Today’s prompt for #verselove on Ethical ELA is to craft a 4×4 poem: 4 lines, 4 syllables per line, 4 stanzas, and a repeating refrain that moves from line 1 to 4 through the poem. As I hiked San Jacinto today, I found myself thinking about words and ideas that might fit this new-to-me poetic structure. Here’s my draft:
Once again I took my poetry inspiration from #verselove at Ethical ELA where I found seeds left by Jennifer. I found myself thinking about photography and exploration and identity and the ways that words are intertwined with all of those.
On this third day of National Poetry Month, #verselove via Ethical ELA focused on the idea of collaborative inspiration. I love the way that Gae and Lori inspired each other by “poeming” each other and then using the poem as a starting point for their own writing. I definitely felt poemed this morning as I read through the poems already scattered by the participants in this month-long poetry fest. It’s interesting to me that I’m not sure exactly what triggered my own piece…and idea, a word, a comment left by someone on one of the poems…
I’m Not a Music Person
I’m not a music person says the one
who keeps the radio set on talk
the first strains of Fur Elise transport her back to childhood
and the roommate–the stocky second (or third) hand upright
where her hands learned to make music
rifs from Take the A Train and other classic jazz
set her toes to tapping and fingers snapping
and she remembers listening to them move from noise to music
and that unexpected Christmas morning duet,
a gift from the heart
Until…she bursts into song (off key of course)
when The Sound of Music comes on TV
and her sons are dumbfounded that she knows
all the words
grandbabies come and she croons to them
the lullabies from her childhood and their fathers’ childhoods
Imagine my surprise this morning when the post by Ethical ELA was hosted by friend and colleague Emily Yamasaki! I was immediately drawn into both the mentor poem, things I have memorized by Maria Giesbrecht and Emily’s poem, Things I Know. I dove deeply into the cool pool of poems that emerged from Emily’s provocation, reading and feeling, admiring and analyzing as I began to think about my own writing for this second day of National Poetry Month.
Things I Know by Heart
The sleek curve of the egret’s neck
in the tidepool at low tide
The smells of love that fill our home
emanating from the kitchen
The silence of his last breath
matching the empty space in our family
My daily commute, etched in the recesses of my mind,
requiring no conscious thought
My childhood phone number
but not my passwords–they continue to elude me
The sweetness of little boys
now into the second generation
Fear of fire, seared into my memory
brought back by ashes that rain down like snowflakes
Fog’s gray blanket
an indicator that spring has arrived
Each of the traffic spots on the 5 between our house and theirs
no matter how long it takes, every trip is worth it
It’s April! And it’s the first day of National Poetry Month. I don’t profess to be a great poet–but I am able to share my love of words and poetry with my students–especially when I do the things I ask them to do.
So even though this is not a teaching day for me and even though Spring Break begins tomorrow and I won’t see my students until April 11th, I will write a poem each day. I know that I will be better able to coach and guide them if I am doing the poetry writing I want them to try.
I plan to use Eve Merriam’s Peeling an Orange with them when we get back to school after Spring Break, so why not experiment with it as a mentor text today? One of the techniques I notice in this poem is her use of the contrasting words carelessly and meticulously. So, since photos tend to inspire my writing, I took a peek through my camera roll and spotted this one of a snail from a neighborhood walk earlier this week. And here is the poem it inspired:
On this last day of the Slice of Life challenge I want to thank those at Two Writing Teachers for offering this blogging challenge. I also want to thank my fellow bloggers–those I left comments for and those I read and didn’t comment, and even those I simply didn’t have time to read for engaging in this place of words, ideas, and incredible generosity. There is something about this challenge that keeps me accountable and somehow motivates me to write each and every day in March.
It’s also the perfect day for a bit of reflection and thinking about the take aways of an already busy month of teaching, report card writing, parent conferencing also spent with daily writing. Here are a few of my thoughts:
Writing begets writing. The more I write, the more I seem to have to write about. Early in the month I feel challenged to come up with writing topics and things to say with any kind of eloquence. With each successive day, I find myself mulling over writing topics as I go through the day, turning them over, considering angles I might take, and even then often surprising myself with the actual post that emerges.
A daily slice often means that I am making my teaching practice more visible. I consider the ways instruction and learning interact, often focusing on the ways writing develops with young writers. When I write about what I see my students produce, I understand it on another level. And when my colleagues comment, they also help me see if from new vantages.
Reading and commenting on others’ posts helps me see my teaching life in a larger perspective as I consider stories from other parts of the country (and the world), hearing struggles and successes and making connections in spite of differences.
I love the many stages of life expressed in slice of life posts. Stories of toddlers and teens, grandchildren and aging parents humanize us all. It helps to know that even the best teachers struggle to find the work/life balance and that writing is a way to process the curveballs that life throws.
This is a community where I feel like a dandelion. I thrive and grow where I land. Some days I might land in the crack of the sidewalk, trying to avoid the crush of feet walking over me. Other days I find myself in an open field, swaying in the breeze and soaking up the sun. I’m thankful for landing here and looking forward to next year’s challenge.
This might also be the year that I manage to write a weekly Tuesday slice. I’m making that a regular writing goal. Hope to engage with you all again soon!
Today, March 30, 2022, marks the date of the Worldwide Teach In for Climate/Justice sponsored by Bard College. That is significant because as a writing project, we have spent time and energy this year looking for ways to implement climate teaching in a writing centric way.
With my young students, my approach to climate/justice teaching is to raise their awareness and appreciation of our planet, the people who live on it, the animals they already love, and also include some study of people making a difference (Jane Goodall came up through Scholastic News–so we inquired a bit further about her and her work) and about actions they can take as 6 and 7 year olds.
I have writing project colleagues who adapted the idea of a 6-word memoir into an opportunity for students to write 6 words for the environment. It seemed a perfect fit for a week of minimum days (to allow for parent conferences) just before Spring Break (which begins after school ends on Friday).
So, after they finished some amazing Poetry Is writing (check yesterday’s post for more details), we started to brainstorm words about the earth, about people and animals who live on the earth, and about actions people might take to protect the earth. They helped me write a few 6 word attempts before I sent them back to the their notebooks to write as many 6-words for the environment as they could in 7 minutes.
Then, they had to select their favorite of the 6-word statements they had written to feature on a mini poster. Some struggled to figure out which of their 6-word pieces to use (“They’re all good!” You’ve gotta love the confidence of first graders!) while others knew just what they wanted to write and draw on their poster. And even with phonetic spelling and some questionable counting of 6 words, they had important messages to share. Here’s a small sampling:
Building time to learn about and think about positive actions to protect our precious planet is essential to our longevity as a species. My students know they can make a difference and they are ready to do their part (and urge others to help out too).
Let’s not give in to doomsday thinking and instead cultivate a love for this incredible planet and everything and everyone who resides here. Together we can make a difference.
As March comes to an end, National Poetry Month is right around the corner. To get a bit of a head start–especially since we begin our Spring Break next week–I decided we needed to immerse ourselves in some poetry this week.
Poetry is nothing new in our class. We study a poem each week and then illustrate it, creating an anthology of poems we’ve worked with during the school year. We’ve written some poems of our own here and there. But the time is right for a deeper dive.
Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer is a perfect book to get started. The first graders loved that the poem Daniel wrote was a compilation of the answers from all the animals that answered Daniel’s question, “What is poetry?” And it set the perfect stage for our own Poetry Is… brainstorm. After a start yesterday, we took this idea further today, stretching out ideas and embellishing them with vivid description. Here’s a few examples:
Poetry is a glass of warm hot chocolate on a cold, snowy winter day.
Poetry is a grasshopper jumping and hopping and bouncing all around the fields.
Poetry is a coconut with the flavor inside and the outside is so hard and thick like a layer of armor.
Poetry is a slippery fish, as beautiful as a butterfly.
Poetry is the sound of my dad snoring.
And somehow, in my mind, poetry and flowers are a perfect pairing. I had purchased some tulips and daffodils from Trader Joes over the weekend, knowing I wanted students to have a close up look at these symbols of spring (that are not commonly found growing around here). Yesterday students used a black oil pastel on watercolor paper to do a directed drawing of tulips in a vase. Today, we used liquid watercolor to create vibrant paintings of these beautiful spring flowers. The results are stunning!
I plan to matte them along with the “Poetry Is…” writing. And I think I may have each student contribute one line to create a class Poetry Is poem for a poster to hang on our door! After all, National Poetry Month is right around the corner!
Some days are the perfect convergence of conditions–that can either make or break your day.
Mondays can be challenging. Coming off the weekend students are unsettled–some tired, some amped, some seemingly have forgotten what this whole school thing is all about. And somehow, I always start parent conference week with an early morning conference. Today was no different.
I like morning parent conferences. They feel almost leisurely in the quiet of the morning before the stresses of the day emerge. But…today I had to rearrange my lesson plans since someone would come in to teach my class while I attended an IEP meeting. And…I didn’t know who it would be until I was already teaching this morning.
Then there’s the forecast. Last week we had summer mid-week, with coastal temperatures in the 80s. Today’s weather called for wind and rain…maybe even thunder and lightening. Any weather in these parts is an event–and my rain boot, umbrella toting students came to school ready for it! (What is it about wind and the prospect of rain that causes students to lose their minds? They were definitely stirred up today!)
No breaks later, it hadn’t rained. I wrangled the students back into learning mode as we explored some poetry (reading and writing) and did some drawing (tulips) that we will paint tomorrow. A minimum day dismissal arrived before the rain–so all those boots and umbrellas were not needed at school today.
But the rain did come, wafting in sheets during one of my conferences. We could hear the wind and see the sheets of water through the windows as we chatted about progress and appreciated the child’s unique qualities. And I was thankful for a rain-free teaching day since cooped-up kids are not my favorite start to the week.
Once my conferences were done for the day, the sun came out and I couldn’t resist a bit of photography outside the classroom, trying to catch the sunlight on the damp flowers that were clearly enjoying some rainfall in this usually dry climate.
While there is still some more rain in the forecast for the evening, it held off long enough for a neighborhood walk once I got home this afternoon. The snails were out everywhere creating their own kind of obstacle course (how I hate that crunch when I accidentally step on one!) as I made my way up and down the sidewalks.
End result? This rainy day and Monday converged in a way I can claim as a good day. It was busy and hectic as all parent conference week days are, but the rain made its appearances at times when I could appreciate it rather than curse it. All in all, a pretty darn good rainy day and Monday!
Not setting the alarm clock and sleeping in on Sunday morning. (Or at least not getting out of bed when you wake up even though there is no alarm going off.)
A walk on the beach with my sister who is visiting from the northern part of the state. And the sun even decided to come out to play after two days of thick, gray marine layer over the coast.
Dinner cooked by my husband (that part is not unusual) for my mom, my sister, and me–complete with a from scratch chocolate cake dessert. He manages to cook with love and care, even at a moment’s notice. He’s definitely a keeper!
Trader Joe’s flowers: tulips and daffodils to bring spring inside. And because I am planning an art project with my students tomorrow that features tulips, I wanted to bring the real thing into the classroom.
So I indulged and bought both tulips and daffodils. Last week we read a poem that included daffodils and my students didn’t seem familiar with them–so I was on the lookout for those inexpensive bunches that are around every spring at Trader Joes. And I had to have the tulips, even though they were only available in the larger bunch that was a bit pricier than I wanted. But…I have enough of each type of flower to bring some in the classroom and leave myself the bright beauty of spring on the dining room table!
Any small things bring you joy and appreciation today?