I Am From Tea

Posted April 17, 2014 & filed under Notebook, Student Writing.

I am from tea, from clarified butter and frying pans.

I am from the stones that make up my kitchen floor, solid,

Strong and cool beneath my bare feet.

 

I am from the yellow marigolds and orange

And the jasmine that fills my nose and makes me dizzy.

I am from coffee-colored skin and eyes,

From cheapskates and hoarders and scheming aunties.

 

I am from medical schools and universities of law.

From fairy dust.

 

I am from the temple that houses our gods.

I’m from India, thick parathas and tall cold lassies

From the time my sister learned to blow a bubble

And the first time I saw my daddy cry.

 

I am from all the photos on the computer that sits on my desk,

all the memories kept safe in iPhoto, and

all the times the shutter clicked on the camera.

 

I am a seed from an apple growing to blossom

into a tree that spreads its branches to catch the sun.

 

by Rukmini, 7th grade

 

 

Click the link above to listen to the poem read on KPFT radio by Julianna Reeves, a 6th grader at Johnston Middle School For the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston. The background music is “Sitar Hero” by Redshirt Theory. Produced by Susan Phillips.

This poem is featured as part of the 2014 Poem A Day campaign, a National Poetry Month celebration by Writers in the Schools (WITS) that features a different poem by a WITS student every day during April. Click here to learn more.

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Self Portrait

Posted April 15, 2014 & filed under Notebook, Student Writing.

My hair

black as ink

It is rough or soft

but they are so confused

What to be

My skin

brown like a piece of wood.

I am known for good art

and outstanding talents.

My birthmark is like a line

like a letter L

My height is small, but tall

so confused what to be

like a small door.

What people say about me

that I’m a nice girl

My eyes sparkle

like the morning sun.

My mind

so smart people

can’t believe it.

by Salome, 2nd grade

 

 

Click the link above to listen to the poem read on KPFT radio by Negeste Tsegaye, a 7th grader at Johnston Middle School For the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston. The background music is “Instrumental Blues” by the Chess Allstars. Produced by Susan Phillips.

This poem is featured as part of the 2014 Poem A Day campaign, a National Poetry Month celebration by Writers in the Schools (WITS) that features a different poem by a WITS student every day during April. Click here to learn more.

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The Cowboys and Indians

Posted April 11, 2014 & filed under Notebook, Poem of the Day, Student Writing.

Sitting alone on the couch
in the living room.
Everyone outside
mourning, comforting each other
but not me
there I was
sitting alone on the couch.
No one understood
how much I wanted to
be left alone.
They kept coming in
taking a seat next to me
where you would’ve sat.
I wanted to scream at them.

Finally I was
sitting alone on the couch
turned on the tv
and cried.
The old cowboys & Indians
shows came on.
It was as if you had
just been here watching your
favorite shows
the cowboys & Indians
and left it on
like you always did
and someone had to
turn it off for you.
by Sarah, 9th grade

 

 

Click the link above to listen to the poem read on KPFT radio by Maya Venkateswaran, a 7th grader at Johnston Middle School For the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston. The background music is “Ecstasy of Gold” by DJ 2 Bad (composer Ennio Morricone). Produced by Susan Phillips.

This poem is featured as part of the 2014 Poem A Day campaign, a National Poetry Month celebration by Writers in the Schools (WITS) that features a different poem by a WITS student every day during April. Click here to learn more.

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Mother’s Day Poetry Contest: Prompt #2

Posted April 10, 2014 & filed under Event, Notebook, Student Writing.

 KPRC+WITS#2

 

KPRC and WITS have teamed up to sponsor a poetry contest for Houston kids in grades K-5. Post your poem on the WITS Houston facebook page with the tag #MomPoem2014 or email it to poetry@witshouston.org to enter. Complete guidelines are here. And the deadline is April 23rd, 2014. In case you’d like a prompt to get your poem going, here is a good idea:

Close your eyes and remember your mother’s voice. In her talk with you, what refrains do you remember? Make a list of things she says to you often.

Read This:

Stuff Mom Says

Believe in yourself
Pick up your clothes
Hurry up!
How was your day?
Did you eat?
Quit texting
Are you listening to me?
Give me your phone
How was practice?
Do your homework first
Did you do your homework?
Are you listening to me?
It’s okay to be different
It’s going to work out
Believe

By Bianca, 8th grade

Now Try This:

Take your list and add any other remarks, questions, or phrases that you remember. Organize your favorites into a list poem that moves from the specific to the general.

La Noche

Posted & filed under Notebook, Poem of the Day, Student Writing.

 

Mi corazon late y late
te pienso en mis sueños
la noche es muy oscura
tu imagen es bella
eres linda
el alma de mi corazon
eres buena conmigo
pequena
dulce
eres mia, amor
tengo mucho amor
tengo que amarte
porque eres dulce
tienes mucho frio
estas bien en tu herida
te encuentro coraza
y eres la noche
tu herida esta sangrando
tu eres pequena
y eres mi mejor
amiga.by Moises, 2nd grade
My heart beats and beats
I think of you in my dreams
the night is very dark
your image is beautiful
you are pretty
the soul of my heart
you are nice with me
little
sweet
you are mine,my love
I have so much love
I must love you
because you are sweet
you are very cold
you are well in your injury
I find you in your shell
and you are the night
your injury is bleeding
you are small
and you are my best
friend.

 

 

Click the link above to listen to the poem read on KPFT radio by Chelsey Mosqueda, a 7th grader at Johnston Middle School For the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston. The background music is “Gypsy Renaissance” by Behzan. Produced by Susan Phillips.

This poem is featured as part of the 2014 Poem A Day campaign, a National Poetry Month celebration by Writers in the Schools (WITS) that features a different poem by a WITS student every day during April. Click here to learn more.

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Revision Strategy #2: ThoughtShots

Posted December 9, 2013 & filed under Lesson Plan, Notebook, Student Writing, WITS People.

The idea of the thoughtshot comes from The Reviser’s Toolbox, a great book by Barry Lane.

After a student finishes a story, encourage him to find places where he might add thoughtshots.  Barry Lane breaks down thoughtshots into three categories: flash-forwards, flashbacks, and internal monologues.

I have found that lessons on flash-forwards and flashbacks go a long way.   Students become adept at finding places in their rough drafts where they can add a related memory from the past or ruminate about the future.

Be sure to show students examples from books that they are reading or texts in their language arts curriculum.  These models will reveal to them the “code words” that signal a flash-forward (I imagine, I think, If, etc.) or a flashback (I remember, Once, In the past, When I was young, etc.).

Some WITS teachers encourage students to use arrows in their writing to indicate where they are adding a flashforward or a flashback.

Here is an example by a student, inspired by the Judith Viorst book Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, who revised his story to include a flashback and a flashforward:

When I walked into class today, the teacher said, “Test!”  My eyes popped open wide.  This was not the kind of news I needed on a Monday.  Then, I accidently forgot to put away my backpack, and Molly tripped on it, and the teacher gave me the eye!  When I sat down, I missed my chair because SOMEONE had moved it.

Now, the teacher is blabbing on and on about how nice everyone looks today, which reminds me that the teacher told us last Friday to wear a shirt and tie on Monday for School Picture Day.  I’m wearing a Hawaiian shirt with orange flowers because Mom forgot to do the laundry!   I bet this photo will turn out worse than last year’s when my hair was green.  I can picture my parents pulling out today’s photo at my wedding. “Look who you’re marrying!” they’ll say, and everyone will laugh! I knew this was going to be a horrible, messed-up, rotten egg kind of day.

Revision is difficult to teach, but given a few (but not too many) techniques, students are able to make their stories better.

-Marcia Chamberlain, WITS Houston

Companion Poems

Posted June 29, 2011 & filed under Lesson Plan, mentor text, Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

One of my favorite lessons to teach this year was the Companion Poem.  I based the lesson idea loosely on William Blake’s companion poems from Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience.  In these two books Blake included some poems by the same title and generally about the same topic, but written from different perspectives.  The narrator in Songs of Innocence typically speaks from a place of lighthearted joy and youthful vigor.  The narrator in Songs of Experience usually speaks from a place of maturity and caution.  Here is an example of a “nurse” who is supervising children who refuse to go home at sundown because they are having too much fun laughing and playing in the fields.  In the first poem the nurse shares their joy; in the second poem she thinks they are wasting time.

Nurse’s Song

When the voices of children are heard on the green,

And laughing is heard on the hill,

My heart is at rest within my breast,

And everything else is still.”

Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,

And the dews of night arise;

Come, come, leave off play, and let us away

Till the morning appears in the skies.”

“No, no, let us play, for it is yet day,

And we cannot go to sleep;

Besides, in the sky the little birds fly,

And the hills are all cover’d with sheep.”

“Well, well, go and play till the light fades away,

And then go home to bed.”

The little ones leaped & shouted & laugh’d

And all the hills ecchoed.

Nurse’s Song

When the voices of children are heard on the green

And whisp’rings are in the dale,

The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind.

My face turns green and pale.

Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,

And the dews of night arise;

Your spring & your day are wasted in play,

And your winter and night in disguise.

It is fun for children to think about an event from two different perspectives.  The companion poem gives them the chance to do just that.

It is also possible to provide broader guidelines for this lesson and explain that companion poems don’t have to be written by the same person nor do they have to explore a contrary point of view.  One poem might be paired with another poem based on the shape of the poem, the length of the poem, the language of the poem, the point of view of the poem, the theme of the poem, or some of other point of connection.  If I use this broader interpretation, I am never disappointed.  The kids like it because there are plenty of choices involved, and I love the diversity of poems produced.

To set up this lesson, just hand out a page with 5-7 poems on it, different styles, different authors, different topics.  The students pick one that they like and cut it out.  They glue it to a piece of colored construction paper.  At the top of the paper they write the words Companion Poems. Then the students write a companion poem on notebook paper, cut it out and glue it next to the other.  It is easy to display these poems in the classroom.