Tag Archives: mentor text

Write About Hands: NPM20 Day 28

Our mentor text for today was Karla Kuskin’s Write About a Radish, a fun reminder that there are topics that are overused and sometimes we need to think about the mundane, the ordinary, the run of the mill when we go looking for poems.

My students had fun with this.  They wrote about grubs, paper, kumquats, an ant, a carrot and more.  I am reminded that it really does take daily practice and a commitment to trying things that feel hard or uncomfortable to get better at whatever skill you are working on.  I can see my students’ daily improvements, moments of breakthrough, troughs of lack of inspiration.  One of the benefits of the this remote learning environment is that I am writing feedback on the poems that are submitted each day–and I see the take up of that feedback in subsequent poems.

My own poems are lacking that kind of feedback.  But lucky for me, I am also learning from my students.  As I study their poems, I learn about my own.  When I see their fresh, unexpected moves, I imagine what those might look like in my own poetry.  And like them, the daily practice matters.

So my own poem, inspired by Karla Kuskin’s Write About a Radish.

Write About Hands

 

Write about hands

too many people write about diamonds.

 

The shiny gold setting

the faceted cuts

that reflect the sun

creating a sky full of stars

in the moonless sky.

 

These hands

with unrefined nails

and sun beaten skin

wear those diamonds,

a symbol of a love

that endures.

®Douillard

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With a Repeated Refrain: NPM20 Day 22

Today we used a poem by Julie Fogliano called When Green Becomes Tomatoes, from a book by the same name, as our mentor for poetry writing in our virtual classroom.  Two defining features of the poem are the repeated refrain of when green becomes tomatoes” and the use of parentheses to bring in some extra information.

My students came at this poem from some different directions, some picking up on the structural refrain, others on the description of a season or time, while others played with the use of parentheses.  Here are a couple of examples.

Max created this gorgeous piece of digital art and composed a science poem with the repeated refrain:

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E’s poem captures his (and our) sense of this moment when solitude and staying home are our current reality and “busy’ness” is starting to sound good!

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My own poem was inspired by watching some small birds on the tree in my front yard…and then borrowing from Julie Fogliano’s structure to make sense of my thoughts.

Spring’s Song

When chirps become spring’s song

sunlight will flood the sky

and energy will sprout

like greet shoots emerging from rich, damp soil

when chirps become spring’s song

days will stretch

and we will itch

for beaches, parks, and winding mountain paths

when chirps become spring’s song

gentle breezes

will tickle the tree tops

and leaves will dance with the colorful blossoms

when chirps become spring’s song

birds will perch

watching over nests of wide-open mouths

singing songs of promise:

there will be tomorrows

(more happy than sad)

(more future than past)

when the world reopens (even just a tiny bit)

and chirps become spring’s song

 

®Douillard

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Question Poems: NPM20 Day 20

Have you written a question poem?  What questions do you have about them?  Can you compose a poem made entirely of questions?

I figured my students, who tend to have a million questions every day–both in person and virtually–would be experts at this poetry form.  To inspire and mentor them, I offered them Yellow Weed by Lilian Moore along with a guiding sheet (in lieu of face-to-face instruction) encouraging them to brainstorm possible questions, to include sensory details and imagery, and to thoughtfully arrange the questions they came up with.

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And their early drafts show promise.  I’m still wishing for more detail, more elaboration, more figurative language, but these 8 and 9 year olds poets are becoming more and more confident writers.

And then I ended up writing my own question poem about a yellow weed–one that I like to describe as a wildflower.  Wild mustard is not native to these parts, but it grows as if it is.  Wild mustard in the spring–with a little water and sunshine–grows lush and tall and is a riot of yellow!

Here’s my question poem–and I might have cheated since I ended with a sentence rather than a question.

Wildflowers

 

Who plants you by the side of the road?

Is it the wind as it picks up your wispy seeds and slings them wide?

How do you grow tall, so far over my head?

Do rain and sun grab hands and circle you with hope?

Where do you go when the sun is too hot, the ground too dry?

Can you melt back into the soil like an abandoned ice cream cone?

What keeps you coming back?

Do bees and butterflies remember your generosity and return to visit?

Why do I love you?

Tall yellow blossoms wave and sway

reminding me that after the dark and gray of winter, light and warmth will come.

 

®Douillard

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What question poem will you write?

 

 

Science Poems: NPM20 Day 17

Today my students revisited the poem, Go Fly a Kite by Laura Purdie Salas.  The poem combines kite flying and some science of flight.  After reading and studying the poem, students were challenged to write their own science-based poem.  And they did!

Here’s a couple of student examples.  The first is D’s poem about the egg drop experience that kids were working on before school closed.  They ended up completing this experiment at home.

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And I’m not surprised that P managed to get basketball into his science poem!  (Everything is about basketball in P’s mind!)

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You may notice that the mentor poem was both a rhyming poem and a concrete (shape) poem–and there is evidence of the concrete shape in D’s poem and the rhyme (even when it’s a stretch) in P’s.  It’s a good reminder to me to think those aspects through when I am selecting mentor poems for writing.

My own poem was inspired by the sky when I headed out for my walk this morning and was immediately drawn to look up at the sky.

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Read the Future

 

Look up

and read the future

in that freckled sky

 

blue skies veiled

by layers of stratus

where water molecules

gather and condense

 

will they release

the promised precipitation?

will raindrops

race down our already saturated hills?

 

Apply pressure

to keep the sky blue

pushing back against clouds

pressing

the rain away

 

Look up

that freckled sky

might be a crystal ball

predicting

weekend rain

 

®Douillard

What science concepts might you include in a poem today?

SOLC Day 31: On the last day…

I thought I would have something pithy to say on my 31st consecutive post. Instead, I offer the poem I wrote (virtually) with my students today. Our mentor poem today was William Carlos Williams The Red Wheelbarrow.

The Black Crow

Today’s quarantine inspiration

depends upon

the black crow

in the sun-dappled tree

framed by the endless

blue sky

next to the empty

parking lot

®Douillard

And a student version by S:

My shoes 

So many steps

I take 

They may be

muddy 

Beside the concrete 

porch

I will miss writing my daily slice–but have committed to writing and posting a poem a day for the month of April. Maybe some of the rest of you will join me!

SOLC Day 30: Urban Pinecones

With April right around the corner, I launched the poem-a-day challenge with my class today. I am practiced at this launch in the classroom. I know just how to motivate my students, get them engaged with language play, give them feedback on their early attempts and keep the momentum going throughout the month.

But this year, as we all know, is different. I made a short video of myself explaining the challenge. I sent my students out around their homes today in search of “tiny perfect things.” I asked them to pick one of those things and create a list of 10 great words related to one of the tiny perfect things…and then introduced a mentor text poem.

Today’s poem was one I thought would be highly accessible. Things to do if you are a Pencil by Elaine Magliaro Is vivid and fun, and encourages the use of strong verbs and metaphorical thinking. In the remote learning environment, I realized that my examples became even more important and that my feedback was necessary to push students toward more detail and elaboration.

I’ve asked my students to both keep a physical notebook for their poems in progress and to post them on a slide deck that I started for them in Google Classroom. Here are a few examples of student pieces on day 1.

I love that they each found something they cared about to use as their subject. I’m thrilled to see traces of the mentor text, and that there is strong language use even in these first drafts. I am excited to see what day 2 brings.

And here is my poem for the day:

Urban Pinecones

Be tough and hang on tight as cars whiz by

creating a storm of dust and wind.

Prepare to roll

kicked by joggers, bumped by strollers,

slobbered on by neighborhood dogs.

Listen to the stoplight chatter

“Wait”

and heed the warning.

Hope to land above the curb

where the soil awaits.

Hear the echoes of squirrels and coyotes

and the caws of the crows.

And dream of forests

from your pile on the side of the road.

SOLC Day 3: Writing Under the Influence

Yesterday’s photography foray into the garden was still on students’ minds today.  I always seem to be living (and teaching) on borrowed time, so after finishing up some other work I was able to give students time to go back and look through the photographs they took yesterday.  I asked them to select their three “best” photos…thinking about the categories/compositional strategies they had tried yesterday.  Then of the three, figure out which one would be best as a black and white image.  I showed my own process, talking through the three photos I selected and showing my black and white image (you can see it on yesterday’s post). They were excited…eager to select, eager to edit, and I smartly limited the time to minutes in the single digits.  I called them together, iPads in hand, and had them all hold up their images.  Stunning, striking, interesting, and sometimes surprising…all words that described those photographs.

And with a few minutes until recess, I reminded students about the poem we had read and studied yesterday: Peeling an Orange  by Eve Merriam.  I started my own poem in front of my students, thinking aloud as I talked through what I saw in this mentor text and writing my poem’s first lines.  I knew they were ready as they suggested ideas for my writing, questioned my decisions, and started asking questions about their own writing-to-be.

There is something magical about writing under the influence.  EVERY SINGLE STUDENT in my class had a title and an path forward for their poem in less than 5 minutes…and were asking when they would have time to return to this writing as we walked out to recess.

Just enough structure and lots choice meant students took photos of what caught their eyes. Being outdoors, wandering through the garden felt more like play than work–offering opportunities for creativity and exploration.  Selecting meant making some intentional choices–but choices again.  And nothing makes my students happier than messing with filters in editing mode!

We read and study a poem each week, so my students are familiar with poetry as a mentor text.  They know me well, expecting to write any time we do something creative and artistic. And there is something wonderful about writing short.  Small poems invite students to try something new, explore language, and still know the end is in sight.  The lift is somehow just right.

Here’s a tiny taste:

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And on some crazy whim, I decided to have my students create a slide deck of their small poems and photographs this afternoon.  (Reminiscent of something we did for #writeout and #clmooc)  So here they are:  first draft small poems and Ansel Adam-inspired photos from the garden.  We were definitely under the influence:  of nature, of photography, of freedom and choice, of a mentor text, and of a community of writers composing together.

 

 

 

 

Collaboration: Learning from a Mentor Text

Have you ever written an etheree?  I hadn’t–and hadn’t even heard of this particular poetic form until I came across the book Thanku: Poems of Gratitude by Miranda Paul.  As I read I came across a poem–an etheree-All This by Liz Garton Scanlon.  A poem that begins with one syllable and builds one syllable at a time until it reaches ten syllables in line ten.  In All This, Scanlon shows appreciation and gratitude for a small pleasure (or maybe a collection of small pleasures)…the snow, a book, a bubble bath, a cat…

Coming back from our winter break in early January, this seemed like a perfect alternative to resolution making and would ease us all back into writing and reading and thinking and planning.  So, in #collaboration with Liz Garton Scanlon, my students and I embarked on some etheree writing…and finally…today, I got their finished Postcards to Myself up on the classroom wall!

It feels like serendipity that this culmination coincided with the #clmooc poetry port invitation #collaboration!  I love that I can celebrate my students’ poetry and the power of a mentor text…and my own poem too.

postcard to myself

And here is a a closer view of a couple of student creations (8 and 9 year olds)…the first by H:

Bone

 

Skull

Fossil

Dinosaur

Bones in the ground

Brushing off the dust

Prehistoric fossils

Putting on the soft plaster

Breaking the hard rock to find bone

T-Rex has a small name but it’s huge

Fossils are everywhere in the world.

Bones

And another by B:

The Art of Folding Origami

 

Fold

sharp ends

crisp paper.

Origami

the art of folding

take your time, be precise

make sure you use square paper.

I can fold cranes, swords, hats, and more

fold until your run out of paper

origami is hard, so keep trying.

origami

And my own:

Inhale

 

Beach

with sand

bright sunshine

cool frothy waves

and perky sea birds.

I walk and watch and shoot

camera ready, focused

helping me see the world clearly.

I have so much to be grateful for

and I breathe in: inhaling sea’s bounty.

 

®Douillard

egret with reflection

Now it’s your turn to join in the collaboration!  Will you try an etheree?

 

 

What Students Love: #writeout

As promised, here are some of my students’ poetry inspired by Lee Bennett Hopkins’ City I Love.  (For more details, check out this previous post.)

Even before pulling out City I Love, I launched the idea of writing about place by reading All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan and Where Am I From by Yamile Saied Mendez.  Students then created heart maps of the places they love (ala Georgia Heard).  By this time students were excited about the places they love, eager to tell each other and me all about them.  But instead of diving right into the writing, I asked students to “map” themselves.  I tried to keep this direction pretty broad, letting students take it in any direction they wanted.  These watercolor and black sharpie marker masterpieces are the result!

This map is a wonderful map creature by H.

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And his poem:

Morro Rock I love

Looking at the dormant volcano 

The fish swarm in the water 

The sound of the sea gulls

The smell of the salty sea.

Casting a line

Getting the bait 

catching the fish.

It’s just sitting in place

Day after day

Year after year

For hundred of years.

Walking on the beach

looking at the fish and crabs

and looking at the ocean scenery

Sitting on a dock waiting for a fish

like waiting for a train.

 

And a pineapple map by I.

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And her poem about a very special bench that honors her grandmother:

The Bench I Love

 On the bench I sit at

      Bench I love 

I watch the flowers flowers flow 

As the birds glide slow as they pass by their home

Through the palm tree garden I go 

Past the great sun’s glow

On the bench I sit at

Bench I love 

I sit down and watch the tide curl 

Up & down it will go 

On the bench I sit at 

bench I love

The breeze flies past my hair 

And chases the ocean’s salty waves

On the bench I sit at

 bench I love

I sit down and inhale

Look up and exhale

And a horse map by S.

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Accompanied by a barn poem:

Barn I Love

Barn I go to

barn I love.

Horse smelling wonder beyond city.

Gallops of emotion. Races of hearts.

Barn I go to 

barn I love.

Each morning a sweet smell of hay .

Each night a thankful nay.

Barn I go to 

barn I love.

Morning wet covers the arena.

Full of playful horses running.

Barn I go to 

barn I love.

Stardust black mares galloping in the cold moon.

 Sunset colored  butterflies leave at the end of the day.

I told my students that I would use my blog to amplify their voices (our vocabulary word from last week!).  I know they will appreciate your comments.  And know that these are just a glimpse of what my students created as they thought about the places and activities that matter to them.

How are you celebrating writing in your classroom, in your home, in your life?  #writeout

                      

Exploring Still Life: NPM 2019 Day 16

As a way to help students go deeper with their poetry, we tried on some still life poems today inspired by Work Boots: Still Life by Jim Daniels.  I experimented a bit the other day with my poem about malasadas, and could see ways this approach might help my students. We practiced together using the classroom rocking chair as our subject.  I encouraged students to push their ideas, moving beyond the literal, stretching to unexpected comparisons.  Using the structure described by Go Poems, students then brainstormed a description of an item of their choice (a thing, not a person or animal) and then considered the deeper meaning of the item.  Using Work Boots as a mentor text, they wrote their own poems.

Frankie, who is obsessed with books, wrote this still life poem:

Poem Book: Still Life

On my shelf

just waiting to be read

it is a poem book.

So as I touch it

the hard cover is blank.

Open, close with a snap.

Floating on a river of poems,

feeling relaxed on my boat

taking me to places I have never been.

New words, new poems.

Places like the forest to the sea, on the fields

and in my bed.

Sloane, who was wearing a skeleton key necklace today, took that as inspiration.

Rusty Key: Still Life

The wispy key, sitting quietly

waiting to unlock the door to the world.

With waves swirling at the top

like octopus arms.

There on that silent table

at the end of this wonderful old key are two humps

like a camel

ready to click the invisible switch

behind the clockwork of the door.

That’s where the new world unfolds.

You see, this old silver useful and quiet key

can do so much.

The key finally breathes a sigh of relief.

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And my poem was about my alarm clock:

Alarm Clock: Still Life

Next to my bed

my alarm clock stands guard

silent glowing numbers

mark the invisible

beat of the day, keeping track of

seconds,

minutes,

hours,

days

When the time is right

the tiny bird chirps

insistent

incessant

tearing me from my dreams

as my hands reach and fumble

to press snooze

annoyed yet comforted

knowing it will chirp

again

I drift back to my dreams.

©Douillard