Archive for December 14th, 2012

Join Jama at Alphabet Soup for more of Poetry Friday.

Join Jama at Alphabet Soup for more of Poetry Friday.

At this time of year, the days grow shorter, the weather cooler. In a recent e-newsletter from Poets.org, I found a lesson plan designed for 9th-12th graders about exploring darkness and light through poetry. I teach gifted elementary kids, so I adapted the plan somewhat to fit my level of students. But I kept Emily Dickinson’s poem There’s a Certain Slant of Light. The poem is presented on Poem Flow in which a few words appear on the screen and fade out to the next lines. This technology added interest to the lesson. My students didn’t quite “get” the message of the poem, but they learned about the sound of poetry. We talked about some of our “wonder” words, like heft, affliction, and oppression.

Before presenting the Dickinson poem, I turned off the lights and we wrote words and phrases that we thought of in the dark. Then they chose words they wanted to “steal” from Emily Dickinson. Then we wrote. Each time we write, we share. We have a class Kidblog site, so they post to it. Since I travel between two schools, this allows my students to read and comment on writing from another school’s gifted class.

Some of our poems were coming out pretty spooky and dark. OK, I know I set that up with turning out the lights and reading There’s a Certain Slant of Light, but I challenged myself to write a happy poem. I was pleased with my poem that the students helped me title “Silhouettes.”


We turn out the lights
Behind sheets, our hands
Make shapes–a story,
a dance,
a play–
No audience
No stage
No flashing lights
Just my brother and me
on a winter afternoon.

Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

One of my students wrote a short piece with a repeating line, so when I conferred with him, I taught him about the Pantoum form in which the second and fourth line becomes the first and third of the next stanza. This is his revised poem:

Winter (A Pantoum)
This is darkness, the black, blurry time of the year.
It blinds me in sadness.
Its dull appearance gives me the blues.
This is darkness, the black, blurry time of the year.

Darkness blinds me in sadness.
Cobwebs surround me.
This is darkness, the black, blurry time of the year.
Shadows everywhere.

Cobwebs surround me.
Tiny bits of light make creepy reflections on the floor.
Shadows everywhere.
This is darkness.

I have a new student who is a third grader. I have gently drawn her into our writing circle. She is shy, yet confident. When she wrote the following poem, it had 3 rhyming lines, but no others, so I talked to her about making a decision in her revision. She could keep the rhyming lines, but since we expect the poem to rhyme, she would need to make some of the other lines rhyme. She decided not to keep the rhyming words and went to the thesaurus to revise. I think she is quickly getting the hang of writing workshop. Here is her revision:

Winter Glory

The winter woods can be glowing

even though you are afraid.

The bright sun shines from behind.

The cold dark woods are sometimes gloomy.

The squirrels are scurrying for the last nut.

I am blinded by the beauty.


Photo by Clare L. Martin
Vannisa’s inspiration came from this photograph.

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