Poetry Friday: Seeing With Others

Violet Nesdoly hosts  the Poetry Friday Roundup.


Every Thursday we read a poem in class.

My students have new poetry eyes and understanding has been a bumpy adventure. Seeing poetry with others can color our thinking. Each class has a different tone. A different dynamic. And, it changes how they see. It can sharpen and distort our vision.

I’ll ask,
“What do you notice?”
“What do you wonder?”
“What does that make you think?
“What is the author telling you?”

I’ve encouraged. Gone slowly. Line by line. Stanza by stanza. Prompting them to notice, wonder, think and speculate.  They talk. I listen and ask for more.  And then they write. Talk, I’ve found, can skew thinking: what I think they think and what they think. It isn’t until I read their responses that I get a peek at what some can articulate in the quiet of the page.

Talk, I’ve found, can skew thinking: what I think they think and what they think. It isn’t until I read their responses that I get a peek at what some can articulate in the quiet of the page.

Last week I shared Adrienne Jaeger’s New Eyes. We read it line by line. My west coast students held the idea of Madison Avenue and the sea of tank tops and shorts tenuously.  I worried the message of homelessness and human worth wasn’t felt as keenly as I’d wished. Perhaps it was their lack of schema. Wrong poem? Wrong teaching?

This week I thought my fifth-graders could use a dose of empathy. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s tribute to Georgia Heard’s new book Heart Maps seemed just the ticket

Click here –> Like Windowpanes

Students loved the sound and the rhyme but, the message seemed to fall short in the class that needed it the most. One boy spoke how it made him think of a family death. Then others joined in with other deaths of animals. How had the message has been confused? Missed? I asked, “What part of the poem connected to their thinking?”  They responded,”…we’d know her cat had died last night.”

I fretted and tried to understand their point of view.

Tonight I read their thoughts. Many were swayed by the one boy’s interpretation. With his words, they were sidetracked and failed to see other ideas. But a few quiet words came through in their notebooks. The class that had not heard his comment saw it as a poem of listening to other’s hearts and seeing people for what they had inside.

What I thought failed, hadn’t completely. In fact, one student saw the connection between New Eyes and Like Windowpanes. Something I had missed. Completely.

Seeing through another’s eyes can skew or sharpen our vision: a lesson in human nature and capacity for understanding.


4 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Seeing With Others

  1. I like your phrase “the quiet of the page.” Not everything gets said, does it? Interesting point about one interpretation steering other readers in a particular direction.
    I saw your cat slice — I posted about cats last week. They provide so much fodder for writers!

  2. I’m happy you are working through the kinks with your kids and poetry. It’s all worth it. They will come to love poetry.

  3. Each person takes what they need from poems, and sometimes they aren’t ready to share that publicly, as you found. Wonderful to hear your thinking, then see the student’s thoughts too.

  4. So important to honor ALL voices by letting them write. (PSST…don’t forget to change your URL when you link up! We keep going back to Irises in August!)

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