To fulfill the need for creative learning opportunities in Chicago classrooms, The Poetry Center offers Hands on Stanzas, a dynamic program that enhances literacy through poetry. The program places Chicago poets in public school classrooms for 20-week sessions. On a weekly basis these poets guide students in reading and discussing the work of published poets, and in writing and presenting their own poetry. At the close of the year students are offered the opportunity to have their work published in an anthology of student work, participate in school-wide projects and present their poetry to the public at cultural venues across the city. The innovative approach of the Hands on Stanzas program to reading and writing improves vocabulary, reading comprehension, motivation, public speaking skills and academic confidence.
The skeleton of a ladybug.
An elaborate garbage chute leading
to nowhere. Atlantis without
people. My thoughts when I do
my homework. A planet with
1,000,000 moons. A bird with
only wings. An ocean
in the night sky. 10,000
bugs farting under water.
Black ice with veins.
A headless woman wearing
a see-through dress. My hair
at six in the morning. My
dad when I broke his prize possession.
by Jack, 4th Grader, Hands on Stanzas student
(poem inspired by inkblot)
“Writing poetry makes me feel free.”
“Writing poetry makes me feel like I can see myself, like I can see my reflection, but not in a mirror, in the world. I write and I know I can be reflected.”
“Before Hands on Stanzas, I thought poetry was only for rich people and fancy people. Now I think poetry is for all kinds of people. Reading poetry makes me feel like a queen reading a new law. The best part of poetry is when I’m reading to my class, I feel like I’m reading to the whole world.”
Hands on Stanzas places Chicago Poets in public school classrooms for 20 week residencies. The writing and reading of poetry encourages students to explore how words can convey thoughts, experiences, and emotions. As students take ownership of language, their vocabularies grow, their imaginations spark, and for some, their educational stumbling blocks are conquered.
Poets in Residence teach the reading, writing, and discussion of poetry through original lesson plans each week. Students also learn and practice audience and performance skills. Hands on Stanzas is closely aligned with Illinois State Education Goals, including reading and understanding with fluency, writing to communicate a variety of purposes, listening and speaking effectively, and understanding the language of the arts. In a world where spoken and written communication requires thought and creativity, students engaged in the Hands on Stanzas program become well-equipped to succeed.
In 2010, Hands on Stanzas Poets will be in 38 classrooms at 14 schools across Chicago, working with approximately 1,000 students and 35 classroom teachers. Through ongoing projects, such as the blog created for each school and posted to each week with student poems, the annual anthology of student work, the annual City Wide Reading, and the Poet in Focus Project, the program has an impact on the entire student population at each school. The poetic ripples continue out into the families and communities surrounding the schools. The Poetry Center is proud of this work, and thrilled to be able to offer the experience of creative writing to students whose exposure to the arts is often minimized in the face of other educational priorities.
“Reading the students' fine and expressive poems is very satisfying. It is so important that our students have the opportunity to experience the challenge and rewards of creative writing. The [Hands on Stanzas] program gives our students a reason to want to write. Thank you for everything you are doing on behalf of our students."
Arne Duncan, Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Public Schools
“Your organization plays an important role in the arts, especially in arts education with under-resourced schools and neighborhoods. The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to have been able to award a grant toward those programs this year.”
Dana Gioia, Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts
“I have observed an improvement in [my students’] understanding and better use of voice and figurative language in their writing, as well as in their thinking during class discussions. Thank you for providing us with such a rich program and enthusiastic teaching!”
Layla Erzrumly, Teacher, Smyser Elementary
“The program is helping our students become comfortable and confident among their peers through sharing aloud and poem collaboration, even though many of them are bilingual.”
Jennifer Radosevich, MCLT, Burroughs Elementary