TURNERS FALLS — National Poetry Month at Sheffield Elementary School usually centers around second-graders, who learn about the art form all year long. But this year, it morphed into a community-building project.
Second-graders learn how to read poetry by studying a new poem with their teachers every week from October through June, said Principal Melissa Pitrat. First they read the poem aloud; then they discuss what the poem seems to be about, which lines they like and why, what rhymes they notice, etc. Finally, they add it to the class’ poetry anthology.
When National Poetry Month rolls around in April, the second-graders pick a poem to print, decorate and hang around their necks using yarn, later carrying them in their pockets. On Poem in Your Pocket Day — April 30 this year — students in other grades are encouraged to ask the second-graders to read their poems aloud. Students are also encouraged to read their poems to family members at home.
This year, most of those activities were interrupted by the school closures resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. So, Sheffield kept Poem in Your Pocket Day, but opened it up to the local community.
“Because we’re isolated and people are home … we thought this could be an extension and open it up to everybody, just for some community building,” Pitrat said.
Instead of reading poems aloud to others, students are posting poems on branches — called “poet trees” — stuck in the ground in front of the school.