April 12, 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Keeping It Real -- a lesson in imagery

My annual poetry residency at Northfield Elementary began before the big snow hit. We only had time for our first session, on imagery.

Tapping into the five senses keeps it real for the reader, but kids are so accustomed to school-writing and BCRs (shudder), that it can be a challenge.

We warm up with a literary experiment using baby powder. (See the full lesson here.) Everyone in class gets a little bit of baby powder and creates a simile for each of the five senses. I'm always amazed, in a group of 25 people, how many different ways we can describe the same object.

Here are two imagery-of-the-five-senses poems by Northfield third graders.

Ryan H. is thinking about summer. With the weather we've had, I don't blame him.

"It's as hot as the sun out here," I say.
I want to go to the pool.
I meet my friends outside. They want to go too.
When I walk in the door
it sounds like a zoo full of elephants
and tigers. All I can hear are kids screaming,
trying not to get hit by water guns. Then
I jump in and it smells like the ocean.
I come up for a breath and it
looks like a big cup full of water. I go under
again but this time my mouth was open.
I come up and it tastes like shampoo
mixed with water. My mom gives me a towel
and says, "Time to go." The towel feels like
a pillow on my head. We get in the car
and drive away.

The shampoo simile is so evocative. Can't you smell and taste it?

The writing prompt is to describe an activity using all five senses. Often, the children's poems are about the things they do outside of school. It's a nice way for their peers to get to know them better.

Lucy F. chose her dance class.

When I walk into the room it is
as cool as September. Then I go to the
barre. It's so quiet I feel like I'm in an
empty house. I sniff the air and its a
rubber tennis shoe. Eww! I turn for
an exercise. WOW looks like a
row of buns. The air has a stale
cracker taste. Once I'm done, I talk while
putting on jazz shoes.

The empty house captures the quiet dance studio before the dancers arrive. And look at the metaphor Lucy uses for the way the room smells. Do you think these poets were successful in keeping it real -- making you feel like you are there at the pool or the dance studio?

More poems tomorrow. These were posted with permission of the poets and their families. Thanks, Northfield!

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