Tag Archives: teaching

Pollinate the Future

I love Fridays.  There is something wonderful about a teaching day that is flexible, full, and ready for whatever learning opportunity is needed.  My plan book was blank today, but I knew just what learning would support the learners in our class today.  We didn’t squander a single minute…and left inspired and ready…for more learning, for spring break, and for our 30-day poetry challenge!

My time in the garden yesterday stayed with me today.  I was thinking about bees and the work they do.  As I wrote today (waiting for a table to be ready for us for dinner), I realized that teachers are a lot like bees.  The work we do is often perceived as unremarkable, the day in day out attending to a series of seemingly small skills that add up to fueling all of the professions in our country.  Like bees and pollination, teaching is work that matters in so many ways but seems so inconsequential in its dailiness.  As teachers, we pollinate the future, growing the innovators, the designers, the architects, the scientists, the work force of the future.  I’ve learned to appreciate bees, and I know that teachers are appreciated in many circles, but the teaching profession tends to be under appreciated and misunderstood in our larger society.  Enough from my soapbox, here’s today’s poem:

Bees

Cellophane wings

with invisible speed

buzz buzz

carry fuzzy pollinators

from bloom to bloom

buzz buzz

doing unremarkable work

that matters

to all of us

buzz buzz

pollinating the future

Douillard 2018

bees

I can feel the pollination of poetry taking hold in the classroom.  Students came in to school this morning ready to share poems they had worked on at home overnight.  Here’s a little collection to enjoy!

Trees

Tall, lanky branches

stretch out

like fireworks,

leaves explode into different colors

throughout seasons,

roots grapple to find water in the dry soil.

After getting old

the bark shreds off,

like a snake shedding its skin.

The branches that used to be fireworks

slowly snap, then fall

and break into pieces of branch and twig.

Koa

Avi's tree

The Giant

The giant soars above me

towering over the town

the giant’s arms glide against the wind

over everything in the park

the calm surrounds me

as the roots dig deeper into the ground.

silently watching everything

Photo and poem by Avi

And something playful…

siena's hula hoop

A Hula Hoop

It twirls like never before
it dances like a ballerina
it spins like a dreidel

When it falls it gets back up

Photo and poem by Siena

It’s officially spring break…I can’t wait to see how the poetry momentum sustains when we are away from school!

Garden Poetry

My students are lucky.  They spend a half an hour in our school garden every week, growing vegetables, learning about bugs, noticing what grows well and what struggles, and tasting!  I often don’t get to go out with them, but today because of a shift in my schedule due to conferences, I joined them…and turned it into an opportunity for poetry writing!

I was drawn to the artichokes, purple and green knots growing strong and tall.  When my students sat down to write, so did I.

artichoke

Artichokes

Globes

like dinosaur paws

clenched

holding a tender heart inside

tiny swords

protect that meaty center

purplish green

beckons…attracting me

and spotted ladybugs

When will they be ripe?

Douillard 2018

I know that photographs and visual images inspire my writing.  It’s true for many of my students as well.  During yesterday’s search for the ordinary, I noticed one of my students arranging jumpropes on the ground and photographing them.  And then this sometimes reluctant writer sat down to write.

Color Brain

Color strings sewing

my brain into thoughts,

ones about madness,

ones about fear,

ones about happiness,

ones about sickness,

ones about coldness,

and ones about love.

On the string of fear

the purple hides

with red,

next to blue and turquoise.

Leah

Leah's photo

How’s your poetry writing coming along?  What inspires your words and thoughts?

Ordinary Inspiration

The weather was gray and gloomy today, but that didn’t stop us from venturing out with our iPads and poetry notebooks in search of inspiration for continuing our poem-a-day challenge. Students were excited about the prospect of exploring the playground as a source of inspiration.  They had 5 minutes to explore and take one photo.  The next 7 minutes were spent drafting a poem.  After some sharing back in the classroom, they had 7 more minutes to revise.

Our school yard is filled with trees, palm trees and pine trees, and the kids love to play under them and around them.  And some were inspired to write a poem featuring a tree, like this one:

Tree

A tree that I’m looking up to

I see it in the distance

I call it my wishtree

It’s as high as the bright blue sky with big bushy leaves

Shining down to me

Calling me

Brayden

My poem for today also features a tree–the iconic palm that stands in the center of the playground.

cardiff palm

The Cardiff Palm

Tall against the thick gray blanket of clouds

that blocks the sun.

Your crown of green fans out:

a home for birds

shade on sunny summer days.

An ever-present sentinel, standing watch

over generations of school children

listening to their playful shrieks

a backrest for tired athletes

a symbol of our coastal community.

Tireless palm

standing tall.

Douillard 2018

Some kids are still refining their poems inspired by William Carlos Williams.  Here’s one inspired by the Red Wheelbarrow:

The Rocky River

So much depends

upon the river.

The fish slither through

the river.

Tadpoles turn into

frogs.

And birds fly over all!

Stone

And this one by This is Just to Say:

Easter Candy

 

I have stolen the Easter candy

that you hid in the cabinet

 

that you were probably saving

for after dinner

 

Forgive me

They tasted so good

 

The chocolate wafers

gave it away

 

Kalani

 

This is Just to Say…

Today’s poetry inspiration came from Williams’ poem of apology, This is Just to Say.  In addition to studying the original, we also read some of the poems written by 6th graders in the book also titled This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman.

Students had fun playing around with their own poems of apology.  Here’s a couple composed by the third graders in my class to give you a taste:

Dear Romeo,

I’m sorry I have to whip you sometimes

Also, I might tire you out sometimes,

but you’re always a handsome horse

lovable, huggable, gentle, and soft

Oh how I love your long mane

drifting in the sky

when we canter across the field

Love,

Tyler

I gave them a whole 7 minutes of writing time!  It’s conference week, so students are on a minimum day schedule…and time is short!

I’m sorry Kai for poking you.

Sorry, I really didn’t think it through.

Although we had fun doing it, I’m sorry Kai for poking you.

Cody

And one more student poem, this one inspired by yesterday’s Red Wheelbarrow.

The Thread

 

So much depends on

a brand new jacket

and a loose thread

 

Pulling

into bits and pieces

 

until it is

one loose

and wiggly line

 

Lauryn

I found myself returning to the topic I explore in my first two poems.  Today’s was written to that same egret I featured before–but from a slightly different angle.

This is Just to Say, My Friend

 

I have stalked you

my lens focused close

waiting for your head to turn

your neck to arch.

 

You seem so peaceful

and focused as you

stare out at the blue horizon

scanning for danger

or maybe appreciating the view.

 

I’m sorry for any disturbance

I cause with my close looking

and the click of the shutter.

 

I just can’t resist your elegant neck

and charming yellow feet!

 

Douillard 2018

LRG_DSC08563

Maybe, dear reader, you’ll try your own poem of apology today!

Let the Poetry Begin!

My students and I decided to take a 30-day challenge to celebrate National Poetry Month. We have committed to writing a poem each day of the month–in spite of the fact that our spring break begins when school is out on Friday!  Hopefully, a poetry-filled launch this week will keep the poetry spirit alive and well during our time off.

To add to the motivation–for myself and my students–I plan to blog my poem-a-day…and feature poems written by my students on my blog as well.

To get started, I will include my poems one and two here today.  Look for some student poems starting tomorrow–they needed time to refine their early efforts.

Yesterday’s poem was inspired by the snowy egret I watched and photographed on the beach on Friday.

snowy egret

Snowy Egret

Tuned to channel nature

where the constant whoosh and roar of waves

matches the rhythm of my heart

 

I scan the distant horizon

for the alabaster of my low-tide friend

As I come close

I notice the porcelain statue

with yellow feet

that unexpectedly

stomp and stir the shallows.

 

He’s rewarded for patience and persistence

with a briny treat.

 

My reward is the glimpse

of those charming yellow feet.

Today we learned about William Carlos Williams through the book, A River of Words.  After reading a bit about his life and interests, we studied The Red Wheelbarrow to pay attention to how Williams put this iconic poem together.  We then did some writing of our own under the influence of The Red Wheelbarrow.  

Here’s my version, again related to the egret I am so drawn to.

The Tidepools

So much depends

upon

a low tide

on the beach

uncovering shallow pools

filled with fish and crustaceans

nearby the snowy egret

wades and waits.

How are you celebrating National Poetry Month?

On the National Day on Writing

Today is the National Day on Writing–a day to celebrate all that writing offers.  My students were excited this morning at the thought that they would get to write today.  In fact, they were already excited about the writing they had done last night in their Learning at Home notebooks. We started the day listening to a short story by a student about a leaf, a leaf personified, who travels from a tree branch to a construction site and eventually back to a leaf pile with the help of the leaf blower.  We could have spent the entire morning listening to stories written by students…but we had writing to do!

Inspired by Red Sings from the Treetops by Joyce Sidman, we began writing our own color-inspired poetry earlier this week.  Today we took those bits and starts and worked to craft them into a whole piece.  Some students were spectacularly successful, some had moments of brilliance, and others veered away from color and still wrote some interesting accounts of things they are interested in.  They wrote, read to a partner, and eventually created a short video of themselves reading their poem on Flipgrid.  And while their first attempts are not ready for “prime time,” I am proud of all they accomplished today and their enthusiastic and creative approach to our day.

Here are a few glimpses:

In winter, yellow sighs, I’m done.  None of my sunlight can peek through clouds as dark as the oceans’ most shadowy blue places.  It’s time white takes his place..

(Third grade boy)

In summer yellow shines from the sky while blue splashes .  Colorful plants explode with power and beauty.  In summer blue wraps around my ankles.  Red rises from green…

(Third grade girl)

In the morning gold wakes me up with his paws and barking, “I’m hungry.” And with his pink tongue, gold wets my face…

(Third grade boy)

At the beach, green is sly.  It slithers by surfboards, sneaks by me and ties a slippery knot around my legs…

(Third grade girl)

Students left today wanting more…begging for more opportunities to write and share.  My students remind me that writing can be playful and creative, an opportunity for social interaction and experimentation.  They remind me that there are lots of reasons #whyiwrite!

 

Paying Attention: #whyiwrite 2017

Fall is subtle in San Diego. Instead of a riotous celebration of trees dressed in their best fall colors I notice that the lifeguard towers have been moved from their strategic summer shoreline positions to a collection near the road. Instead of grabbing a sweater and drinking warm apple cider, we scan the horizon for evidence of wildfires as hot winds gust and whip the dry grasses and dust into a frenzy.

lifeguard towers

But in spite of these easy to miss markers of fall, there are seasons in San Diego. Not the two (spring and summer) that so many use to describe our temperate climate, but four distinct seasons that you might only recognize if you take the time to notice, document, and reflect.

fall colors on the ocean

It’s like that in my classroom too. As teachers (and maybe as parents and learners too) we all wish that learning came with recognizable markers of growth. That we could watch the leaves of learning change from green to yellow to brilliant crimson, celebrating new knowledge, expertise and confidence. We’d love for snowplows to mark the new pathways that allow for connections between new concepts and older understandings. But learning is often subtle. It is incremental, sneaking its way into our synapses and those of our students without fanfare.

To pay attention to these subtleties, I turn to my camera.  My camera has become my go-to tool for focusing my attention, allowing me to notice and document changes in my environment.  Through its lens, I pay attention to changes in light and shadow, notice moods and action, and see what might otherwise be overlooked.  Combined with writing, reflection becomes a daily habit with camera in hand.

black and white seagull

Writing helps me pay attention. It helps me record the small details that don’t seem to amount to much and notice how those details change, accumulate, and grow over time. And when paired with photography, writing helps me leap from concrete to abstract, considering why a photo of lifeguard towers stored for the fall and winter draws my attention to my students and their learning. Writing pushes me from the tediums of day to day, to examine the reasons I keep returning to those same topics. And even more importantly, when I write, I am reminded of the power of writing not just for myself but also for my students and that helps me search for ways to support them as they find their own reasons to write.

I write to support my students as writers, knowing that the power of the pen will open possibilities for thinking, learning, and problem solving. And when I pay close attention, I will not only learn about them but also from them. That’s why I write.