Poetry is a form of writing that my current class has really connected to. As most young children do, they love to chant sing, or say anything with rhyme or repetition. Poetry is also a writing form that lends itself to emotion that can evoke memory. Because of this I think that poetry will be the ideal writing form for my students to eventually use to express how they feel about places dear to them. Poetry will allow them to explain how they perceive their landscape through the senses as well as allow them to play with meter and rhyme, something that young children are naturally apt to do.
Teaching young children to write anything at all can be a daunting task, while teaching a specific form of writing like poetry can be overwhelming. Therefore I plan to spend time daily on writing, so that my students become confident in their ability and are not intimidated when required to write in a specific style. Everyday my class has time set aside for a writing workshop. The students write daily about subjects of their own choice, being guided by daily mini lessons and teacher conferences. As we are having these writing workshops we will also be exploring poetry about places. This will help the students to broaden their vocabulary for their own writing as well as familiarize them with the genre of poetry. We will read poems about places that I have written, as well as poems by published poets. We will illustrate these poems, talk about the words they use and how they make us see, hear, smell, taste, and feel what the poet is describing. We will explore the rhythm and rhyme of poems through movement and sound. The students will create patterns with movement and sound that match the rhythm of the poem. We will create a variety of these expressions through movement and all participate in the created patterns. I hope by making the rhythm of poetry a physical experience for my students that it will allow them to really understand what a poem sounds like and allow that type of expression to come through in their own writing.
As the unit progresses I want my students to begin creating their own poetry about place. I expect that this will be an ongoing process throughout the unit, and that the students will create a variety of poems by the culminating activity. Creating these poems will give the students, not only a sense of accomplishment, but also give them a way to express their feelings about the places they hold dear. It may allow for them to tell stories about where they are from who they are and what is important to their families. Being able to do this, they may realize a sense of pride about where they are from, and hopefully a sense of their belonging to a community.
The method that I plan on using to implement the writing portion of this unit is based on the Columbia's Teacher's College Workshop model. I was trained in, and used this method for two years, and find it to be exemplary in bringing out students' authentic voices in their writing. The workshop model consists of a small mini-lesson each day on a very specific part of the students writing followed by a long period where students work on long and short term writing pieces, editing with peers and conferencing with the teacher. The way that the model works I find it to be unparalleled for teaching children to write in all forms. Each day through conferences and reviewing the students' work, the teacher is able to see where her students are and what the focus of each mini-lesson should be. The students are able to produce writing that is meaningful to them and can work on each piece for as long as they like. They also learn how to edit, rewrite and eventually "publish their products". The process has potential to create extremely high quality work. The following lesson is one that I would use during the unit. This lesson is an example of how the workshop model is set up and works in the classroom. This type of lesson takes place daily with a different mini lesson each day. In order to be effective the workshop should take place daily, the mini lessons being based on the teacher's daily assessment of her students' writing.
Writing Workshop Lesson
To help my students begin writing poetry, I want them to start noticing the "rhythm" in their own writing. Because my students have been exposed to many poems through shared reading, they are already aware of how poetry is conventionally different than prose. Today the purpose of my mini lesson is to show the students they can make their prose like poetry. I want them to create rhythm within their own writing.
Modeling: Every mini lesson begins with a clear explanation of the teaching point of the day's lesson and the teacher modeling what she expects the students to work on during the workshop. The students gather in front of me in a designated meeting area (in my classroom we have a large rug for this purpose), and I begin by explaining the mini lesson's purpose. I explain, "We have all noticed how poems have rhythm. Today we are going to find rhythm in our own writing." Then I take out a poem we are familiar with, such as "City, City". I read the poem aloud emphasizing where the poet has decided to break and create new lines. After reading I ask the students "Did you notice how the poet wrote the words in his poem so that I could actually see the rhythm while I read it? I am going to see if I can find rhythm in my writing." At this point I show a piece of my own writing on chart paper that I'd been working on previously. In the workshop model it is important that the teacher models explicitly and I find this easiest and most useful when I go through the writing process myself with the children during the lessons. The following is a piece I could use for this exercise. First I would read the piece aloud as normal prose.
My mother and father came to see my new place. I hoped they would like it.
They were quiet at first, but then I saw my father smile, and I knew they did.
I then would demonstrate, thinking aloud, how I would rewrite this piece to look like a poem and find the rhythm. At the end my rewritten piece would look something like this
My mother and father
came to see my new place.
they would like it.
They were quiet at first,
but then I saw my father smile,
and I knew
We then read through the poem together as a group, emphasizing the new line breaks to show the "rhythm".
Practice: After modeling the exercise I give the students a chance to try it out. For this particular exercise I will have students examine another piece of writing with a partner. We will look at either another piece of mine or willing student's piece. I will choose the piece before the lesson and write it on sentence strips that will be in a pocket folder. The students will then be able to break the piece up manually and we will be able to discuss it and view the result as a class.
Individual Work: Once we have practiced as a group the students will return to get their writing folders and begin writing. At the end of the lesson I always send my students away with a reminder of what the expectations will be for the day. I will say "Remember ,today, while you are writing, you will be finding the rhythm in your own writing." The students will then begin the workshop portion, practicing the modeled exercise and continuing to work on their various pieces of writing.
During this time, it is expected that the students will be working continuously. While they have much of responsibility of deciding what tasks they will set out to accomplish during the workshop, it is never acceptable to stop working. I continuously remind my students that "there is no saying you are finished in workshop", meaning there is always something you could do, whether it is revise and old piece of writing, or start a new one. During this time I have individual writing conferences with students. This helps me to assess the progress of each individual on a regular basis as well as guides my future mini lessons.
Wrap up: At the conclusion of the workshop time, I gather the students once again at the meeting area. I reiterate the lesson of the day, and the students are given a little time to voice how it went, and what they discovered or had problems with.
Although the mini lesson is different each day, the basic format of the writing workshop will stay the same throughout the year. Through this type of teaching I plan to have my students write their poetry about place. It can be a long process, but in my experience, the results show that it is one that is very worthwhile.