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Posted on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 6 a.m.

Poetry cafe teaches kids lessons about language, self-expression

By Angela Verges

Verges-Trevor-Poetry- Cafe

Trevor at Poetry Cafe - South Arbor Academy.

Photo by Joshua Verges

The poetry café was the culminating event for Ms. Whiston's seventh grade students at South Arbor Academy. After their unit on poetry, parents were invited to hear students recite published poems as well as their own creations.

The atmosphere was perfectly set with lamp light, flickering faux candles and kids dressed in black. In addition to learning about meter and rhyme schemes, the kids also learned something about each other. There were poems that created laughter as well as poems that revealed a person's hobbies, heritage and their likes.

Bongos played and fingers snapped as poems written by Robert Frost, Maya Angelo and Shel Silverstein were read. However, some of my favorites were the poems that the students wrote about themselves. One of those poems, by Amara Chikwe is below:

"I Am From…"
I am from gold, silver, and bronze medals, that hang upon the thick wall.
I am from my bike that rides on the cement, in the hot summers.
I am from a family walking on the black street with courage.
I am from the delicious restaurant, Denny’s, my dad takes me every Tuesday or Saturday.
I am from the basketball court in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where I hoop with confidence.
I am from half of the Nigerian blood that most of my family have, experiencing the culture.

There was also a poem by Paulina Cardenas that talked about Mexican heritage, but I didn't have a copy of her poem. Zack Davis wowed the crowd with his faux mustache and goatee as he read a funny limerick.

Kudos to all of the seventh grade students who shared a part of themselves with the class and parents.

The poetry café was a great way to engage students in learning about poetry and how to express themselves. From my viewpoint, the poetry café was a way to help the students feel relaxed as they took part in public speaking. It was a way to boost their confidence and self-esteem.

When I asked my son his opinion about the poetry café he said, "It was a way to have fun while still doing school work." So, I will add an addendum to my viewpoint...the students are learning things they don't realize they are learning.

What are other ways to make learning fun for middle school students?

Angela Verges is a writer and mother of two. She can be reached at