Contribution from freelance writer Chris Richardson
Every once in a while, the Leka Team is happy to welcome external contributors and share their food for thoughts. This post has been written by Chris Richardson who is an editor at EssayGeeks. He is also a professional content writing expert in such topics as career growth, self-improvement, blogging, and technology innovations. Feel free to connect with him on Google+.
Immersing autistic students in the art of poetry is a great way to bond with them, help them feel more accepted, broaden the teaching/learning process, and possibly create a lifelong hobby. Studies have shown that stimulating creativity and inspiring students to work with literature, especially poetry, aids their learning process. It is the puzzling and mysterious language of the poems which makes students with autism show deep interest for the genre.
That being said, how could you as a teacher, or a parent as well, help these children create poems and help them discover the beautiful world of poetry?
1. Inspire Your Students
This principle applies to every student and even more so to students with autism -- the teacher can be both the villain and the hero. Children with autism tend to connect deeply with their role models and the educator has the chance to be the source of inspiration and motivate their students.
It is paramount to treat all students as unique persons and pay individual attention. Be both the teacher and a friend. Showing strong interest and passion for the subject matter helps students to invest themselves into the both logically and emotionally. It is vital to help them set their own personal goals and to encourage ambition. Lastly, at the beginning, try writing poems in groups and slowly transition towards writing poems individually.
2. Combine Drawing and Poetry
Combining drawing and writing poems might be the best way to teach autistic children how to write a poem. This method is especially helpful for shy and closed-off students, since it makes self-expression easier and less demanding.
You could ask the students to work individually or in groups. With beginners it is for the best to start with drawing and transition towards writing. At first, ask the students to think of something interesting and make a sketch of it. Then, ask them to explain their drawings on paper. Start slow and steady. As they become more comfortable with the task, slowly increase the difficulty by asking them to work individually, by imposing a theme, by making the requirements for the poem more specific and more challenging, etc.
3. Reading and Music
Reading poetry and listening to music are a great way to introduce children with autism to poetry. This will help them appreciate poetry.
Start with something simple and easy. Make sure that the children have copies of the poem you read or the lyrics they listen to. That'll help them visualize. It is vital to start with poems and/or songs which use lots of rhyme and steady rhythm. This soothes the children and helps them learn the concept of poetry easily. It helps tremendously for you to sing, since they accept the lyrics even more emotionally and personally. Lastly, make a transition and ask the students to write lyrics for a simple tune or retell the story of a poem they liked.
4. PowerPoint Presentations
One of the easiest ways that autistic children learn is from visual prompts. Thus, it comes as no surprise that one of the best ways to teach them how to write poems is PowerPoint presentation.
Using presentations works best in combination with reading and listening to music. Feel free to include videos and GIFs in your presentations as well. Break the lyrics of a song or the lines of a poem in separate slides. Don’t forget to include images, since they help autistic students to make associations between the text and real-life situations. After a few tries, try group work and, using PowerPoint presentations, ask the students to un-jumble a jumbled song. This would serve as a great transition towards tasking them with a poem of their own.
Sometimes, the children do not even need to know that they are working on a poem in order to learn how to write poems intrinsically. A great way to teach them how to write a song is to make a game out of it.
Learn what their interests and hobbies are and try to write short and simple poems for them. Later, combine these poems with any game that the children enjoy - from "Hangman", to "Simon Says" and "DONKEY". No matter what, make sure the children pay active attention to the poems. Then, you could task them to write a song of their own and use it in their favorite game.
6. Acrostic Poems
This may be the most interesting way for teaching writing. There is not a need for deep explanations - at the beginning, let the children work in groups before transitioning towards individual work. Based on their interests and the material they learn in general, provide themes and topics, and start by working together with them. This way is especially effective since students with autism see the task as a puzzle and not as writing a poem.
7. Field trips
You do not need to go for a full-scale field trip to teach students how to write poems. A simple walk in the park or some time outside in the schoolyard would do just fine. It is simple, really - ask the students to jot down how they feel throughout the "field trip". Make sure to give them context, like: how the sound of the wind in the trees makes them feel, or how they feel when they sit in the grass, etc. In other words, set a theme. Later, ask them to work in groups and help them follow an example of a similar poem.
And, let's not forget -- no matter how effective the methods are, patience is the key. Some methods might work great, others not so much. Some children might find the tasks enjoyable, others might struggle or even resist to participate. No matter what happens, be patient and remember that everything is for their wellbeing.