I have unshakable faith in children. They always show me the way. ♥

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On Poetry -- days of happiness, day 7

No pictures today, but tomorrow I'll make sure to take some photographs of my students' writing.

During the month of February, we've been studying Poetry. Now, I've been teaching for many years and I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never really explored poetry with my students. Sure, I've taught with poetry, and exposed children to some, but we've never really studied it, nor written it with any real dedication.

This has been an amazing experience for me. I've been using one resource in particular to help me, the poetry unit from Lucy Calkins' Units of Study for Primary Writing.

This resource is valuable in so many ways. First of all, there are more than fifteen lessons, planned and written, with in class examples of how a conversation might occur, as well as examples of conferring with students.

I find this so helpful, because it's really helped guide my own planning and instruction, and I've only used a handful of the lessons. Really, my class just needed to slow down, experience, and think about a few elements of poetry.

What I find the most helpful, though, is not the planned lessons, but rather the wise bits of advice sprinkled throughout the lesson... as little notes to the teacher. That has helped me immeasurably. She gives examples of conversations with children, but also takes a realistic view that while there are going to be amazing things that come from the children automatically, a lot of the other diamonds are uncovered through conferring, through conversation, through gentle guidance (through teaching!!). She cautions teachers not to get discouraged, but to find the small bits of brilliance in the children's work and help them expand on it, then teach others, so they're learning both from adult and young poets.

It's been a magical ride.

Well, and also a mundane one. An entire class of children does not sit down in Writing Workshop every day and create Priceless Pretty Poems. In fact, there's a lot of "pretty flowers" and "I loves" and "my shoe is green" -- but I've tried to see this as typical... to be their guide, as best I can, and help them find the small bit of a poem in what they've written and craft something from that. I can honestly say that each child has written something beautiful. The great thing, too, is they're starting to both emulate others and find their own style.

I'll try to give some examples of their work tomorrow, but for tonight I've just been musing, because we're winding down our study. In fact, the curriculum is bearing down on us, whispering "time to move on..." and "so much more to learn..." so we're working toward creating a class poetry anthology to immortalize some of their favorite work and then we'll move into another bit of study.

What I realize, though, is that next year, I need to immerse them in Poetry a lot more than I do, as well as spend as much time reading poetry as we do writing poetry. I want the kids to explore poets, read to and with each other, notice little nuances, and just live and breathe it. This time we swam in the writing, just not as much in the reading.

A good lesson for me for next year. :)

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