Resource Center

Poetry and Pizza

Here's an plan for getting together with another Dream Flag School to share Dream Flags with another school. This is based on a get-together between one sixth grade of about 60 students and another one of nearly the same size.
Here's how it worked:

Students from two schools got together on a school day in the morning, shared poetry, and ended having lunch together. It started with a group gathering, then broke into small groups to share poems. There was a snack, then we got together in a large group to share some poems with the whole group, to connect our Dream Flags, and then sing. After that, we had pizza together. Then the visiting school went home.

Materials/Supplies and Set-Up

  1. Tags: Take the total number of students and divide it by 10 or 12. This is a good size for small groups to share poetry--enough so there can be discussion, and not too many to have enough time.
    We had about 120 students, so it was 10 small groups.

  2. Get two different colors of name tags, the same number of each. For each color, letter the tags A, B, C, etc. for the number of groups you will have. (E.g. for 10 groups, A -J.) Put the letter in a corner so there's space for the name. Keep the colors separate, but mix up the tags in each color.
    For our groups, we labeled 60 red tags with A-J , so we had 5 A's, 6 B's, 6 C's, etc. We also labeled 60 green tags with A-J in the same way (so there are a total of 10 A's, 10 B's, etc.) We mixed up each color group.

  3. Space: You will need a space for the small group gatherings and for a large group gathering. You can use one large space such as a gym if you designate areas for the small groups in the large space. Mark spots for each small group to meet with a letter poster or some other indicator of the small group. (Have  microphone if possible for poetry reading to the whole group.)
    We used a dining are with tables that would seat ten along with a nearby gym. We put a paper with a large letter -- A, B, C, etc. -- on each table.

  4. Food: Arrange a snack and lunch for the group. They could bring their own.
    We used orangsicles which we called "dreamcicles." We ordered plain pizza and had milk cartons from the cafeteria.

  5. Dream Flags and Poems: Each school must have completed their Dream Flag Lines and have them on hand. The host school should lay out flags on the floor in the big space or hang them in some simple way that can easily be taken down.
    We set up our flags in the gym. We just draped them over some hooks along the wall. This was along one side of the gym (facing the stage) so the other group could line theirs up on the other side.

  6. Each student must have a paper copy of his/her poem. This is to share in the small groups. If possible, students should practice reading their poems aloud in advance. Option: Have students also practice some kind of choral recitations of Hughes poetry to share with the whole group.

  7. Optional Music Activity: Have each teacher involved pick out two or three lines from a few poems in each section and send them to a music person. These get compiled into a listing of lines from both schools to be sung at a certain time in the program.
    We did this with email and had each teacher choose two groups of lines from each section. The result was around fifteen "verse" lines to be sung as part of The Dream Flag Song.

Process, Timing and People

You need one adult for each small group. You could do it with fewer, but the poetry sharing will work better with an adult to facilitate. You need a teacher leader of the day. To do the music, you need someone who can play and sing.

Here's s possible schedule. This is for a total time of  2 1/2 hours.

  1. Arrival of guest school. Assignment of name tags. Assignment of teachers to letter groups. Lay out guest school flags in whole group area. (10 min.)

  2. Opening whole group gathering. Explanation of what will happen. Singing of "The Dream Keeper Song." (Sheet Music. Recording.  with optional verses. (To do the verses, you need someone who can improvise melody and play an instrument such as guitar. After each chorus of "The Dream Keeper Song," the music leader improvises singing of the verses from student poems provided ahead of time. --See 7 above. You can omit this and just sing the chorus, teaching it by rote. (15 min.)

  3. Get into small groups for readings according to letter on your tag. Each students has a paper copy of his/her poem. Teachers go to letter groups. (10 min.)

  4. Small group readings. Each student reads his/her Dream Flag poem for the group. After each, the others should comment about what they like in the poem and ask any questions of the poet. The teacher facilitates. Each group also has to select one person from the group to read his/her poem to the whole group--or simply find someone who's willing. This could also be done at random (guess the number) from those who are willing. (25 minutes)

  5. Snack break. (15 min.)

  6. Whole group gathering. Selected readers from each small group read poems to whole group. Good to have a microphone for this.  This may be followed by choral performances of Hughes poetry from students.

  7. Set up for connection of Dream Flag lines. This means you designate students to carry the extended Dream Flag lines (about one student every 10 feet of line) and have them lift and hold up the lines for people to see. They should process toward the front of the space and the two "ends" will meet in the middle where you can tie them ceremonially, connecting your dreams. (10 min.)

  8. Sing another chorus of "The Dream Keeper Song" while students hold up connected flags. Closing remarks. (15 min.)

  9. Break before lunch. (5 min.)

  10. Lunch together. (30 min.)

  11. Guest school departs.

Here is the schedule we used for the day. It worked fairly well. The singing took more time than we expected. example schedule