April 12, 2016

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sestina: High School

We've been visiting with my middle schoolers at St. Jane Frances School this week.

After our lesson on wordplay, we were ready to write our final poem -- a sestina.

The sestina is a complex form structured around end words rather than a rhyme scheme. You can read about it here.

These are the steps we used to write a group sestina in Ms. Habicht's 8th grade class.

1. Brainstorm possible topics
We came up with a list, then voted. The class chose "High School" as the subject of their poem.

2. Brainstorm end/repeating words
We generated a large list, but narrowed it down to the six we wanted to use in our poem. They are:


3. Work in groups
Ms. Habicht split the class into six groups, one for each stanza of sestina. (They'd write the final stanza, or envoi, later). I gave each of the groups a sheet with the order of the six words for their stanza.

Ms. Habicht and I were impressed with the final poem. It captures the mixed emotions these students are feeling as they prepare for high school.

Since my son is also an eighth grader, this poem feels very real to me.

High School
by St. Jane Frances School English Class 8-1

Everything we once knew will change.
From the moment we step into school, we are nervous –
yet excited. We feel lost
like in a maze of people, who may teach
us the ways of high school. Fresh-
men like us will find true friends.

It’s time to say goodbye to our well-known friends,
and get ready for our big change
of becoming fresh-
men. Our bodies begin to show all signs of nerves
as our teacher
hands us the map of the school, knowing we’ll still get lost.

We reflect on the memories that will never be lost,
remembering walking through the Bazaar with green-tinged friends
and Mr. Kane strumming his guitar instead of teach-
ing. Although we seem confident, we are terrified of change
and hope that next year we can hide our nerv-
ousness, as we begin the blank page: the year we will be called fresh.

Starting out the year as a fresh-
man, middle school lost
in the past. Fighting nerves
as I try to make new friends.
Having mixed feelings about the oncoming change,
I wave goodbye to my teachers.

New school, new teachers.
It’s time to start fresh.
I’m excited about the challenge of change.
The fear of getting lost
scares me. I don’t want to leave my friends
because making new ones works on my nerves.

Chills race up my spine as I nerv-
ously glance at my new teacher;
remembering old friends.
I am a recluse freshman,
imagining myself in these halls of this new exhilarating world of change.

Sometimes change is good without the nerves
of feeling lost. I try to navigate my way to new teachers,
Fearing freshman year, though I know I’ll make the best of friends.

Thanks to the families at St. Jane Frances School for giving me permission to post the children's poems this week.

National Poetry Month is almost here!

All month, I'll be posting classroom-friendly poems by Maryland poets. These poets are featured in the new anthology Life in Me like Grass on Fire, just out from Maryland Writers Association. 


Daniel Asar said...

Ciao, beautiful, interesting blog, complimenti.

Denée Barr Art News and More said...

Caught my attention----Very Nice.