alfred Tennyson, and “It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles” by Jack Prelutsky.

After students recited their poems, they joined their parents to view the work of their peers. Clasby and Heaslip displayed the students’ poems around the room. Among some of the unusual approaches were poems based upon and made with bubblegum. Students and parents enjoyed the morning of poetry and look forward to learning more about the literary art.

Casey McKenna May 09, 2011 at 07:55 PM
The following correction was made: Gail Heaslip is an assistant teacher in Pam Clasby's class. Beth MacInnis's class also participated in the event.

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