Tuesday, August 30, 2011


In my writing elective class, we are beginning a poetry workshop.  I'm also trying to help the kids build a writing community and play together, so they'll feel comfortable sharing their work with one another.  Take a few minutes here and there to play now can make a huge difference in our productivity later on in a class like this.

The students are in four teams, writing examples of poetry terms on small white boards.  One team, which named themselves "Dumbledore's Army," has instantly bonded over Harry Potter, and every example they write down has something to do with Harry Potter. The current term: metaphor.  (If your figurative language terms are rusty, it's a comparison without using "like" or "as.")  The white board reads as follows:
Dumbledore is a pillar.
Umbridge is a toad.
Snape is a greasy frying pan.
Voldemort is a snake.
Nagini is actually a snake.

They could hardly get through the last one without busting up laughing.  While I agreed that it was a very clever addition to their board, they did not earn a point for metaphor.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I know I never really signed off for the summer, but I'm back with stories from a new school year.  I'll try to post a wee bit more consistently than at the end of last year.  :)

Today, in an afternoon section of English 9, barriers came down.  I know it sounds dramatic, but it was dramatic.  It is scenes like this one that I live for in the classroom.  This class has a high proportion of kids that struggle with English and kids that lack confidence in writing as a result.  Students brought "Where I'm From" poems today, and I asked them to read them aloud in groups of four.  "Be brave!" I said, and each group member was to note at least one strong word choice in each poem read aloud.  After they'd had time to read and respond to each other's poems, each group had to choose one poem to share with the large group.  This poem could be read by the poet or by another group member.  

In one group, Chris, a student who has been a bit disruptive and surly for the last week shared his poem, which had great imagery and dark undertones that weren't present in some of the other poems.  The group agreed that Chris's poem should be shared, but Chris didn't want to read it.  Another boy, Dane, volunteered to read it for him. (Dane and Chris couldn't be further apart in terms of social circles and attitudes toward school.) Chris's face lit up and he agreed immediately. 

As the class applauded for the anonymous poet, Chris beamed.  

There were two other poems shared, written by students who lack confidence in writing, and they responded in the same way. I felt like they had a moment of thinking that maybe they could be successful in this class, in school.

As the students filed out of the classroom, Chris made his way to Dane.  "Thanks again for reading my poem," he said.  They had a genuine, unscripted moment of human interaction.  I was lucky enough to be there.