By Jonathan E. Coleman
Throngs of people poured into Rocky River Coffee Co. last week, but they weren’t all there for coffee or pastry.
Family and friends of students in Jennifer Trexler’s fourth grade class at Rocky River Elementary School crowded into the coffee shop to hear students recite poems, some of their own creation, as part of a lesson on fluency.
“All year long we have worked on reading comprehension, and fluency goes along with it,” Trexler said. “A good way to practice fluency is to read poems. Fluent readers are good readers.”
As Trexler was thinking about having the students read poems of their choice aloud, she thought that taking the lesson outside the classroom might be fun for the students and the community.
“They’re nervous,” she said before more than 20 students took their turn behind the microphone. “But they’ve been practicing.”
Nine-year-old Katie Walker got plenty of practice reciting two poems — including one, entitled “Nighttime”, that she wrote herself — before taking the stage.
“I recite them both for my parents every night,” she said. “We started at the beginning of January, until now.”
Since each student had his or her choice of which poem to recite, the subject matter varied widely. Many students selected silly poems with titles like “Mother Ogre’s Lullaby”, “The Hairy Dog” or “I Should Have Studied”, drawing laughter and cheers from the audience.
Aris Pinkston-Geter recited “I can” by Mari Evans and “My People” by Langston Hughes.
“I picked those peoms because I felt like that was a slavery time, because that was (from) a slavery book,” she said. “I really wanted a serious poem to keep it down low.”
And while most of the students admitted to being nervous as they prepared to recite, everyone handled their emotions in their own way.
“I was nervous,” said Victoria Luchs, who was first to recite. “I just did what my friend said and pictured everybody in their underware. That kind of helped.”
Pinkstone-Geter, who was also nervous, said it was something she would have to get used to as she hopes to make a career on stage.
“I want to be an actress, singer and a dancer,” she said. “I was a little frightened, but I have to get used to it if I want to be an actress.”
In the end, the lesson wasn’t just about controlling nerves, but about speaking confidently and fluently.
I was a lesson not lost on Mikayla Leake.
“If you’re going to read a sentence, don’t stop,” she said. “Stop at sentences, but keep your fluency.”
To help drive the lesson home, Trexler sent parents home with a handout offering strategies for parents working with their children on reading skills and fluency at home.
The enthusiasm from Thursday night’s poetry reading carried over into the classroom the next day, Trexler said, one sign that the children enjoyed the event.
“They were so exicted they wanted to read poetry again today, after last night,” she said. “Overall, I think the event was great. I’ll definately do it again. Some teachers were in the crowd and they want to do it with their classes too.”
As for how the students did, Trexler said she couldn’t be happier.
“I was really pleased with the way they cheered each other on,” she said, adding her grade for the class. “It would be an A+, definately and A+.”
• Contact Jonathan E. Coleman at [email protected] or 704-789-9105.