Posts Tagged ‘steal a line’

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I know school looks different for most teachers this year. For me, I spend my whole day in one building. For the last 12 years, I’ve been an itinerate teacher, traveling to 3 schools each day. Now I travel through a screen to different students. I’m providing virtual gifted services for students who’ve chosen the virtual option. I’m learning very quickly what kinds of writing activities work well and which ones do not in this virtual setting.

Last week I presented a question for quick writing. Yesterday I used a different approach. I presented a poem and asked students to take a line and write from that line. It seemed to go well; however, the kids were not throwing their hands up (or turning their mikes on) to read what they wrote. This is the part I can’t quite figure out. Do they just need more time or is this how it’s going to be?

I still believe in writing alongside my students, so I wrote a poem with them. The poem we were reading together came from Teach this Poem from Poets.org, Cento Between the Ending and the End. The lines I took frame the poem. Before sharing my poem, I explained that when we write together in quick writes, we often write about whatever is on our mind at that moment. My youngest daughter is getting married in our backyard in 3 weeks. As plans begin to finalize, I am getting excited about the family (immediate family only) that with gather with us.

Unopened Gift

Everyone we love
is gathered
around the bride and groom.
Side by side,
their eyes glow.

We understand
this kind of love,
tender and new,
like a gift
waiting to be discovered.

We hold their hearts
in our hands,
bless them
with all that we have.
Send them to the blue sky
with golden light.

Margaret Simon
Photo by Secret Garden from Pexels

With my 6th grader, Daniel, we wrote back and forth (in a shared document), adding lines to create a Cento* poem. When the first stanza turned out to rhyme, it was a challenge to keep it going. We were both pleased with the results.

I soar to the sun
Look down at the sea
Bloom how you must, wild
Until we are free.

I wish I could share
All that’s in my heart.
It’s like the world
That keeps us apart.

Everyone we love
Gathered at the lakeside
Marble-glow the fire
A new one inside

I wish I could live
The body whole bright-
Of the day beautiful,
Honeyed light.

Cento from I Wish I Knew by Nina Simone and Cento Between the Ending and the End by Cameron Awkward-Rich

*From the Latin word for “patchwork,” the cento (or collage poem) is a poetic form composed entirely of lines from poems by other poets.

Read Full Post »

Poetry Friday round up at Keri's farm.

Poetry Friday round up at Keri’s farm.

Poetry Friday is here. I always feel a sense of excitement and anxiety working on a post for PF. Today’s poem has been through a morphing of sorts. I started it in my notebook writing with my young writers camp. We stopped into our local independent bookstore, Books Along the Teche. My prompt was to steal a line from a favorite book to write from.

Ava Leavell Haymon is(was) the Louisiana poet laureate. Her latest poetry book, Eldest Daugther, was sitting near the front of our bookstore watching me and my students. I opened her up and found a line. “I am the light, standing in the kitchen window.”

I love to watch the light change from my kitchen window. This morning it illuminated a blue bottle on my outdoor bottle tree. Using PicMonkey, I altered the image and typed in my poem.

kitchen window

Read Full Post »

See more Poetry Friday at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

See more Poetry Friday at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

Most students in the middle grades know the name Lemony Snicket, so when I introduced his article from Poetry magazine, they were primed to listen. In this article, Lemony Snicket introduced adult poetry to children. He says, “Poetry is like a curvy slide in a playground — an odd object, available to the public — and, as I keep explaining to my local police force, everyone should be able to use it, not just those of a certain age.”

We read aloud the whole article. My instructions for writing were simple, “Steal a line that you like and write from there.”

The poem I wrote is a Cento, in which I took a line from each of the poems in the article.

An open door says, “Come in.”
The room I entered was a dream of this room.
I’m in the house.
I’m still here?
There is no need for you to come and visit me.
You are food. You are here for me to eat.
There will never be enough.
Nothing anyone could do to stop it coming.
The next obvious question:
“Does anyone want to be my sack of potatoes?”
Think of a big pink horse.
There are monsters everywhere.
What is it the sign of?
It is what it is.
That’s Poetry to me.
Thank you, I have enjoyed imagining all this.

Some student samples:

If I would be walking
down the road that
you told me to imagine,
would it be full of gumdrops,
and rainbows covered
in sprinkles and chocolate
fudge on a marshmallow
cloud that tastes like
strawberry icing or maybe
chocolate ice cream on the
hottest day of the year,
or would the road be
full of dark nights, but no stars
and gravestones, with lost kids,
and a grey, lonely path with
cracks in the middle
that can swallow
me up in one bite, with
eyes looking at me in
every direction?

If I would be walking
down the road you told
me to imagine,
which road would I be walking?
If I would be walking
the road you told me
to imagine, would my road
include you?


Electric green and red tears
reflected like rainbows over water in the daylight
right before rain
a warning of good fortune
telling us it’s okay

Read Full Post »

Three caterpillars fascinating to observe-- Future swallowtails.

Three caterpillars
fascinating to observe–
Future swallowtails.

A few days ago, a friend posted a picture on Facebook of these amazing creatures devouring his parsley plants. I asked if I could have a few for my classroom. I picked them up yesterday and was a big hit in the hallway walking in. I will be teaching math to a small group of second and third graders,so we will measure and graph their growth and then watch and wait. This is as exciting to me as it is to them. I’ll keep you posted. Maybe we’ll write caterpillar and butterfly poems, too.

Have you ever been stuck or needed something to accelerate you on the road to a poem? This happens to me quite often. One activity I like to try is to steal a line. Sometimes I borrow lines from poets I like, but this time I was in a bookstore. So I grabbed a favorite book, Little Women, and found this, “It seems so long to wait, so hard to do. I want to fly away at once, as those swallows fly, and go in at that splendid gate. I want to be with them in flight.”

I want to hold air as close as a summer blanket,
cottonball soft puffs of a cloud,
for a moment,
to touch its warm belly
and fly.
Who will come with me?
Let’s form a V,
honk like geese,
announce our arrival.
It seems so long to wait
to go in at that splendid gate.
–Margaret Simon

clear blue balloon
Speaking of flying, you can read about a once-in-a-lifetime hot-air balloon ride here.

Flying Angel over Duperier Street Bridge, an original painting by Margaret Simon

Flying Angel over Duperier Street Bridge,
an original painting by Margaret Simon

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Steps and Staircases.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Steps and Staircases.

Read Full Post »

30 Day Poetry Challenge: Day 13 Write a poem a child would like.

When I teach writing to students, we workshop our writing pieces.  I write when they write.  I pass out sticky notes. (Kids love colorful sticky notes.)  They label their notes with a plus, a question mark, and a triangle.  We call these notes “Criticycles.”  They are our way of critiquing.  The plus is something you like, the question mark a question, and the triangle a suggestion for a change.  When I saw the challenge for today, I thought, “That will be easy.”  All I needed to do was look through my school journal and find a page full of sticky notes that told me I had caught a good poem.  This poem I wrote in writing camp last summer.  (I am doing two this summer, so leave me a comment or send an email if you are interested.)

We take a writing marathon on one day of the writing camp.  On the marathon, we tour around town with writers’ eyes.  Most shop owners are happy to have us come in when we say we are writers.  On this day, we went into the downtown bookstore.  I had a discussion with one of my students and her mother about the book, “Heaven is for Real.”  Then I opened it up and stole a line.  This jump-started my poem.  The illustration shows the criticycles from my students, so I knew I had a winner.  Sometimes when fishing for poems, we catch one.  Sometimes, we catch a boot.  My students usually let me know loud and clear what I have caught.

The knockout punch is the one they didn’t see coming.
Like the wave that flips your peaceful float
Twirling you under the salty water
whipping you upside down

You can see the air, the reflection of sunlight calls you up
Can you find it?
Will you swim long enough to catch a breath?
Will you find the shore?

Release tension.
Don’t fight the wave.

God will take you in His arms
and carry you home.

Read Full Post »