Tag Archives: writing

Puzzling Times

I don’t play games.  I’m a pretty reluctant participant to those ice breaking activities we all experience in professional development, the days we head back to school in the fall, and now even on the ever-constant Zoom meetings.  And I don’t own any jigzaw puzzles.

At least I didn’t.  Until last week when the constant sameness of the stay-at-home, work-at-home, play-at-home routine drove me in search of novelty–in the form of a jigsaw puzzle.

As a disclaimer, I did play games as a kid.  I did puzzles as a kid.  My own children played games and put puzzles together.  But game playing, as a family activity–as an adult activity is really not a part of my everyday life.

But there was a puzzle to purchasing a puzzle.  They are obviously in demand right now.  Amazon is delivering puzzles in July.  Target had none in stock.  But I did find one that I could order online at Barnes and Noble and pick up in the store near my house.  My husband thought I was crazy when I came home with the puzzle–but he’s a good sport so we cleared some space on the table (we each have a table as our home offices) and opened the box.

There’s something oddly soothing about looking through hundreds of tiny interlocking pieces in search of a straight edge.  It’s both mindless and intentional.  Stimulating and calming.  Purposeful and aimless.  We found ourselves shifting roles, one of us searching, one of us building and then trading.  Patterns began to emerge and all those bits of color, pieces of words, and abstract shapes began to take on meaning and become recognizable as parts of a bigger whole.

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I’m looking for that same sense of recognition to make sense of the disparate pieces that now constitute work and life during a global pandemic.  Shutting down and sheltering in place has been scary and stressful, but began with a sense of temporary.  As we stretch into the third month and looking to the future feels like looking into the brand new box of a 1000 random pieces, “normal” and whole feels so far away.

It was hard to grasp finishing the school year without being face to face with my students.  It’s harder still to imagine starting a new school year meeting my students through a computer screen.  Or teaching students in shifts and keeping them at arm’s length.  And maybe hardest of all, just not knowing what the next day, the next week, the next month will mean for all of us as we navigate so much unknown…with the threat of disease and death attached to all we don’t know.

So for now, I’m making sense of jigsaw puzzles while I am not able to make sense of the world.  We finished that first puzzle today, enjoying the satisfaction of setting those final pieces into place to complete the picture.

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New puzzles have been ordered and we’ll take this one apart tomorrow, careful to make sure that all the pieces get back into the box.  And we’ll offer it up to family and friends, giving someone else a chance to make sense of 1,000 pieces.

In these puzzling time, I’ll be doing some more puzzling.

Slant: NPM20 Day 24

Slant

It’s all on the slant

slippery and sliding

out of balance

out of whack

 

Vision limited

window views

front door views

only in the neighborhood views

 

Living small

the world in a box

screen eyes, screens eyed

encircled by a 6 foot bubble

 

Waiting to connect

reconnect, person-to-person

straightening slowly

until the slant

tips upright

into place

and balance

is restored.

 

®Douillard

 

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Haiku for Healing: NPM20 Day 23

My students and I are 23 days into our poem-a-day challenge.  While not all have stayed caught up…many have.  It’s such fun to watch their knowledge and skills with poetry and writing grow as they engage with written language  and ideas every day.

Yesterday I invited students to create some Haiku focused on gratitude–something I had experienced through #haikuforhealing a while back.  This seemed like a good time for some healing Haiku.

It was such fun to see what my student came up with.  They posted their Haiku along with a photo on our class padlet.  Here is a small collection of just the poetry–and notice how many students focused on family members as the subject of their poems.

And my own:

Neighborhood Nature
wind brushing my face
dappled light bouncing off trees
nature brings me peace
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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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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?

Time for Revision: NPM20 Day 15

On day 15 of our poem-a-day challenge I invited my students to revise.  In this remote learning environment my usual revision strategies–class brainstorming, working with peer partners, individual conferring–were not in play.

I spent some time thinking about ways to help my students understand HOW to revise, what concrete steps they might take to improve a poem written earlier this month.  So I started by thinking about some characteristics of effective poetry.  The use of simile and metaphor, sensory images, the use of vivid verbs and carefully selected details, personification, sound words…you get the idea.  I create a chart of these poetry elements for my students to select from as they considered a revision.  And I videotaped myself giving some directions…and thinking aloud about my own revision.

I reminded students to pick a poem they cared about–but not the one they love the best.  I wanted them to want to make changes!  Then I asked them to pick one or two elements from the chart to use for their revision.  I demonstrated with my own poem–stopping the video to do my own revisions–and then reading the new version at the end.  And because we revise when we have a reason, the point of this revision was to use the revised poem in our project…to make a narrated version of the revised poem using Adobe Spark Video.  I also asked for students to submit the “before” and “after” versions of the poem in our Google Classroom.

I selected my poem Waterworks to revise:

Waterworks

In this place where skies
are desert dry and sapphire blue

water pours
rushing down streets pooling on lawns

snails skate
down sidewalks worms
rise up
birds duck and cover

and I walk soaking up
sky tears breathing in water-saturated air

fully submerged in today’s
waterworks

®Douillard

I thought about how I might incorporate sound into my poem and a simile.  As I revised, I found that my ending wanted to change, making myself a part of the waterworks I was describing.  (I did have a student tell me he liked my original better than the revision!)

Waterworks (revision)

In this place
where skies are often
dry
and as blue as the jeans I wear walking in my neighborhood

water pours

sploosh-shushing down sloping streets

pooling like soup bowls on once dry lawns

snails skateboard
down slippery sidewalks
worms
rise up
bird—sensing danger—duck and cover

and I keep walking

soaking up sky tears

that mix with my own

and I become a part of today’s
waterworks

®Douillard

 

In our remote learning environment, my students worked at their own pace.  They decided when to work on revision, when to work on math…  After a while I started to notice the revisions coming in.

I love it when my students get it!  And even more so, when this complex task works out in this remote learning environment.  I picked a few to share with you.  Here is K’s revision:

Kylies revision

R’s revision resulted in a slightly new…and musical focus:

Remys revision

And P’s revision brings an interesting new simile into play:

Patricks revision

Now the challenge will be to keep both the poetry writing and the revision going as we continue through the month.  I’ll be thinking up some more reasons to revise…at least one poem each week to keep practicing revision, and hopefully internalize more poetry elements as well.

I’d love to hear your revision stories.  How does revision work in your classroom?  With your writing?  In this remote learning environment?  And the snail is to remind myself that writing can be a slow process…that you have to stick with it, stay on the path…and that you carry all you need on your back and in your heart!

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Ode to Decaf: NPM20 Day 14

I’m definitely feeling the poetic struggle as I reach mid-month.  My mind is on my students and figuring out how to support them in this distance learning emergency.  I’m housebound with little outside inspiration.  My neighborhood is nice–but it really isn’t evoking poetic thoughts right now.

So instead…I turn to thoughts of the coffee I drink every morning.  The coffee I crave…want…need…  And I know it’s not about a caffeine addiction, I switched to decaf more than a decade ago.  So today’s poem is an ode…to decaf.

Ode to my Decaf

 

I swim in its depths

the warm, dark steamy whirls

of decaffeinated comfort

 

earthy aroma

that spirals

from my mug directly

into my nostrils

 

steaming open my brain

loosening thoughts

opening the doors

to today

 

the whir of the bean grinder

echoes

the drip drip drip

a tympanic symphony

within the glass carafe

 

I come up for breath

wrapping my hands

around the ceramic

warming

from the inside out

 

for me

it’s not the caffeine

it’s the coffee

 

®Douillard

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