Posts Tagged ‘River of Words Teacher’s Guide’


Last week I led myself and my students into image poems.  We imagined a scene in nature (or on water) and wrote to this list of line prompts from the River of Words Teacher’s Guide. 

Prompts for the Teacher:

~ Think about this spot. Sketch it if you like.

~ Picture yourself in this location.Write a line or sentence that describes what you are doing and exactly where you are: “Sitting on a sandbar on the banks of the Calcasieu River in IndianVillage, Louisiana.”

~ In your imagination, look up.What do you see? Begin this line with “Above me” or “Over my head.”Try to use a simile in this line.

~ Now look into the distance, as far as you can see.Write what you see.

~ Describe a sound you might hear in this place.

~ What is on your right?

~ Hone in on a single detail in this scene.Try to describe it, using an unusual or vivid verb in the line.

~ Shift your perspective and your position—stand up, flop down, walk away—and notice another detail in the landscape: the quality of light, the time of day, a seasonal plant or animal,for example.

~ Finally, read over your images and see if you can conclude with a reflective line that somehow captures how you feel about being in this place.(You might caution students not to rush this line; it may occur to them later as they compose their poem).

rope swing

Swinging by the bayou on the grandmother oak,
legs curled around knotted rope,

Above me branches drape like outstretched arms
holding strong,

Sky opens up to a flash of egret flickering through the trees.

The echo of a far-off motor drums the quiet.

The holding tree is the oldest oak I know.
Hanging moss twirls in a wind-dance.

Jumping from the rope-grip,
my feet fall on fronds of greening fern.

My swinging is a brief sparkle in this grandmother’s eye.

–Margaret Simon

Here is Vannisa’s poem.  She pointed to a postcard from Marjorie Pierson’s collecting of wetlands photographs as her inspiration. Click here to view the image.

Standing in the shade,
on the edge of a swamp
where there are cypress trees
with snakes and alligators
lurking within the waters

Over my head,
thick branches and leaves
sway over me as a roof,
with moss dropping down
like the strings of balloons
that fly to the ceiling

In the distance
more trees and gators are
still creeping underneath

Insect buzzing
filling my ears,
the tweets of birds
travel from above

On my right,
a tree trunk
with bugs crawling in a line
making their way up and around

Mother duck and her ducklings
swim all over
yawing around places where
mother knows it’s unsafe

Moving away from the shade,
the water reflects
the afternoon sun into my eyes,
glistening in the light

This artistic landscape
won’t be able to stay forever,
you won’t notice it,
but the wetlands are quickly washing away.

–Vannisa, 6th grade

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for March Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for March Slice of Life Challenge.

Day 5 is at Penny and Her Jots

Day 5 is at Penny and Her Jots


Writing poems can be serious business. The first day back after spring break I asked my students to think hard about poetry. We read together a poem from the Teaching Guide for the River of Words Young Poets and Artists on the Nature of Things. (Handout 4:Writing from film) I highly recommend this guide for great poetry lessons written by my friends Harriet Maher and Connie McDonald.

The poem spoke in an ominous tone about the destruction of our earth. Students picked out these word, demented, shattered, purged, and monsters, as negative tone words. They noticed that the poem was a sad commentary on what we humans do to our earth home.

Then I played the first 8 minutes of the documentary of Ansel Adams.

While we watched the video, we collected words and phrases. We all wrote poems. Many of the students’ poems reflected the negative tone of the poem we read together. My favorite student poem is from Erin. She wrote how the silence was too loud. You can read her poem here.

Free image from Wikipedia.

Free image from Wikipedia.

Ansel Adams, 1902-1984

The artist transformed
moments into wild majesty
expressing in
exalted language of photography
how small we really are.

Among the tall trees
or the great mountains,
our humanness is separate–
a communion in the presence
of mystery.

Even in the absence of color,
in shades of black and white,
fragments are shattered
into a mosaic of truth.

We understand the fragile nature of things.

–Margaret Simon

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