By Janice Cooper, Northern Valley Region HS- Old Tappan Media Specialist
Brook Zelcer’s Creative Writing students plucked lines of poetry right off of the library shelves. In the tradition of Book Spine Poetry or Book Title Poetry, students selected between 5 and 10 books for their evocative, euphonious, elaborate, or exciting titles, then arranged them to create original poems. The activity took place during one class period. Students’ “homework” assignment was to take digital photos of their poems and send them to their teacher. Alternatively, students can be given the option to record themselves reading their poems aloud.
“This exercise frees students to take chances with language. Since the words are not their own, they are more likely to take chances when creating their own original short-form poetry,” explained Zelcer. He and Media Specialist Janice Cooper posted the poems on a page in the school’s classroom management for sharing within the school.
Yes, there is a large pile of books to be shelved after a Book Poem activity, but student engagement in the creative activity made it a meaningful use of the library resources. A student remarked, “It was challenging and fun because it forced us to use other peoples’ words to fit our ideas about what we wanted to say.” And, it boosts in-house usage statistics!
For quicker reshelving, a suggestion is to let each student select a set of shelves for their exclusive use. Carts or bins for books from each shelf/poem could be provided. To introduce the project to students, consider projecting some examples and reading them aloud: