The students all help in preparation for the tea. Some arrange desks and chairs, some make pots of steaming herbal tea and prepare refreshments, and some gather poetry books from shelves and distribute them onto desks. Once everyone has their cup of tea and a few cookies or crackers, we start browsing through the poetry books. The room is usually very quiet while the children find something they want to read aloud. One at a time, each student stands to read their chosen poem. Once these poetry readings begin, it is difficult to bring the Poetry Tea to an end. Everyone wants to share just one more.
We have not put too many restrictions on the poems chosen for recital, except they cannot be too long nor sarcastic. The poems chosen during the first several teas were not necessarily the most profound, and it was clear that the poetic tastes of boys and girls differed quite a bit. The boys chose the long silly ones, and the girls chose the short sweet ones.
As their experience with poetry grows, the students are willing to tackle greater challenges and have become fond of particular poets, including Longfellow, Robert Louis Stevenson, Christina Rossetti, and James Whitcomb Riley. The relaxed atmosphere allows the students to spend time with a poem and simply enjoy the
beauty and rhythm of the words. We seldom do any analysis during this time.
Poetry is also part of our daily morning routine. Each day, after our opening prayers, we sing and recite poetry. The poems are printed on 11 x 17 paper in a large font so everyone can see it. When the students know the poem by heart (often before the teachers), we take down the printed version and read the poem from our heart.
Usually we are working on more than one poem at the same time. Some of our favorites are When the Frost is on the Punkin'
, Wet Weather Talk
, A Jingle of Words
, The Spider and the Fly
, The Camel's Nose
, A Good Thanksgiving
Our informal Poetry Tea has borne some good fruit. One student, who graduated from our eighth grade, had some "embarrassing" moments when he realized that he was the only one in his high school class who knew the author of all the poems the Language Arts teacher was reading to the class. He told his mother about the incident and when she asked him if he could have recited all those poems, he exclaimed, " Yes, I could have recited them, but everyone was already looking at me funny!"