Writing a poem from the point of view of someone—or something—can be a thrilling way to experiment with and learn about voice. In a three-day residency at Burning Tree Elementary School in Bethesda, I watched fourth-grade poets turn into dogs, alligators, snakes, unicorns, and more. Thanks to the students for their eager participation and to the staff for making it happen–especially Mary Kunst, team leader, and PTA parent Stacie Gould.
Overall, we explored:
· Word Choice
· First-Person POV
· Line Breaks
· Diction and Slang
· Rhythm and Emphasis
First, I took students through the process of “becoming” a character. We did character interviews and imagined our lives and personalities from the inside out. We wrote rough drafts of a poem from the POV of the character. I asked students to let the character’s personality and identity emerge through showing, not telling, an important literary concept. I shared my own rough draft and revision, and we discussed the importance of having a great attitude about revising, seeing it as an opportunity to shine. Instead of focusing on traditional forms (like haiku or sonnet) or rhyme, I asked students to focus on voice and point of view. Each student read his or her work aloud to me for feedback. During the final session we explored the importance of performing, of reading work with a unique voice. To add some fun, we collaborated in layering in a few sound effects.
We created one recording in each class as an example. Each student created a unique voice.
I encourage students to experiment with making their own voice recordings at home. Smart phones typically have excellent, easy-to-use voice recorders (often called Voice Memos and found in the pre-loaded Utilities app on the phone.
To do this at home:
1.Write a poem or a prose piece that has a lot of voice.
2.Rehearse reading the piece with expression. Mean what you’re saying. Speak clearly with energy.
3.Record the piece.
4.Name the recording.
5.Share by emailing it to yourself, family members, etc.
A note about recording types: Some phone automatically create files labeled with the extension m4a. If you’d like an mp3 of the recording, you can either find free software for formatting the file or you can set your “import as” setting on your computer’s media player (such as itunes) to “import as mp3.”