April 12, 2016

Monday, May 16, 2011

Running with It

I met brilliant children's author/illustrator Susan Jeffers at a writing conference years ago. We sat at the same table for lunch.

I gushed about Hiawatha -- her "version" of Longfellow's poem.

She talked about commitment to craft. Jeffers described taking regular art lessons and how her teacher could make one small brush stroke or suggestion that would act as a point of departure.

Last week, the Northfield ES third graders worked on pattern poems with me. You can find the lesson here.

Take a look at  Matthew D.'s paper.

On the left is Matthew's first draft. It has all of the "required" elements of our workshop -- a theme (African animals), a pattern that grows in size, and the mysterious last line. But, like many first drafts, the poem falls a bit flat.

When I stopped by Matthew's desk to see how he was doing, I made a very small suggestion. "Give each animal an action." It was a tiny brushstroke, but Matthew took my suggestion and ran with it, re-envisioning his poem.

Here is the second draft (it's on the right of the hand-written paper). The animals are livelier and the ending has a new, funny twist.

Africa Small to Big
by  Matthew D.
Teacher: Ms. Hoge

In Africa
There was a baby cheetah playing.
Next was the mommy cheetah watching
The baby cheetah.
Next was a lion running
To get some lunch.
Then a rhino came running
With his horn facing up,
And then a giraffe came walking in
And ran away from the fight.

I'm so impressed with the work young writers can do in the space of a one hour workshop. 

Thanks again to the poet, his family and all the folks at Northfield for sharing these poems. Keep writing!


Denée Barr Art News and More said...

Enjoyed seeing the visual illustration of the paper and the unfolding process....Good!

Author Amok said...

Perfect description, Denee. It is an unfolding of the process. Thanks for the comment.