Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tabula Rasa

It's The Beginning of the fifth year of Ruth's and Stacey's The Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life challenge, and my second year.  It's my first anniversary!  I am proud of myself, but also proud of all who chose to keep going and keep writing and keep thinking through this year in the group.  I'm looking forward to more fun everyone.  Thank you Stacey and Ruth for staging this challenge.  


           When I was in the classroom, in writers workshop and in our unit work, I shared, gave some lessons in poetry, and conferred with those students who wanted to write poetry, but for about 10 specific weeks of the year, I met with a poetry group, those students in my class who wanted to devote more time to poetry, and to write in a supportive group who loved poetry. 
The group varied from about 10 to 15 students and it was actually more fun with a smaller group, more time to share and talk about each others’ poems.  The structural plan varied little.  We met; we each shared a poem by someone else and told why we liked it.  Students were to put the poem in their writers notebooks and record a little of why.  By the end of the group, students had at least 10 poems they had found they loved, and sometimes were able to see a pattern of their favorites. 
 Once we began to meet, it was a pleasure to give a brief mini-lesson, usually with a poem I wanted to share, to share their ‘outside’ poems, and then spend most of the time reading the poems we had written.  During that period, I modeled how to comment and give support to the authors and sometimes there was a pertinent point I could add about something or other about poetry.  Perhaps it was about word placement for emphasis, or enjambment, some poetic device. 
One part I loved was that I collected his or her newly written poems the morning of the group meeting and made a poetry packet for everyone for the meeting.  It is powerful to see one’s words, to read them, and to have the audience be able not only to listen but also to see the poem.  Usually I had the student read twice, and then we commented.  Sometimes it was for a line we thought was wonderful, sometimes we were so touched, we sat silent for a minute, and sometimes, it was to suggest movement of a word, or a re-working of a sentence. 
Every group member was there to write poetry, enjoy poetry, feel supported as we wrote, and to improve our writing.  I did not have a specific agenda for the group but followed their lead in what they liked and where they seemed to be in their writing.   Remember I had taught them about half of the year already, and some I had for more than one year.  The group was led through choice and each improved by their engagement with many different poems by different authors, both those shared and classmate-written, and with their personal writing.  I learned too, and sometimes used a student’s model to write my next poem.  Others sometimes tried an idea I had shown. 

            If you are reading through this, I hope you are connecting my group description to the Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge that begins today.  We choose to take the challenge, we write, we take ideas from others and try that kind of writing, we observe styles and, sometimes innately, incorporate them into our style.  We support through comments, and at the end, we have experienced exceptionally wonderful examples of good writing from those who are passionate about it.

            I loved my poetry groups and miss them very much.  Blogging and being part of the Two Writing Teachers slicers and more recently the Poetry Friday group (who overlap some) have been substitute groups I value.  More importantly, I hope that you as teachers see the parts of a writing group that are so important in any classroom.  One writes, shares, receives support from and gives support to others, and works hard to get better.  That’s it.  It doesn’t take a written curriculum to do that.  It’s all about choice. 

25 comments:

  1. I love the connection you made between the poetry work your writers engaged in and the work we do as Slicers.

    It's hard to believe I missed meeting you during the March Challenge last year. (As you know, I was busy with Isabelle.) Glad to be slicing with you this March.

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  2. Wow, that's great that you had a poetry group with your students. It sounds like you had a good time being part of it. I'm glad that you'll be part of the March slice of life challenge again. It's my second year as well!

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  3. This is my very first year, and I am super excited to try it! I liked what you were talking about with poetry groups. It inspires me to try something similar when my 10th graders do a poetry unit in May. Such a great idea!

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  4. I love how you made it so simple, "One writes, shares, receives support and gives support, and works hard to get better." That's what it's all about and out of that vulnerability comes this beautiful community. I'm excited to be a part of that this year - being a newbee to Slice of Life!

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  5. I agree with Jen. That is the quote that sticks with me. I think we do a pretty good job, in my room, of writing and sharing, but I don't know how much they feel supported by each other other than knowing they have an enthusiastic audience. That is something I am working on, building the intentionality of support.

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  6. I loved the connection between your poetry group and SOL.

    I would have loved to have been in your class. Poetry has not always been something that I enjoyed, but I bet that if I had you I would have had different feelings towards the medium.

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  7. I'll echo others: the connection between poetry and teaching and writing ... I enjoyed reading about how you wove those ideas together. The extension of writing circles (and of teachers, writing together) is so important.
    Thank for your post this morning!
    Kevin

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  8. I got so excited thinking about starting a poetry group, that I almost forgot it was a slice of life, then I got to the end of your piece. So true. Coming together, and haring, and commenting, and growing. Looking forward to writing with you this month!

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  9. There is a lot of power in the group! The support, the critique, and the sharing of our lives.

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  10. What lucky students! Sometimes the hardest part of writing anything is daring to do it. The supportive group you created in your classroom is a great way to face the 'dare'!

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  11. Love this part at the end,

    One writes, shares, receives support from and gives support to others, and works hard to get better. That’s it. It doesn’t take a written curriculum to do that. It’s all about choice.

    Awesome. So glad to share this experience with you. It makes me a better writer and teacher.

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  12. okay...I'm looking up 'enjambment'...what a cool word and I need to know it! I'm so looking forward to the community. Thanks for the encouragement.

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  13. Linda, you are so good at linking thoughts and experiences. I knew where you were going with this and I loved every word taking me to the end. I ditto comments made above me. Off to a fantastic start!

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  14. Linda-you always make such neat connections. Look at the response you received already and it's still morning! I love the Sandburg poem--have to pin this--I can't find you by the way--I'm mrsday75--same as twitter.

    I'm so glad we are continuing on this blogging journey together--I learn so much from you!

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  15. I envy you and your poetry writing self! I'll be the first to admit poetry scares me. I think it has to do with the poetry instruction I received as a kid. All the formulaic rhyming patterns...yuck! I love a good poem and most of my favorites are free verse, but being forced to write limericks, diamontes, haikus, clerihews...and trying to come up with a word that rhymes with spinach is enough to turn one off from poetry writing altogether!
    I would love to feel comfortable writing poetry, and be able to not only do it well, but help children find their inner poet. Thanks for sharing your inspiring poetry group slice! :)

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  16. One writes, shares, receives support from and gives support to others, and works hard to get better. That’s it. It doesn’t take a written curriculum to do that. It’s all about choice.

    That about sums it up...this is being printed out now and will be placed in my writer's notebook to validate what I (try to) do. Thanks, Linda!

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  17. The poetry group sounds like a wonderful community! (And yes, I was thinking of how it's like slicing before you mentioned it!) I really like the idea of having a copy of the poem for everyone to look at -- it does seem like writing hits you differently if you are looking at it instead of just listening to it. Your description of what happened during the commenting ("Sometimes we...") really helped me visualize the connection within the group!

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  18. I am so delighted that you are doing this again, Linda! I enjoy following your writing and finding your comments on mine. It's been such a blessing to know that we aren't writing into an abyss...but I guess if we had to we would...because we'd HAVE to write. But it's better with this wonderful community of writers!

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  19. What a great connection! Like you, I love sharing poetry with my students. This is my first time to join in the SOL challenge, and I'm already enjoying reading wonderful slices like yours!

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  20. You are always my inspiration Linda. I enjoy reading everything you write.
    Tammy

    First Grade @ Klinger Cafe

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  21. Linda,Thank you for your kind comments. I love reading the beauty you create with a pen. It's wonderful the journey you have taken and the lives you have touched.

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  22. I love what a great writing mentor you are. You so consistently stop by blogs and leave comments - I can't tell you how much I appreciate it when you visit us. I feel very privileged to be, in some small way, part of one of your writing circles. Thanks for guiding the way.

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  23. great launch to our month of daily writing!

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  24. Look at all of your readers!! Love it! I linked your blog in my post today...as a return visitor. I love reading all of what you have to offer professionally and as a grandma. Can't wait to read what you write this month!

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  25. As always, you provide pause for reflection. It is important to always connect what I learn about myself as a writer to what my students need as writers. Here's to another year of slicing!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!