Category Archives: In the classroom

Post about my role as a teacher

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.

Yikes!

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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Rekindling Readers

IMG_2372Books for the Students First Classroom Library collected so far this summer; some were donated from relatives, others sent by supporters from Virginia, a bunch I bought – all are meant for the readers of room 236. 

 

Twelve weeks into last school year, I was so excited. Finally, I was going to actually establish a classroom library. This idea was my hidden dream – I supposed I was meant to be a librarian and not a teacher…but I had to do it. I just had to…

Way back in the fall, I attended Illinois Reading Council’s Day of Reading Conference where I was enthralled by Kelly Gallagher. Not only have I read a few of his books, Readicide, Teaching Adolescent Writers, Deeper Reading, but I knew this guy knows his stuff simply because he still teaches. He’s with those of us who try to make a difference. each and every day. He’s real…not one of those who now speaks all day long telling me how to teach, while being clueless with what’s really going on these classrooms. Students’ eyes constantly glued to a screen. Their fly-like attention demanding the answers to opinionated analysis questions. Clueless parents unsure about the person I am contacting them about.

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Summer’s Heat, Tempers Rise

lansingteen

 

Image from Facebook via Chicago Sun Times from the video of the Saturday, June 24, 2017 incident involving an off-duty Lansing, IL police officer and a Lansing, IL teen.

 

 

Since the towns where I live and teach are two separate locations, I hear news about my work city via Social Media and the news, be it the actual printed or electronic newspaper or television. Being aware of what I’ve missed is critical during breaks due to the fact that I want to be aware of what’s going on. This morning, all of the major networks’ broadcasts mentioned a Lansing, IL teen was assaulted by an off-duty police officer.

The first thing in my mind was: Does this incident involve one of my kids?

By kids I do not mean, biological, but as one of the kids I teach – be it I had taught them or will teach them. The young man involved is not one, as of yet.

He is fifteen, black, and scared due to the whole world being introduced to him as the teen whose face was shoved into the grass. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have seen students of mine placed in this position.

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