Monday, November 4, 2013

Opening Doors

   Travel over to Two Writing Teachers for the Tuesday Slice of Life!
                       Tweet at SLICE2013!  And check out the new heading!  It's a great image for writing!  Thanks to Stacey, Tara, Dana, Betsy, Anna, and Elisabeth for all the work!


       This is what I would wish for all students to know, from Carl Sandburg, Poetry Considered:  "Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.  Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable.  Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away. 
   


      I wrote about the poetry group I've been facilitating here a couple of weeks ago, and we are still together, meeting once or twice a week only, and the students have been turning in drafts for response a couple of times a week. We've continued to read poems by other poets, and my focus here has been pushing those writers to see that the poem (the poet) must have a purpose, a theme, a main point.  We can only guess at what the poet means, and I don't mean to break apart and analyze, but to hope that students will take a "story" with them from poems shared.  Why?  Because I want them to know that their own poems need to have that "story" in it too.  They are all facile writers, are well able to write a few lines that flow, choose some interesting words, sometimes repeat, but to get "at" the story is more challenging.  
        And so we work and talk and I hope they're having a good time messing about with words.  Today they wrote again, this time I conferred with each one and while that was happening, they also worked with each other.  I hear them (finally) reading their words aloud, listening to themselves and their poems.  I hear them laughing, and I hear, "this sounds really good!"
          It's not easy to get young adolescents to read their own work aloud unless it's a practiced presentation.  Have I mentioned that this is group of nearly all boys?  This is the time I wish I had my students back so I could really know these kids, but I am getting to know a few better; they are doing the best they can to let me in.  I've taught them in other groups, given lessons and book talks in their classes, so they know me, how passionate I am about reading and writing.  It helps them to trust.  

       This is meandering, as our group meanders.  My points are this:  Writing takes time, and student writers need the time just like other writers.  They need to be shown models, but also need to talk about the models with each other, from their experiences.  By models I mean both mentor texts, and a teacher who might show how to ask questions for response.  Questions that are helpful come to me from the easy five w's and h:  What did you have in mind here?  Where do you believe repetition might be helpful?  When do you think the line should pause/break?  Why does this topic touch you?  Who do you believe will enjoy this poem?  How can you...? It's not an easy path, but can be rewarding when each finally knows he or she has found the story, and told it!
      

photo credit: bachmont via photopin cc

40 comments:

  1. I love using poetry with sixth graders. It can be a struggle! When I say, "poetry" I inevitably hear groans and moans...but what comes out of sixth grade girls AND boys always amazes me (and them)! Can't wait to write some with them! I love the idea of a poetry group!

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    1. This time, it was a choice group to choose whether to work on poetry or fiction for a few weeks and then they'll return to personal writing and other assignments. It's been fun! Thanks, Michelle.

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  2. I love this, Linda. It makes me miss the times I did writing really well in my 5th grade classes many years back, now it seems, but also how my 3rd graders showed me, through poetry, how they can write in ways that are surprising when they are immersed in poetry. The thing I found that helped them was simply to suggest they put "heart" in their poems, consider a surprise ending and the rest you mention: work on the word choices, consider the linebreaks and the "look" of the poem. I used to say that poets are "word artists" and they got that part. It seemed kind of like magic to me when I would see what they could write. My favorite part of what you write about is the need for time and response. Letting and getting them to be able to talk about the work in ways both helpful and serious. Also to honor all the various ways a writer approaches the writing. I find that my ideas spring to me as I go they are there (at least I hope) in my mind as I start, but it is the writing and doing it that can lead to so many opportunities. A blank page cannot grow. But one word on that blank page can. You brightened my morning as I head in to sub, but also made me miss the writing world. With CCSS, I don't think we feel we have to time to invest in the writing workshop as we need. It's all about the time and maybe not rushing our kids so..... Janet F.

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    1. Thanks for such a response Janet. There are all kinds of ways to do it, especially if one is the head teacher, but you're right, time is so important, to me in my writing too! It's the same thing when teachers give time for reading, then they relax into the book, another special time! Thank you!

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  3. "Messing around with words" is exactly what we want kids to do, whether it is poetry or prose. I love reading about the kids in your school and their approach to learning.

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    1. Thanks Elsie, it's a good place for kids I think. And the 'messing about', so important in every area.

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  4. "Why does this topic touch you?" I wonder if at schools this question is asked as often as questions about lines and verses. I have never seen a question like that on a MAP test.

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    1. I can't imagine this on a test, either, Terje. There is no "right" answer.

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  5. I love that Carl Sandburg quote, Linda. He lived in Elmhurst, where I am for a number of years. Thanks for sharing it.

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    1. How wonderful that you were even near where he lived, Julie. I found the quote recently, and think it fits children especially, but really all of us who write and love poetry.

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  6. Wow, sounds like some rigorous work that you're doing with your young friends! It's true that poetry should have a message, and I never thought about it before, but you're right. It's tough to get that idea across to young poets, I bet. Sounds like you're on the path.... keep us posted!

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    1. I think another way to say it is that they need to know the purpose, not just put down pretty words. I don't care if the readers know anything, but I do want the writers to know why.

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  7. I like that your poetry group is filled almost all with boys! You're sure doing great work with them. They have a wonderful poet as their mentor -- you!

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    1. Thank you Stacey-it really is a special group. Wish we could write all year together!

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  8. This is truly inspiring- thank you!

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    1. You're welcome, Jane-having a good time!

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  9. Love this, Linda. What a wonderful group you have going.

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    1. Thanks Katherine-it is indeed a good group!

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  10. I love this writing group, and I was so surprised, yet impressed that it was mostly boys! I also love how you focus on the "story" of the poem. So many young people fail to realize this. We will be able to read any of their work? I would love that!

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    1. When they finish, I will see who would like to share, Leigh Anne. Hopefully I'll have some to share. Thanks for asking!

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  11. I really love the questions you ask the students. I am certain that you are inspiring reflective writers!

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    1. Now the challenge is to make it stick-hope so!

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  12. How great to have this choice time to work deeply on a form of writing. It sounds like a powerful experience for students and for you! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. You're welcome, Joanne. It is a pleasure to be with them.

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  13. Sounds like your group is growing around a common mission of expression. How much time do you have together. I know the students appreciate your gentle teaching touch.

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    1. We meet for about an hour, Margaret, seems like never enough, but it's okay, and as you read what I said, it's fun!

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  14. I love the quote and the questions and your passion for writing that your students certainly see. It is clear, to me, that you hope to inspire writers; however, it is also clear that you will be happy if you inspire thinking, reflective listening, and wonder. There is a LOT of talk and a LOT of reflection that takes place before effective writing. I'm not sure I realized HOW much until this TWT dragged me into its web!

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    1. Exactly, Anita. I am such a process person and believe that so many ingredients have to be put into the mix before production can occur. Plus, I love the process, that 'meandering' I spoke of. Thanks!

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  15. I love poetry. And I love conferring with students. And I love having students share their writing with each other... I love your slice! :-)

    Thanks for sharing your guiding questions at the end. I love getting to peek into your work with students! :-)

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    1. Thanks Jennifer, I'd love to be in your class and write with you and your students! Wouldn't that be such fun!

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    1. You could come visit, Betsy! I rather knew you would like hearing about the poetry! thanks!

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  17. "Writing takes time, and student writers need the time just like other writers."

    I'm beginning to believe TIME is my most precious resource as a writer. It's rubbing me raw the way kids have so little TIME to write and think and weave words. I'm thankful you are advocating for this commodity for all writers.

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    1. Yep, exactly what we need, time to "write and think and weave words". If only... Thank you!

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  18. Linda, I love the questions you ask at the end of this post. I envy you this special time to focus on poetry with a group of students. Meandering and messing about with words. Perfect M&Ms for writing poetry! (You asked about my blog post. Click on Kirby Larson in my SOL and it will take you to the post.)

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    1. Thanks for telling me about the post Ramona, and thanks for the comment. I love the group!

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  19. I love your focus on looking for a story within the poem, and interacting with each other through questions. I know of writing groups that have fallen apart, because responses are statements, often judgments, when almost every writer finds questions the most helpful way to go back in. It's a difficult skill they are learning. Wonderful!

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    1. Thanks Jeannine. It's important to me that they know poems are another kind of story from the writer. They've been wonderful learners!

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  20. Linda, I love this quote. I have to post this at school. I loved how you post meandered as you group did.

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    1. Thanks Jone, it was kind of the way I was thinking about it too, meandering!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!