Tag Archives: mentor text

Teacher-Writer

What does it mean to identify as teacher-writer?

I write with my students, I write for my students, I write to understand my students, I write to understand my teaching and my students’ learning. That’s probably the definition of teacher-writer.

Today I experimented with a writing provocation I found in a Teachers and Writers Magazine article. It attracted my attention because it began with doing–actually with a blind contour drawing. I love to have students do something as a provocation for writing–probably because I like to DO as a way to instigate my own writing.

So, following the directions in the article, I used my non-dominant hand to draw my hand, keeping my eyes on my hand and not on the drawing. I tried not to lift my pen, keeping my pen following all the lines and shapes I saw on my hand.

After drawing I opened my notebook and began a list of words evoked by my examination of my hand. then I came up with some metaphors. I thought back to memories about what my hands had touched or done, capturing some of those thoughts in my notebook. I went on to express my gratitude to my hands.

The next step was to write about my hand, using the ideas generated before–or not–for about 7 minutes (my favorite writing time!).

Finally, using a different colored pen, I added words to my blind contour drawing of my hand, creating a collage of sorts. I didn’t directly copy my writing, just added some of the words and phrases I had generated.

Students could go on to write an essay or ode about their hands, having generated a plethora of ideas.

Having tried this writing on as a writer myself helps me identify how it might or might not work for my students. My young students might do better studying their non-dominant hand and using their dominant hand for drawing. I know they will worry about how the drawing might come out–I’ll have to show them some strategies and perhaps do a practice or two before we start for real. We may brainstorm words about their hands as a group before they begin their individual lists. But, I think I’ll try this project with my students. I love the blind contour aspect, the close examination, and the way that careful attention leads to more interesting writing.

What strategies do you use to keep the writerly part of yourself sharp? How do you hone your skills as a teacher-writer? Does anyone know a great picture book that focuses on one body part that is not about hands?

List Poems: NPM #20

On day 20 of the poem-a-day challenge, we tackled the list poem. Using Eileen Spinelli’s Creativity as our mentor text, we studied how this list poem was constructed. Students noticed the list of ordinary objects, pointed out the rhyme, saw the punctuation and got ready to create their own lists.

Often, I base my poems on a photo I’ve taken. But today, I decided to write my list poem about poetry…and found myself putting bits of language from my students into it (including that rat from yesterday!). Here’s my first attempt:

Poetry

Poetry

swirls together

sights and sounds

popping like popcorn

then paints on details

like the furry mountain

that was once a rat

you can smell

the tropical sunscreen

slathered on tender skin

and climb the Eiffel Tower

to view the sights

of Paris below

Poetry

links animals and machines

growling and leaping

flowers and candy

sweet, tasty, colorful

blooming in my imagination

quenching my thirst

with cool, fizzy, wetness

that takes my to the seashore

where poetry lives

®Douillard

Planting Seeds: SOLC #29

We’ve been writing in 7 minute intervals. Every day. Sometimes several times a day. There’s something about the timer that seems to help my students focus intently on the writing. And when the timer sounds, someone always wants to share.

Of course, that 7 minutes is only the smallest part of what it means to write. That timer-influenced writing usually follows a stimulus of some kind (often a picture book or poem), conversation as a group and in partners, studying a mentor text and the moves that writers make, and sometimes drawing or some other kind of art.

Today we wrote about a place we love. But first, last week we read My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero. We noticed how she focused on places she loved in her community and on her dad and family. We studied her writing. We marked the action words she used: zigzagged, cruised, revs, and roars. We notice the way she uses senses, including sounds and smells and textures, in her descriptions. We paid attention to her comparison of the experience of riding the motorcycle to a comet in the sky. Then we started to name places we love: Tennessee, Legoland, grandma’s house, the kitchen… We sketched a map of this place. And finally, after a quick demonstration of how I might use the mentor text to get started with my writing, I set the timer.

A hush fell over the room. Pencils raced across the page. And when the timer rang, hands started going up. Unfortunately, there was no time to share today. We’ll have to start there tomorrow. I can’t wait to hear how these much-loved places will be transformed into words on the page.

Writing with students is all about planting seeds. I can’t wait to see what blossoms.

Tiny Perfect Things: SOLC #22

Today students continued their work with photography after we read Tiny Perfect Things. We took the iPads and headed out onto the track around the field to uncover our own tiny (or not so tiny) perfect things. We then used Elaine Magliaro’s poem Things to do if you are a Pencil as a mentor text to get started on a poem to accompany the photo each student selected.

We didn’t get to any sort of publication today, so I don’t have student texts to share with you. That will have to come later.

But, I did write with my students, inspired by this photo and our 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

img_6783

 

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.