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Poet Helps Middle School Students Get in a Creative Groove
A poet with a long history of working with Unadilla Valley students made a return to the district last month.

Rachel Guido deVries is a poet, writer and educator who conducts poetry workshops for schools. She visited middle school English classes at Unadilla Valley. The culmination of the week, which is coordinated by English teacher Katie Wolford, was a poetry reading by students in front of their peers and faculty.

“My emphasis when I work with this age group is really on creative language and allowing them to be able to step outside of the box and use more creative words,” Guido deVries said on the day before the poetry reading.

In fact, Guido deVries said, words like “run,” “walk,” “fly” and “nice” are banned in the workshop. But she gives the students freedom to explore different subjects and on the first day, they are usually asked to write about themselves.

“I give them topics, but I try to make the topics very broad,” Guido deVries said.

One of the topics students wrote about this year was ‘differences and the meaning of cool’ and students explored what it means to be popular, which is a subject often on the minds of adolescents.

“Anytime they can express the truth of their lives it’s useful,” Guido deVries said.

For the first three days of the workshop, the students focus on metaphors, similes, word choices, imagery, personification and a little bit on structure. The fourth day is spent on revision and the fifth day is the poetry reading.

“The opportunity for kids to use language expressively and imaginatively is just really very important. The arts are important, I think a life without them would be pretty bleak,” Guido deVries said.

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