Prior to a visit, the poet and teacher get in touch by phone or email to negotiate logistics and expectations. We recommend you address all of the following:
- The location and timing (school address, the poet’s approximate travel time to and from the school, the total time available to work with students (remember that a poet’s visit can last up to three consecutive hours), start time, instructions for entering the school, room number(s), end time)
- The teacher(s) who will be present during the visit (N.B., one teacher must be present at all times)
- The work the poet will be doing with the students (writing workshop(s), a reading with a Q&A period, performance coaching, etc.)
- Information about the students (how many students, what grade(s), any previous poetry studies)
- Any preparation the teacher should do with their students prior to the visit (read the poet’s bio and one of their poems, read a discussion prompt that will kick off the poet’s work with them, etc.). Please note that it is the poet’s responsibility to bring in any materials (including photocopies) that the students will use during the visit.
- Poetry In Voice asks all teachers to screen our short introductory video for students prior to a poet’s arrival. The video puts an exciting, contemporary spin on poetry and previews all of the great resources we have for students on our site.
Prepare for a Virtual Visit
For virtual visits, in addition to the above recommendations, the teachers and poets meet to:
Identify which platform (Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc.) will be used. Be sure to discuss the following:
- What access and limitations do students have to platforms (YouTube recordings, Meeting/breakout rooms, etc.)?
- Are there any special access needs required (ASL, closed captions, etc.)?
- What are the rules around privacy (recordings, screenshots of students, etc.)?
- Determine the setting: Will students be in a classroom with one large screen, on their own devices joining from home, or a combination? How will the students be able to see you? Will you be able to see the students? How will you interact with each other?
- Create the virtual meeting: Either the teacher or poet must now schedule the meeting using the agreed platform. Remember, your visit date and time has already been agreed to. If a change is made to the date or time, Tessa must be informed, or you will receive incorrect visit reminders from our system. Note: if the teacher creates the visit the poet may not have access to all virtual platform features.
- Exchange cell phone numbers in case there is a problem.
- Do a test before the visit to iron out any issues.
Prepare Your Virtual Visit
To help you prepare for your virtual classroom visit we will be offering 6 poet-facilitated Virtual Visit Workshops (3 in English, 2 in French, 1 bilingual) on the topic “Ideas and tips for creating an engaging virtual visit” between the dates of November 23 and December 11. Sign up for one today, or watch them back at your leisure.
You may also contact a poet via our Peer Support webpage, a place to find other Poets In Class and contact them directly to share knowledge, ask questions, and seek support.
Consider all the facilitation tools various platforms offer and if you will integrate them into your presentation. Here are the feature pages for the most popular platforms:
Check out the Sample Visit below for guidance for your visit:
Introduction: (10 minutes)
Start your visit by introducing yourself briefly and then us, by screening the Poetry In Voice Introduction Video. It is only 3 minutes long and gives students an overview of all the ways they can use our website to appreciate and create poetry. If students or teachers have any questions you can tell them to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Introduce yourself more fully, as you see fit. You might talk about how you became a poet, what sort of poetry you write, and/or why you want to share your work with students.
An age-appropriate icebreaker is always a good idea to encourage students to participate throughout your visit. Students can either answer verbally or by using the comments or other features of your platform. Below are a few icebreaker ideas, but this is a perfect opportunity for you to be creative.
- Ask all students to answer the following question with one word: “POETRY IS ______” If they’re writing via the comments tool in the platform, read some of their answers (and names) aloud.
- Ask the students how poetry is made? Students will surprise you with the range of their thoughts from "with a pen" to "with what's left from a dream".
- Take a poll (if your platform allows it) to find out how many students have read a poem recently, how many have written a poem, how many know a Canadian poet? Tell them they’ll be able to answer yes to all these questions after today.
Quickly let the students know what you will be doing for the visit so they feel prepared. Assure them that there are no wrong answers in poetry, and that while poetry isn’t always easy it shouldn’t be intimidating; like with any art form, we should “start from a point of pleasure” (Adam Sol).
Activity ideas for your visit: (30-40 minutes)
Read your poems and/or someone else's poetry (possibly one from our online anthology!) Students need to hear contemporary poetry read aloud; your visit may be the first time they have. Consider whether you would like to read several poems without stopping, as you might do at a poetry reading, or whether you will encourage questions and comments after each poem. In either case, communicate this to the students.
Write with the students. Give the students one of your favourite or one of our writing prompts to create a poem. Limit the activity to less than 5 minutes. Encourage the teacher to write as well, and write a poem yourself. When everyone is finished you can ask if anyone is brave enough to share their poem. You and the teacher can read yours first to get the ball rolling, and you can also call on the teacher to help pick students to read their poems.
Create smaller groups that work together using breakout rooms (if available on your virtual platform) or by asking students in-class to form groups, perhaps to share their poems within the group, or perhaps to co-create a poem that is then shared with the whole class. Visit each breakout room, or ask the teacher if she can pick up the laptop and take you on a tour of the class! Again, time-box this activity to five or 10 minutes.
Engage with the students through their work. It’s no exaggeration to say your feedback may stay with them their entire lives. You might also engage with work they wrote before the visit. You can ask the teacher beforehand if there are any students that would like to screen share their work with you, or read it aloud in class.
Use other virtual platform tools to create engaging activities for your students. Again, be as creative as you like! And then let us know what worked and what didn’t work. Remind the students that poetry can be experimental, as can your visit.
Questions & Answers: (10-15 minutes)
End your visit with a final Q&A, or even a chat time for students who want to talk to you one-on-one. This happens naturally at the end of an in-person classroom visit, as other students are transitioning to their next class, when one or two deeply impacted students want to talk to you personally. You might be able to arrange a simulation of this experience by talking to the teacher. Maybe you can be available in a breakout room for 10 minutes after class, for example, and when one student leaves the room another enters.
Remind students to visit our website for amazing poetry, writing prompts and exercises and also our recitation contest where they can win up to $5000.
Know your Tech
Whether you are using a laptop/desktop computer or an i-pad you’ll want to make sure you have the proper set up and that your equipment is working well.
Set the Scene
- Sound: Choose a quiet location one without distracting noises. This could include your home’s forced-air heating, a humidifier or fan, people talking in the next room, noise outside your home, etc. If possible use a headset and mic as it enhances the sound quality of your voice.
- Light: Natural lighting is preferred. On a sunny day, film in a room without direct sunlight, close to a window (north-facing windows are best). Your lighting will then be bright but diffuse. Consider practicing at the same time of day as your scheduled visit to be sure the lighting will be right.
- Background: Choose a background that isn’t too busy or colorful—a wall or bookshelf—or insert your own custom background if you choose.
Check your Equipment
- Test your equipment - make sure you have good internet connection, sound, and video. Make sure your computer is plugged in and/or the battery is charged. Use a fresh browser for your meeting as all the teleconferencing tools work better when there are not a lot of tabs open.
- Declutter your Desktop. Make sure any of your visuals (powerpoint, YouTube video, etc ) are open and ready in your toolbar so you don’t have to search for them.
- Have a backup plan- Share your presentation in a google doc with the teacher ahead of time and have some hard copies of materials you can hold up in case you have technical issues.
Practice your presentation
Now that you have a plan and have some new tools to carry it out, and the proper set up, it’s time to practice. If you are going to use any of your platform’s facilitation features make sure to test them out, perhaps with a friend or family member. And remember to check again, a few hours before your scheduled visit, that all your equipment is working properly.
We are very lucky and grateful to offer our PIC/PAL program both in-person and virtually in those strange times. Have fun with your visit and let us know how it went. Don’t hesitate to suggest more ideas, and thank you for helping us to keep the poetry alive!