April is one of my favorite teaching months, (followed only by March and the SOLSC of course). April ranks high because I adore poetry month! Poetry month in my opinion (and my students’) is a celebration of writing! It’s a time when we writers welcome new beginnings and hone the art and crafting of our writing skills. I watch my students take wings and write with grace and confidence during poetry month. I have yet to experience a student who struggles to compose playful and alluring free verse poetry.
When poetry month comes around, I enter The Poem Farm and join Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s National Poetry Month project. Amy LV is a master at engaging and motivating writers of all ages, offering a plethora of opportunities for all poets. It never fails, I find myself feverishly opening all the possibilities to the writers and parents in our room!
Not long after all this caffeine-infused planning, I start to settle down, and there I am wondering; How can I fit it all in our day?
There is never enough time when you’re a classroom teacher. Stacey Shubitz
I found the answer while reading Craft Moves by our very own Stacey Shubitz. Stacey shares the great advice using one book for various parts of your workshop instruction, (chapter 2). This was just what I needed to maximize minutes and infuse poetry into the workshop. Stacey’s sage advice has given me great success using one picture book or one non-fiction text to illustrate multiple points in both reading and writing workshop, so why would poetry be any different?
Well, it turns out it doesn’t have to be!
The Morning Meeting Reading: Building Background Knowledge
We open our day by visiting The Poem Farm. Here we find a daily inspiration and a behind the scenes message from Amy LV explaining her process and inspiration for today’s poem. Amy LV even provides a link to an audio recording of her reading the poem. There is just something magical about hearing an author read her poetry.
Choosing the Mentor Text:
As we transition into the writing workshop, I share the day’s poem with the class. I choose the poem for the day’s study purposefully. It may be the daily poem from The Poem Farm, a poem found in a poetry book, a student-authored poem, or another piece from Amy LV’s site. The one I choose has to meet the needs of the writers in my room and serve various lessons.
The Read Aloud: Reading What it is You’re Trying to Write
Keeping in tune with the one book, many purposes strategy, this poem serves as our read aloud for writing workshop. We begin by listening to the sound of the poem and then looking at the poem as we read together. Students are encouraged to listen for enjoyment and immersion.
The Minilesson: Reading Like a Writer
With the sound of poetry in our ears, we begin to consider the choices the author made. We reread a portion of the poem, drawing students’ attention to the techniques used by the author. How did the writer add rhythm, feelings, humor, or mood? With the poem displayed we collaborate to compose a poem demonstrating the process and choices, a writer may make to write a poem. We look for what we might try in our writing. The poem naturally becomes a mentor text for the writers as they write and craft their own poems.
With all this attention on one poem, we can’t help but creep into learning to read and understand poetry along the way. Is it possible this one poem just entered the reading workshop too?
Independent Writing: Doing the Work Writers Do
Just as I come to each minilesson with a goal for instruction, I ask the writers to set a focus for their writing. Before going off to write, students take a minute to reflect on their writing and our previous lessons. With this in mind, students select a strategy to practice. In chapter three, Stacey explains how creating a plan for writing can provide a flow in the workshop and aid in building writing stamina. To teach accountability and add rigor, the students write the day’s focus at the top of their page. As the kids settle into writing, I walk around to read the goals and add a checkmark to their page.
Jotting the strategy or craft move the student plans to develop in their writing helps me support them as we confer. I am also noticing greater intensity and purpose in their writing.
Share: Giving and Receiving Feedback
At the close of the workshop, we take five or ten minutes to listen to the writing of our peers. Sometimes we simply turn to our writing partner and read our day’s work. Other days we share as a class, using the document camera to display our work and sharing not only what we can see, but also discussing the choices we made along the way that we can’t see. No matter how we stop to share in our classroom, posting our writing on our Poetry Padlet (which is linked with Amy LV’s Padlet) or on our blogs it’s always an option open to even the quietest writer. Sharing provides writers with the opportunity to learn from other writers about the process and obstacles of writing. As the students give and receive the feedback, they find out more about themselves as writers.
My colleagues and I participated in a Craft Moves, by Stacey Shubitz, book study this year. It was amazing to collaborate with those I work with so closely as we read, reflected, and refined our teaching with Stacey’s work being our catalyst. As a culmination of our study, we hosted a Skype session with Stacey. It wasn’t until this session that I realized how much Stacey’s work had refined my teaching. As I listened to Stacey and my colleagues during this Skype session I realized my new learning had seeped into all my teaching and most recently, poetry. Thank you, Stacey Shubitz and Amy Ludwig VanDerwater for your inspiration and dedication to learning. My students are growing because of all you have shared with me.