Curriculum Connections

Connecting Your Safari to the Curriculum: Introduction

Before you begin your poetry unit, ask your students, "How are poets like artists, musicians, scientists, architects, storytellers and troublemakers?" If they have responses, great; if they don't, let it go - for the time being. Then, at the end of your unit, ask students again. Hopefully, if you and your material reached them, they will have a lot more to say.

Poets are artists: they draw pictures - not with pencils and paint, but with words and phrases, and not on paper or canvas, but in the imaginative minds of those who read their poems. (See Connecting Your Safari to the Curriculum: Art
for art related activities.)

Poets are musicians, too. By repeating patterns of sound (as in rhyme, alliteration, regulation of line length, the use of refrains, and the repetition of words or kinds of words) they create rhythm; and by fashioning the sequence of the words on the page into lines and stanzas, punctuated to control the way they are read, the poet also dictates the tempo, which, along with the meanings and sounds of the specific words chosen - onomatopoeic words, colorful and descriptive words, and words that elicit emotion - and their context, determine the tone and the mood - all components of music. (See Connecting Your Safari to the Curriculum: Music
for music related activities.)

Poets are like scientists because, especially when they are writing about things in nature, like animals, they have to do a lot of research so they know the ins and the outs - and the facts - of their subjects. When writing poems about animals, a little biology can go a long way. (See Connecting Your Safari to the Curriculum: Science
for science related activities.)

Poets are architects because they take a variety of building materials (different kinds of words), then carefully choose and manipulate them into repeating and pleasing patterns to construct original - and sometimes remarkable - works of art. See Writing Your Own Safari Poems
for an activity in which students gather their building blocks, then construct poems from them.

Poets can also be storytellers if they choose to tell stories in their poems. When they do, they incorporate into their poems the various literary techniques and conventions found in fiction: setting, character development, dialogue, plot, conflict, tension, resolution, etc. (See Connecting Your Safari to the Curriculum: Traditional African Stories
for related activities.)

Finally poets are like troublemakers because they often break the rules. In most writing, rules are very important. Capitalizing letters, punctuating and spelling correctly, writing right side up and from right to left, and dividing ideas and topics into phrases, sentences and paragraphs all help the reader to make sense of what is on the page. But, in poetry, the rules can be bent to fit a particular poem. Spellings can be warped for humor or effect, words can be stretched, sound effects and images inserted, shapes created by placing the words on the page in different ways and punctuation ignored, modified or used as a device other than its normal usage. That is not to say that poetry writing has no rules; after all, the poems must be readable and coherent. But, in poetry, the normal rules can be manipulated right along with the words. (See Rebel Poets
for related activities).



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