To truly understand how poetry can help students learn ancient history, we must look at how students learn.
Every student is different. Students vary in backgrounds, cultures, experiences, and shoe sizes. Each student learns differently and this is where a major problem lies. Many teachers teach history only one way. Many just read the book, do the questions and listen to lectures. This may be good for Wordy Wanda, but may be disastrous to Artsy Arnold. New studies have shown that students learn in different ways and it is our responsibility as teachers to adjust our teaching to reach each and every child.
Howard Gardner, an educational theorist, has proposed that students have various natural learning styles or “multiple intelligences.” By understanding these styles, and by teaching in a way that taps into these intelligences, a teacher can best serve his student.
These learning intelligences are:
Let us examine these more closely and see how they are supported by using poetry in the classroom.
Wordy Wanda is the student who loves to read, write, and generally learns through the use of language.
Wordy Wanda loves poetry. Writing poetry comes naturally to her.. She will utilize vocabulary and grammar. She also will utilize reading skills as research is practiced. Wordy Wanda loves poetry and will beg to do more.
Musical Mario is the student who learns through sounds and rhythm.
Much of Poetry is musical. Musical Mario will love writing poetry because he “hears” the rhythm and rhyme in his head. He may wish to put his poems to music and perhaps perform them to the class to the class. He may even compose music to the poems. He will also like to write piggyback poems—changing the lyrics of published songs to fulfill the assignment.
Artsy Arnold is the student who loves to paint, draw, doodle and create. He learns by “seeing.”
Artsy Arnold will like to write descriptive poetry. He can imagine scenery and situations in his mind. He is visual and should be allowed to show plenty of imagery in his poetry. He will also like drawing illustrations and creating artwork to go with his poems. He may even turn the poem itself into artwork.
Moving Marvin learns by movement and by hands-on activities.
Moving Marvin will appreciate opportunities to use his hands. He will like to create “found Poems” because of the opportunity to cut and paste. He will also be eager to “act out” his poems. He can create a dance or movement, or even a drama to go along with his poetry.
Multiplying Mable is the student who is always logical. She likes to do things step-by-step. Numbers are her friends.
Multiplying Mable will be intrigued by poetry that is logical. She will like to write “How-to” poetry and poetry that follow specific patterns. Poetry is like a puzzle to her and poetry that allows her to count lines or syllables will appeal to her.
Friendly Fanny likes to learn by socializing with others. She likes to work with others and interacts well with people.
Friendly fanny looks forward to writing poems with others. She likes to create group poems. She will share poetry with those around her and benefits by working closely with others. She will also benefit by writing poetry which decribe social functions. She likes performing with others. She will also like to show her insight into the ways other people act socially.
Feeling Frieda knows about herself and how emotions work. She can see the inner workings of herself and others.
Feeling Frieda will benefit from creating poetry that is highly personal. She sees and understands herself and can show this by placing herself into the shoes of historical people. She loves to write from the point of view of people who lived in the past. She is insightful and benefits from “ Point-of-View” poetry and other poetry which allows feelings to show through.
Woodsy Warren learns though the environment and nature.
Woodsy Warren is keenly aware of her natural environment. He would benefit by writing Haiku, Tonka, and other poems that describe nature. He should be encouraged to learn about the land and climate of the various civilizations and create poetry that utilizes this knowledge.
Poetry in the history classroom provides students with the opportunity to learn because it can touch on most of these multiple intelligences. By writing poetry and accompanying activities, all students can learn about history.
A teacher should know and understand these multiple intelligences and strive to use them to reach every student.