Celebrating: How Poetry Teaches

This year my students and I are celebrating National Poetry Month with Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s poem project. Every day I add her poem to a Google doc and attempt the lesson she proposes. Then I share this growing document with my students. Their poetry project will last through the end of the year: collecting and creating poetry in their poetry notebooks and then publishing work in a blank book.

I sandwich poetry in between reading and writing workshops. For 20 minutes, students pour through books for poems they love, explore Amy’s poetry, check out the Rhyme Zone (a site we love), write their own poetry, or share poems with each other. During this joyous part of our day, constraints are lifted.
They have stopped asking, can I …
They just
write them in their notebook
create google docs for their poetry
write them on origami
write one for a friend in need
share  their favorite lines

The other beautiful thing about this work is the transference to reading and writing. Earlier this week, we were exploring the importance of understanding a character’s perspective. That reading lesson sat right after our exploration of persona poems. Friday’s poem in the second person preceded our study of craft techniques used by informational writers that included addressing the reader directly. ‘Tis true, Poems Are Teachers.

Yesterday, I introduced Amy’s poem for April 5th, shared the strategy, and then my own attempt.  It was a humbling challenge you can read below. From the form to the topic. I can’t say I’m thrilled with it but, my students were.  Funny. All the parts that I disliked they loved.  They are a generous audience.

Thank you, thank you. Amy, for your daily inspiration.

You Are Not Alone

Yesterday I told you, “Today we will take a test,
don’t worry, just do your best.”
You looked like you were going to cry.
I said, “I know you can! Try.”

This morning Coach said, “The next set’s a test.
Don’t worry, just do your best.”
Hearing those words from another
I freeze up, want to call my mother.

I wonder, what excuse can I make?
Is there something I can take
to  disappear, avoid the pain
I see nothing here to gain.

After the swim, I stop and think,
of what made my soul sink.
The competition was too much for me
even if it was for my eyes to see.

I thought of you and in my heart
felt the panic that can break you apart
the fear of not being your best,
the agony of failing a test.

Please know, you are not alone.
Testing makes me want to stay home.

And thank you, Ruth, for your weekly call to celebrate the week. Read more celebrations here at Ruth Ayres Writes.