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All of a sudden, I'm busy at work! I'm reading three PD books with three teacher groups at school, facilitating a book group with students, prepping for a speech group, and teaching a poetry group for a while as they write, revise and prepare poems for the River of Words annual contest. These meetings are in addition to meeting one on one with teachers, about their work and how its going, always a celebration of the good things, and the talk about that which doesn't appear to be going as well. There are few things I enjoy more than all these different kinds of conversations. I like my job, hope you can tell!
My wonderful poetry group began today. I know almost all the students, have watched them grow up at our school, even worked with them in other groups, and they are now in what we call "Advanced School", middle-school-aged kids. They are sophisticated (mostly), interested in doing well (always), and wowed me immediately. I was given a "first" poem by their teacher last week. I had read through them, and made a few "private" notes. I saw glimmers of poetic wording in each one.
When we met today, I wanted especially to do two things: help them think of themselves as poets and discover what they already knew. At the beginning of Opening Minds, Peter Johnson writes: "As teachers, we choose our words, and, in the process, construct the classroom worlds for our students and ourselves." We did not share any of our own words today out loud, but we spoke of them. I started by sharing a few poems I found by other students on the River of Words site. In an open discussion, I asked this question: "As a poet, what poetic devices do you see that these poets have used?" I was delighted with their answers. They knew many of the words, like line breaks, onomatopoeia, different uses of punctuation, line spacing, and others. The good in this? I had let them know that I considered they were already poets who "knew" something of this tricky thing called "poetry".
Next, we discussed what revision means to them, how they like it or do not, how they approach it. They weren't very talkative here, as I expected. I had a few quotes ready to share and a poem by JoAnn Early Macken, found here. They created a list of things they considered important from her poem. And finally, I asked them to take their own poem, not to read aloud, but to share a couple of devices they had already used. Again, they were eager and ready to share, and I had a beginning idea of what they already knew. At the same time, I had communicated that I believed they HAD already known to use some of these poetry tactics in their writing, and that it is a deliberate choice.
I love having poetry groups, will show the groups some of my own revising next time, which I told them I would do. I gave them a short list of some ways to start, with words, with line breaks, choosing a different POV, and gave the expectation of bringing a new draft next time. I am excited and I think they left excited as well.
Nine students writing
Their slices of poetry
A special beauty
linda baie (c)all rights reserved