Abia Judd fourth-graders stage Poetry Palooza
The Abia Judd Elementary gym was studded with colorful helium balloons and nervous fourth-graders, waiting at positions around the room to perform in the Fourth Grade Poetry Palooza held on May 3.
“Being a bee…” two girls declared. Then Lauren exulted,“Is a joy!” and Jocelynn moaned,“Is a pain,” as they performed a poem explaining the roles of queen vs worker bees — “Honeybees,” by Paul Fleischman. Lauren Andrews and Jocelynn Mosher gave up recesses to get the emotion, inflection, and gestures just right for their performance of this piece written for two voices.
How did this event begin? Teacher Dee Yeager recalls, “Denise and Mark Woolsey, Professors of Speech Communication at Yavapai College, invited me to bring students to perform poetry in a YC oral interpretation festival in 2007.” That first year, every one of Yeager’s students was thrilled to win a medal, and she was hooked. Yeager continued to take students each year, with teammates Shelli Read and Angie McElfresh enthusiastically joining in with their classes.
When YC could no longer host their event, the teachers created their own. In 2016, the AJ Poetry Palooza was born.
This is a big commitment for teachers. Each of 115 participants was coached several times; schedules were set for students to practice in other classrooms; and details of the big day were handled. In addition to families, AJ classes and 150 fifth-grade students from “up the hill” at Granite Mountain were invited to attend.
“Practice, practice, practice — bigger, louder, stronger,” Yeager encouraged students at coaching sessions. Daniele Rosellini, new to fourth grade last year, shares, “We just couldn’t get some quiet students to speak up. Then, in our final practice sessions, every student came out of their shell and performed like a pro!”
“It was terrific to see students at every academic level shine,” said Principal Clark Tenney. “The Poetry Palooza has quickly become an AJ favorite!”