Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Amok in Third Grade

This is why I love teaching poetry...
Yesterday, I was working with a third grade in Dundalk, Maryland. We were writing "Grow/Shrink Poems."
My model poem for this lesson is Stephanie Izarek's deceptively simple, "Under the Sky Is." The poem begins in the great big sky. In a few short lines Izarek takes us to a place where things are so small, "we can never see" them. You can read the poem here: http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=1558
It's a wonderful first day poem. Kids love the repetition (each object in the model poem is "under" the object from the previous line). Their job is to start with a big object (the sky) and end somewhere small. Or, they can begin small (a seed) and grow the poem (outer space). Even first graders can use language and ideas creatively with a structured form like this.
One boy sitting in front was stuck. No ideas. I asked, "What are you interested in?" Shrug. "What do you like to do after school?" Shrug. "Do you know if you want to grow or shrink?" Shrug.
I noticed he was fiddling with a small, round magnet, about the size of a washer. I asked him, "Can we start with your magnet?" No shrug! A glimmer of hope.
"What do you see around you that the magnet could attract? Start small." He looked around the classroom (a trailer).
A desk, he told me. I scribed. A blackboard. Then, "The City of Gold."
Wow. Did I just witness a huge leap of the imagination? Okay, he was inspired by the second "National Treasure" movie. But how did we get from a blackboard to a city of gold? Amazing.
The reluctant poet proudly volunteered to read his work to the class at the end of the lesson!

2 comments:

Yat-Yee said...

Thanks for persisting with the student. Any time a young person discovers the wonders of language or art or music and how he is a part of it is a cause of celebration.

Author Amok said...

Yat-Yee, thanks for your comment. Sometimes kids have a hard time sharing their ideas. That's why the multi-day residencies are a good idea. If a student doesn't respond to the topic one day -- I usually have something that sparks her interest the next.