In their debut collaboration, DeRuiter and Shoemaker demonstrate how the basic tools of poetry can develop elementary school students’ imaginations and strengthen their character.
Using lesson plans and anecdotes, DeRuiter explains how, in her poetry writing workshops, she goes beyond metaphors and similes—what she likes to call “word pictures.” For example, she uses the work of poet Pablo Neruda to help make students aware of the geography around and within them and the work of Wallace Stevens to illustrate taking risks using perception. Through Japanese renga poetry, DeRuiter found that haiku carry a subtle power for students who need help with their writing skills. She also uses Jungian archetypes, painter Edward Hopper’s lonely landscapes and the concept of the “connectedness” of “the Native American thought world” as jumping-off points in her work with children. Shoemaker’s specialty lies in clinical psychology, and she offers thoughts on DeRuiter’s experiences and ideas “from a developmental perspective.” Subscribing to developmental psychologist Erik Erikson’s theory of “four crises” of child development, Shoemaker stresses the importance of children mastering skills such as writing in order to become competent, self-aware adults. At the end of each chapter, the authors suggest journaling assignments and encourage readers to use silence to awaken the subconscious. Abandon comfort zones, say the authors, and embrace the riskiest route when the “crossroads of the imagination” appear; the road least desired may be difficult, but it ends up being the most liberating. The book’s second half provides practical applications for teachers looking to incorporate the authors’ training into their curriculum. While not groundbreaking, the authors’ well-planned itinerary does contain fresh and practical ideas. By simplifying the “luggage” for the creative journey to two pieces—“a mind open to wonder and a journal”—the authors show how people may explore and better understand concepts such as empathy and symbolism. By seeking to ban conventional and restrictive thinking, DeRuiter and Shoemaker may help young writers find their own unique voices.
A comprehensive, accessible guidebook for educators—or anyone looking to open up their creative instincts.