A poet who knows it
Author finds inspiration in the classroom

Inuvik (Feb 04/00) - Don't read this article whatever you do!

OK, go ahead and read, but just remember this eye-catching introduction reflects the approach of poet Kalli Dakos when teaching students the magic of rhyming, reading and simply learning.

A published author of titles including Don't Read This Book Whatever You Do, The Goof Who Invented Homework, Raise Your Hand If You're Not Here and The Bug in Teacher's Coffee, Dakos makes learning fun and tries to convince both children and their teachers alike to look at their world in new, exciting ways.

"I love to take poetry with me and share it wherever I go, and I encourage teachers to look at their lives as something exciting," she said.

"Inuvik is an exotic place but you can take it for granted. But if you see it through the eyes of a writer, the possibilities are endless."

Dakos' visit to Inuvik last week was in fact a return. She taught at Sir Alexander Mackenzie school in 1976 before going on to build a career as a children's author and reading specialist in both her native Ottawa and in Virginia. Since that time she said she's worked at getting back into the classroom, presenting her poetry and ideas to school children across the continent.

The kids at Sir Alexander Mackenzie school were certainly glad she does. Dakos mesmerised them with both her poetry and her use of props, including streamers, toy toilets, big hands and the oversized "magic glasses" she puts on to help her see the magic she said surrounds us all. A power failure during her presentation didn't even phase Dakos, who quickly switched on a flashlight and began reading a couple "spooky" poems. She never lost her audience.

"I gotcha, I caughtcha, I putcha in my poem, I lockedcha forever, in my poetry zone," is an example of the short, light-hearted poetry Dakos uses to help children develop their imaginations and natural sense of rhythm.

"You never know when one tiny little poem can turn the kids onto literacy," she said. "Poetry is really good for poor readers because it has so many cues built right into it ... and with older kids we can also get into acting out the poems themselves."

Dakos said she has met with success in awakening the sense of adventure of learning among both teachers and students. Her infectious enthusiasm clearly had an effect in Inuvik, where she said she'd already come up with several ideas for new books.

"The kids down south don't believe it when I tell them, for example, that the students here have recess in the dark," she said. "I've heard of the kids here playing tag here but tagging the wrong person because they couldn't see them."

Dakos also had good news for the NWT Power Corporation, since she said she even found inspiration in last week's black-out.

"I was glad when it happened because those are the moments I live for," she said, "when everything's shot to hell."

Interested individuals can learn more about Dakos and her work by visiting her Web site at www.KalliDakos.com.