All posts by krpraser

In the Lion’s Den

Since late September is the the midst of high school football season, my son was invited to spend an evening with the varsity athletes from my alma mater (soon to be his actual place of educational growth). I knew this night I needed to be with him. I knew this night he would be required to hang out with the older guys.

But I did not know that I would be in the thick of it…surrounded by not only all of these future football players, the entire varsity team, followed by the complete drumline…I was treated to an all-American pump up party.

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Found Poems

A new collection of poems…like they just popped out of any book.

As I continue the poetry study with my juniors, I gave them yet another task in writing one. This time, it was not about themselves. Nor was it regarding a topic I assigned. It wasn’t a topic of their choice either.

After their daily reading time, I gave each student a book. A random, beat-up book I received from the library’s dead, discarded pile.

I started by showing them a sample of a found poem, explaining that it came from a book. Any book.

I grabbed one myself, about reincarnation, and directed them to skim through the words on the page. “Don’t worry about sentences. Don’t worry about finding meaning of the story or of an author’s point. Let the words spark your creativity.

“Once you find the right page…rip it out of the book.”

To my surprise, many students were terrified by this idea. So I demonstrated. Just like John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society when he instructs his students to tear out the introduction’s J. Evans Prichard’s article “Understanding Poetry.” Instead of these rips due to disdain, these were for art. They got it. They enjoyed it.

With a pencil, I showed students to now read for the words and phrases they may want to keep to compose their poem. Once these were decided, then they had to think about color and symbols and assembly of the picture that harbored their work. So they used the colored pencils, markers, construction paper, scissors, glue and their minds to determine the best way to showcase these words to make them one unit…completely independent from their original work.

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The Chain Poem

Like the red branch of leaves hinting at the pending fall, poetry exists in unlikely places.

In between my juniors’ study of poetry, I have them write. The next exercise required them time, about five minutes, and a topic, of their choice.
How much could be written during those five minutes?
You’d be surprised.
Then I gave them another two minutes to edit and revise their draft, along with discovering their title.
Here’s what a few students wrote:

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The Spoken Word

Like a cloud, sometimes the best poetry is organic, appearing right out of an unknown vapor.


Poetry is the unit my juniors start their year with.


P-o-e-t-r-y. I’ve found that students, from young to old, either love it or hate it. There usually is no in between.

How to get them started? Tupac’s “The Rose that Grew from Concrete.” Students tend to do well in understanding and appreciating the piece, while remaining focused along the lesson.

But…what to do with this type of poem, which is known as spoken word?

To assert the fact that every day we read and write, I have them compose one of their own.

But how?

I direct them to access their photos, social media accounts, emails, texts, calendars starting from June 1 until the first day of school, August 21. They had to write down what they did over the course of the summer: the good, the bad, the typical, the boring, even considering alternatives if they could go wherever and do whatever. With this free write, they are able to pull out the best nuggets – words, phrases, comments, questions to compile about 10 lines worth of a poem. Once with an initial draft, they are able to play with rhyme, diction and experiment with other literary devices to figure out their own style.

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Eight Weeks Out

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A view from one of the paths my training has led me to get the miles in.


Towards the end of June, a friend of mine said, “Hey Kim. I’m doing the Chicago Half Marathon and you’re doing it with me.”

To which my reply, “Ah…okay…”

I have never, ever, ever, in a million, gazillion years considered myself a runner. Yet, with eight weeks out from Sunday, September 24, I am now running three days a week. This is not my first dance with training; oh no.

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