O'Connor offers new approaches to teaching poetry in middle and high school with more than 25 writing activities that can constitute an entire course or work as individual lessons.


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John S. O’Connor offers exciting new approaches to teaching poetry in middle school and high school classrooms with more than 25 high-interest activities designed to sharpen students’ writing and self-understanding and heighten their awareness of the world around them. In the process, he demystifies poetry for teachers and students by using students’ own life experiences as the basis for all student writing.

The activities can constitute an entire course in poetry writing or work as individual lessons, depending on the teacher’s classroom goals. Early lessons start out with simple lists and wordplay; later lessons involve more complicated forms and subjects. Throughout the book, however, the emphasis is on fun and making sure that every student succeeds. In all, O’Connor provides an impressive number of poetry models—more than 30 professional models and more than 80 models from students in his own classroom.

Students will also learn how to dramatize poems, creating special effects in performance, both in the classroom and beyond the walls of the school. Wordplaygrounds shows how students can move beyond the traditional boundaries of English curricula, interpreting poetry through a variety of media, including music, art, and dance—without special talent and training in these areas.
155 pp. 2004. Grades 7–12. ISBN 10: 0-8141-5819-6; ISBN 13: 978-0-8141-5819-7.

John S. O'Connor was interviewed on the May 3, 2006, edition of Eight Forty-Eight, the award-winning weekday morning magazine program produced by Chicago Public Radio station WBEZ. To hear the segment, visit the WBEZ audio archives via the link below, then scroll to the bottom of the May 3 listing. You can download the segment to an mp3 player or listen to streaming audio using Windows Media Player or RealPlayer.

Hear more about Wordplaygrounds!

"In his delightfully rich book Wordplaygrounds, master teacher John S. O'Connor shows us step by step how to bring the magical, wide, and wild field of poetry into our schools. Dozens of examples show how poetry gives students a voice to express themselves, with suggestions to guide us in every area of poem making, from punctuation and persona to spoken word, music, and choral poems performed in groups. Lush with example poems, Wordplaygrounds will be indispensable to all teachers wishing to find a way to make poetry and the love of language a basic and ongoing part of their students' lives."
—Susan Wooldridge, author of poemcrazy: freeing your life with words

"I found Wordplaygrounds to be just the kind of book I am always searching for. Classroom teachers are of course great pragmatists: looking for that great lesson plan, that new suggestion, that 'bag of tricks.' Yet we also need an opportunity to reflect more broadly, to think deeply about plans, intentions, formative assessments, and outcomes. O'Connor hits that balance just right."
—Rick Ayers, coeditor of Great Books for High School Kids