Example #57 Poetry and Delight

What if poetry were delighting in sounds?

Maria wanted her class to not only understand the rhythm in words but delight in them and just enjoy rolling them round their mouths. For her, this was part of delighting in God’s world, which includes the world of sound.

"Although understanding and analysing the rhythms in words was useful for understanding the meaning of poetry, I wanted my class to experience the delight of words first. I remembered Robert Frost’s words about poetry beginning in delight and ending in wisdom. Maybe in the past I had jumped to 'wisdom' (understanding what it meant) too soon.

"I began by playing a clip of 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' (from the film Mary Poppins) and we just had fun trying to sing it. I then shared some of my favourite words, just words I liked the sound of. Some of them were old words, some were place names, and others were words like 'riffle'. The class then made lists of their favourite words in terms of sound. We wrote a favourite word or words on coloured card and quickly decorated it. We then held a 'word swap' where children enjoyed each other's words by reading them aloud together.

"Each child chose one of their words and worked out a rhythm and decided what instrument would be good for that rhythm. We came together and took turns clapping or playing our words. From this we went on to explore nonsense poems and their use of sound and rhythm. As we are a church school, I included a prayer of thanks for the delightful possibilities that God placed in language and sounds."

What’s going on here?

Maria saw poetry as part of delight in God’s world, and encouraged attentiveness to the riches of language and an experience of joy in learning.

She engaged students in various ways of playfully delighting in the sound of words, trying out different ways of relating to them, and sharing the experience with others (DVD clip, word swap, musical instruments).

She reshaped her practice by changing the atmosphere to one of fun through playful activities and resources (DVD), by changing the context for teaching a skill (identifying and reproducing word rhythms) to one of sharing delight, and by guiding student interaction (sharing).

How do I do this myself?

What does this have to do with faith, hope and love?

It is easy to drift into seeing knowledge only in terms of usefulness and to neglect delighting in it. Christians see this world as the gift of a loving God; it is his box of delights to be opened. Delight comes from faith in a good God that expects to find a reflection of that goodness in the things that God has put into the world for us to delight in. Delight and joy emphasise a relationship with God that goes beyond duty. Joy is love jubilant, love rejoicing.

What difference does it make?

Taking the time to enjoy words creates a different feel about learning and about God's world. For a Christian, it's sharing fun with God.

Where could we go from here?

All the senses have the potential for delight. The delight of the eyes, taste, touch, smell and sound can be explored in many subjects.

Digging deeper

The term 'Eden' means delight. Eden was a garden of delight and this is a way of looking at our world. People can delight in the world, the Bible, in each other and God. Delight is a form of joy; it is consciously taking pleasure in someone or something. It involves a raised awareness, taking notice, revelling in something, whether that be the wonder of sounds, the beauty of maths or complexity in science. Delight does not mean ignoring the darker side of life; it is acknowledging that life can be difficult and being determined to celebrate what we can.

Seeing the world and life itself as a gracious gift from God leaves us more open to delight and joy. Such an attitude replaces a mindset that focuses only on rights and entitlement, which can leave us looking for what we are missing rather than what we have.

Throughout the Old Testament there is an emphasis on feasting before God, an expression of celebration and delight. This celebratory attitude to life understands life as a gift. For Christians, this physical expression of delight – a feast – is a response to grace – God’s undeserved love. The New Testament follows this theme with its emphasis on joy.

Explore similar examples:

What if a literacy lesson were about words as gifts?
What if design and technology brought delight to others?
What if music made children think about where creativity came from?

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