January 31st. 31 Days. 31 Days of Poetry.
Day 31. During the month of January, I’ve offered 31 little poems to you that are appropriate to read with/to children, discuss with children and share with children. I selected poets from around the world. Each poem has a thought or theme, conveyed by its poet. Each poem can be interpreted by its reader in a different way. Each poem offered is meant to get children to think, to understand concepts, to develop language, to use words. All of the poems, collectively, bring children right up close to literature and bring LITERACY into their lives.
Each poem, and the “talking” questions I offer, is a little 5-minute activity. But this 5-minute activity gets kids to see, read and discuss some of the world’s greatest poets, using words that come alive. Revisit the poems often. Revisit them in any order. I will guarantee that your kids will never forget them… or reading them with you. It’s true that parents who take time to read with their children are giving their children gifts of language. The gift is immeasurable.
Day 31. We’ve come full circle with our poems. Another full circle that children question is the being left out, being brought in circle. It’s a difficult concept to grasp, it’s a difficult concept to teach, and it’s a difficult concept to live. In the poem OUTWITTED by 20th century American poet Edwin Markham, we are given the graphics of doing the right thing, right before our eyes. This little poem with the big language and big message may be a starting point for lots of discussions…
OUTWITTED by Edwin Markham
He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
Jump right into the poem with your children. Even though younger children will need a little *vocabulary lesson, they will already see the circles and understand the significance of shutting out and taking in. Talk about the speaker, or voice, of the poem (I). Is the speaker a good guy/girl? Talk about the he in the poem. Is he a bad guy? Or is he someone who thinks differently, looks differently, or feels differently? Why does he draw a circle to shut out the speaker? Does he really draw a circle or is this a metaphor for keeping someone out of your life. Ask your children to imagine what that circle, even if imaginary, looks like. The answers will be many and varied.
How does the speaker react to the rebel? What tools does he/she use to bring the rebel into his circle (love and understanding). Does the speaker draw a real circle, or is it way to explain how to try to get to know each other and share (different thoughts, opinions, ways to dress, different music, etc.). Does the speaker draw the circle alone (no; the speaker uses the word We)? It’s the collective bringing in and talking and sharing and getting to know one another that makes us realize that we can live together, go to school together, work together and share ideas peacefully.
What may have happened if the speaker did not bring the rebel into his circle?
Ask your children if there is someone they know who dresses or acts a bit differently. Do children tease that person? Have they seen that person react to teasing by drawing a circle to keep other children out? Is that person protecting him/herself?
Ask you children if they’ve ever felt like drawing a circle to keep everyone else out. Why/why not?
Ask your children if they’ve ever seen anyone reach out with love and understanding to draw someone into a circle of friendship and peace. Ask if they’ve ever drawn a circle to bring someone in. Why/why not? Talk about how the poet switches from the speaker as I to the group of We in the last line. Ask your children if they will carry the circle with them after reading poet Markham’s poem.
The questions and answers are universal and the subject of poems, books, religions and even wars… but here, within a tiny circle, the beginning of understanding is possible. That’s what poems do. Remember that LITERACY is all about WORDS – Written, Spoken, Felt. Language. Using language and thinking about language develops lifelong readers, speakers, thinkers.
*(heretic -a person with different/opposing opinions, especially religious beliefs; rebel– one who expresses strong unwillingness to established order; flout– mock or scorn; wit– ability/intelligence to understand)