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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Power of Poetry at Brightwood, Part I: Color Me Poetry

This fall, DC SCORES Digital Media Intern Paris Volpe is attending the after-school poetry sessions at Brightwood Education Campus (Elementary School) to observe how the Panthers discover "The Power of Poetry." Each week Paris is writing about the curriculum and lesson plans of the program. Follow as she documents the progression of the students’ self-expression and writing techniques. You can also follow Paris' experiences on Twitter by following @DCSCORESinterns and view photos on Flickr


Written by Paris Volpe
Digital Media Intern

Close your eyes and think about how the color purple makes you feel. What does purple taste like? Smell like? Feel like?

These are the questions Brightwood Education Campus students are answering on Monday during their “Color Me Poetry” lesson. Writing coach Rachel Rosenberg takes the floor and asks each student to take a minute, set all pencils aside and simply listen. She reads to the silent class a few poems written by other students like themselves. She tells them anytime they hear a color to think about how it makes them feel.

“Reflect on all the sights, sounds and feelings flooding into your mind when listening to these poems,” she says.

There is much emphasis on reflecting quietly during this activity.

The takeaway from this lesson, during the third week of the DC SCORES season, is that self-expression is more than writing words on a page. It’s a long, multi-step creative process that begins with reflection. Shannon Nelson, another of the DC SCORES coaches at Brightwood, explains that it is important for the structure of the program — and its 167-page ‘Power of Poetry’ curriculum — to guide the students from easier tasks, such as self-reflection, to eventually writing meaningful works of poetry.

The ultimate goal of poetry sessions is to teach the students that there are many creative ways to articulate themselves, and that no way is wrong. It is just as important for the students to understand that good writing takes time and effort.

Nelson and Rosenberg consistently reiterate to students that patience, reflection and consistent writing are imperative for improving their skills. This is why the students are given 10 minutes at the beginning of every poetry session to free write. This is also why the initial lessons like “Color Me Poetry” are so crucial.

Asking the students to write about how a particular color makes them feel engages them in a new level of abstract thinking. It initiates the creative thought process and employs them to explore a range of emotions they have connected to that color.

One student told me the color red made him think of the brick wall outside in the courtyard, a place where he can run around freely after school. Another student told me that the color aqua makes her feel “strange.” When asked why, she said because her mom doesn’t like that color. “But blue makes me happy,” she added. “My mom and I both like blue better than aqua. ” She connected the color blue to happiness because it is a similarity she shares with her mother. It is these types of realizations that are fostered through creative lesson plans.

It may seem trivial to those who have been writing for years, but taking the time to think abstractly preps the brain for deeper thought and, ultimately, artful works of self-expression.

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