13 January 2009

Children writing in a second language

Although I am quite old-fashioned when it comes to defining literature, I have to admire the efforts of classroom teachers to encourage writing in second languages. After all, the young students may eventually end up being adult poets in the real sense. An excellent example of such classroom efforts can be found in the site of the children's book author Susan Katz. Here's a classroom method she describes: "If you or some of your students are fluent in a second language, you might want to use words from that language in a poem. Have the students write poems about colors, for instance, but instead of using the English words for each color, put color words from another language and their English translations on the board, and have the students use the nonEnglish words. Each line of the poem should contain a nonEnglish word. Read these poems aloud and listen to their music." I like the part about listening to the music. One of the distinct advantages for a poet of having a second language is the ability to go beyond the music available to linguistically-challenged poets who speak only their mother tongue.

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