Tips for facilitators

As I’ve said, no special skills or training are required to administer this exercise. Nevertheless, here are some suggestions that might help:

  • The poems are ordered very roughly from the easiest to the hardest, and you can skip through them to get to the harder ones faster if you think your group is ready for them, but be very careful and very conservative. It would be better to jump back to the beginning and start over with the easiest ones than to press “boldly” on if you sensed the slightest discomfort from anyone in your class about how hard the poems are getting. Remember: there’s no specific academic goal here. The idea is simply to have fun with poetry.
  • You might have a volunteer read each poem aloud before everybody starts writing. If more than one student wants to read, let them. It can be interesting to hear the same poem in different readers’ voices.
  • Remind your students to write out the whole of their new poems, even if they’re only changing one word from the original poem.
  • Don’t worry if the students seem to be too mechanical in their imitations. That’s actually a feature of this exercise. Many of my suggestions about how they might imitate a given poem are deliberately simplistic. The idea is to not frighten away kids who might be insecure about their writing ability, and to give everybody a way to do something. Advanced students can always attempt more sophisticated imitations on their own initiative.
  • Don’t worry if your students start making a joke out of the exercise by concocting nothing but comical imitations. Anything that allows them to have fun engaging with real literature is pretty much a dream come true, right?
  • If you run out of poems, feel free to hunt up new ones on your own. (Let me know about any good ones you find and I’ll add them to my list.) Or just go back and reuse old ones. The nature of this exercise is such that a single poem can be used many, many times with the same group of kids.
  • Please let me know about your experiences with the exercise!