This week a post, and a great idea for helping young people write poetry, from one of our long term Hands Up Project volunteers based in Spain, Sara Wood.
With thanks to Kareem, Waseem, Sohaib, Salem, Ahmed and their teacher, Nada
“Just a minute, please”, said the boys.
I was watching them, heads down, pencils in hand, chatting to one another. I was wondering if I should be doing something. There I was in Mallorca, there they were in Palestine. Precious time, precious language, precious electricity. Not a moment to lose, not a minute to waste.
We’d been laughing earlier. Two groups had been set the task of deciding on 8 objects that would ensure their survival during 100 days on a desert island. The first group went strictly practical – a piece of tarpaulin, fish hooks, a sharp knife, boxes of matches. They’d get on alright, I thought. And then came the second group. Tarpaulin, fish hooks, matches…so far, so survival. But then they slipped in a surprise. Books. Why books? I asked. To enjoy ourselves, they answered. Hmmm, at the cost of a piece of vital survival equipment. Further down the list, pencils. I pounced. “Where are you going to write?” “In the books”. They’d evidently thought about it.
The moment I always dread arrived, the moment of decision. Who had the best list? I hesitated. They were eager to know. So I gave them my considered opinion. “Group one will survive….but group two will be happier.” We all laughed.
And then came the request I started this post with. “Just a minute, please”. When I’d planned the session, I’d decided we’d try writing an acrostic poem in which the first letters of each line spell out a word or phrase. Like a good English teacher, I’d written my own model, using the word “desert”. Relevant to the previous activity, providing scaffolding, eliciting language – any teacher knows the drill. But I couldn’t help asking myself, poetry? Really? For these boys? For any boys? Proof of my own prejudice, but not my beliefs. I know that poetry is for everyone.
I read them my poem. Amazing, they said. Well, now it’s your turn I told them. It was only when they started writing (they’d decided on three groups) that I realised I hadn’t set out the task clearly. What were they supposed to write about? Were they using the word desert or another word? Where were they going to get the vocabulary? What language were they supposed to use?
I needn’t have worried. I watched them, intently getting their ideas down on paper. Was it too long? Should I be doing something to help? Was this a good use of their time? “Boys, are you ready yet?” “Just a minute, please.” And then they read me their poems. As you can see, they’ll need their books and pencils on that desert island.
GROUP 1 Kareem, Salem
Die will be more harder than today
Every year I grow up to see our world
Smile to all people, love you
Every day we love each other more and more
Remember our memories
To make all of us happy and cheerful
GROUP 2 Ahmed & Nada
Dad is my hero
Every day he supports me
So I love him more and more
Every Friday he takes me to a picnic
Right now he’s the best person I have ever known
Tell me, do you know anyone like my dad?
GROUP 3 Sohaib, Waseem
Day is beautiful
Shark in the ocean
Earth is poor
Rest on the beach