After 30 days of writing a poem a day, I asked my students to take some time to reflect on what they learned from participating in the challenge. So, in the spirit of full participation, I am also taking the time to reflect on all I learned from this poetry challenge.
My thoughts seem to have coalesced into four categories: learning from poetry, learning from writing, learning from students, and learning from blogging.
Learning from Poetry:
Poetry offers opportunities to express feelings, to practice crafting vivid descriptions, to bring others into your view of the world. Like the sunset, poetry makes everything more beautiful. Each word contributes to the painting the reader experiences, blending and building, As I read poems written by others–published or not–I found inspiration for my own poetry. Poems became mentors for my poems, they opened my eyes to my own experiences, allowing me to see my own life in new ways.
Learning from Writing:
The only way to be a writer is to write. I have learned the lesson again that when I write daily, writing comes. My brain and my hands seem to respond to the daily habit of putting words on a page. Knowing I will write each day helps me pay attention, helps me think about connections between thoughts, actions, and ideas, and helps me articulate my thinking. When I write daily I get into that mode we in the writing project often call writer’s brain. It is a space where experiences become fodder for written expression. When I expect to write, I write more and better and explore life’s possibilities through language. Writing helps me branch out, trying on new ideas in different ways.
Learning from Students:
I have watched my students blossom as writers. Stilted, ordinary poems have become unexpected expressions of whimsy, of fear, of love, of exploration. My students have become a community of writers who are interested in the writing of others and who are eager to share their writing with others. They are talking about their inspiration, about their struggles as writers, about their ideas for revision, and finding poems in their baseball games, in their dance rehearsals, in the night sky, and in the books we read. I have loved watching their poetry grow in sophistication and I have noticed that writing has become less daunting, although no less challenging as they strive to express themselves.
Learning from Blogging:
Blogging my 30 days of poetry has been a public affirmation of poetry as a valuable learning activity. I not only made my own poetry public, but I also showcased the poetry of my students. Giving my students an authentic audience was motivating. They were eager to share their poetry and have it appear on my blog. Many checked my blog to see whose poem they would find. Blogging each day also made real my commitment to being a teacher-writer. I not only teach writing, I write. Being vulnerable as a writer helps me remember that this writing thing is not easy…and is filled with pitfalls. I remember each day when I work with students that writing needs nurturing…and writers do too!
Thanks to all of you who read and liked and commented during our 30-day poetry challenge. I look forward to reading my students’ reflections and hearing their perspectives on this learning. I’ll be sure to share their insights with you too!
It’s been 30 days. A poem and a post each day of the month of April. I’ve fallen into a rhythm, finding spaces for the writing, surfacing ideas for poetry and posts. I know this about myself, the habit of writing makes writing easier for me (not necessarily better, but easier). So what will happen tomorrow? Will I write anyway?
I was drawn to a photo of a circle today and the idea of a circle. No beginning, no end. Maybe the perfect metaphor for the 30th day of the 30-day poetry challenge.
beginning and end
Spots and blots
all 360 degrees
birth and death
where it ends
My students are busily curating their poems, selecting about 10 poems to publish in their own books. They are working to revise and refine…and the poems are gaining depth as they try out new techniques and experiment with form and line breaks.
Here’s one Stone wrote about an engineer who was an accidental paleontologist!
The Secret Engineer
Deep deep underground was a secret engineer.
He never told anyone he saw a dinosaur
because he built a time machine.
There was a hot and blazing sun with loads of heat.
He was in the prehistoric time
He was the best mathematician, he made the best discovery.
With his engineering mind and his scientific brain his inventions were the
Rylan has been writing poems about softball.
Will She Swing?
Yellow with red stripes
resting in a leather open oval
waiting anxiously for the umpire to call out
Will she swing?
And Sadie revised her poem about fire’s evil plot
The fire hisses and cracks in its pen amongst the burnt and crisp logs.
Its angry arms reach up into the umber sky,
then shrivels down.
The fire sneaks up on pieces of marshmallow fluff, thinking of a plot to escape from the charred black pit and leap into the world.
Maybe to a hillside or a house, spreading fiery anger and sadness with it.
When it discovers the perfect scheme, it crackles and reaches into the dark, sending a swirl of smoke into the starry night.
As April ends so does National Poetry Month. I know the power that poetry has on writers and thinkers and learners. The sustained attention that results from 30-days of writing also has power. I’m thinking about other ways to stoke the fires of writing for my students and myself, establishing a firm practice of writing that will take us beyond the end of the school year. Wish me luck!
There is so much to love about the beach. It is different every day, in temperature and temperament. It’s a place for meditation, for exercise, for play. Families have parties, teenagers flirt, lovers walk hand in hand. Birds glide on the currents, crabs scurry in the sand, and if you’re not lucky rays or bees or jellies sting your tender bare feet.
Yesterday’s beach excursion brought me close to a group of people doing handstand tricks on some handstand devices they placed on the sand. They carefully placed their hand, jumped up, and balanced into place. Not content with a simple handstand, they continue to position and reposition, leaning one direction or the other, balancing on one hand, doing splits in the air.
Thinking about all that balancing was the inspiration for today’s poem:
Teetering on the edge
leaning first to the right
and then to the left
feel the taut pull of muscles straining
as eyes narrow their focus
find the delicate balance
first in body, then in mind
Tighten the core
breathe in and out
in rhythm with your heart
in rhythm with the sea
in rhythm with the songs of your soul
stretch and reach
inching your way to new dimensions
all the while
I’m guessing that Gus was inspired by the books we’ve been reading in class. We completed The Wild Robot before our spring break and started The Wild Robot Escapes when we returned. (If you’re looking for a great middle grade read aloud–these are great!)
I work in a snap
I’m programmed like that.
I do what you say.
I work and I work on something until I’m out of juice,
and then you charge me.
Then I work and I work with a snap,
and I work and I work until my heart’s
What will this penultimate day of National Poetry Month inspire in your writing?
Some days I make games out of my photography. To avoid taking the same photos over and over again, I challenge myself to look for letters of the alphabet, a particular color or item…and faces. Today a face grabbed my attention…and got me thinking about today’s poem.
Take a look around
grinning up from a patch of grass
Look at the sliding door
and find a face staring back
The cliff suddenly comes to life
watching you walk along the shore
look over the pier, the surfers, the seagulls
They’re all around
reflecting our expressions
mirroring our emotions
Today’s student poem is by Siena…a poem of apology inspired by William Carlos Williams.
I’m sorry for leaving the gate open and letting you escape to our neighbor’s house
I was so excited to go
But l just got carried away
Forgive me, l thought l lost you
We found you
What kind of poem will you play around with today?
Art is essential to learning. I like to integrate it into all we do in the classroom. Art takes many forms: writing (like the poetry we’ve been composing), music (singing and dancing), and of course, the visual arts including painting, drawing, photography…and today, clay. Art seems to release inhibitions and increase confidence when students have the space to fail…and to iterate.
We’re lucky at my school. We have access to clay, glazes, and a kiln to fire the products we make. But as the classroom teacher, I have to have enough confidence and knowledge to teach the skills and processes to my students. And I am no expert. I talked with the teacher at my site who is in charge of the clay materials and kiln about working with clay, the ideas I had in mind, and then used the internet to further explore possibilities.
Yesterday I showed my students my ideas for our clay project and a short video demonstrating the techniques they would use today. And today, I pulled out the clay and the creating began. Students created pinch pot ocean creatures. The room hummed with creativity and imagination. They supported each other, they accepted feedback, and they worked independently. They know that disaster might be around the corner as our creations hit the kiln…and they are hopeful. We’ll try a second iteration on Monday.
a malleable medium
warmed through manipulation
forming tangible objects
And a student poem about earth’s bounty:
Dragon scales tough and sharp
An artichoke with leafy greens like dragon wings
Flapping high in the wind as it soars
To a new spot with its dragon-like head.
Art and earth…and of course, day 27 of poetry!