Bristol elementary students create poetry in the park

Editor’s note: This piece was submitted by Michele Lowy, literacy specialist at Bristol Elementary School.
BRISTOL — On Thursday, May 30, a beautiful spring day full of the promise of summer, Bristol Elementary School students were out on the town green celebrating their first annual Poetry in the Park Festival. Students from kindergarten through sixth grade spread tarps, blankets and quilts on the grass and listened as their schoolmates went up to the bandstand to read and recite poetry.
The day started before 9 when fifth- and sixth-graders walked from school to the park to lay out a path of “simile stones” along the walkway. Students had gathered stones from the New Haven River, and with partners painted and decorated them with similes such as “Strong as an ox,” or “Big as an elephant.” The kindergarten students arrived next, followed closely by the first- and second-graders. Each kindergarten class read or, in one instance, sang, a group poem. The first- and second-grade classes had prepared a mixture of group and individual poems.
As the primary students finished, they opened their snack coolers, read from books of poems and relaxed with their friends and families on the grass. Throughout the day Bristol Elementary families joined their children to share poetry and the beautiful weather. Residents of Living Well had chairs front and center so they could enjoy the presentations. Marita Schine of the Lawrence Memorial Library was there to sign up children for the summer reading program. Her popular table was surrounded by signs featuring colorfully decorated poems. San Gordon, music teacher extraordinaire, not only set up and ran the sound system, but also played the guitar between class performances, giving an extra festive air to the day.
By 10:30, the third- and fourth-graders had arrived, ready for poetry. They performed humorous choral poems they had practiced in class, as well as group, partner and individual pieces. The fifth- and sixth-graders helped the younger students make small books, ready for a summer’s worth of writing.
The fifth- and sixth-graders have been reading and writing poetry all year. Following an intensive poetry unit in the fall, they held an exciting poetry slam in December. At the park, individuals, pairs and larger groups reprised some of their earlier work (all memorized, not read) and shared new poems they had written, and some favorites from published poets. And finally, teachers Andrea Murnane and Bridget Nardiello recited Ellen Kort’s “Advice to Beginners” to finish off the day.
A great new tradition was born.

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