Way To Go!

Posted November 8, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Join us in congratulating these past and present WITS writers and students:

Chuck Carlise’s new chapbook A Broken Escalator Still Isn’t Stairs is now available on Amazon.

WITS student Jasmine Davis, who works with WITS writer Melanie Malinowski, won Honorable Mention for her essay “My Life with Clorox” for the Kidney Times Essay Contest.

WITS Summer Camp teacher Aime Gallardo won the 2011 Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award.

Hannah Gamble won the National Poetry Series. Her book Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast will be published by Fence Books in 

News about Van Garrett’s trip to Latvia can be found on his website. Writers in the Schools supported this project through Amy Storrow at the Department of State. Van was featured in a TV story here.

Artist Raul Gonzalez (artist in residence with WITS) was the featured artist for Houston Community College Southwest’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Janine Joseph was named one of the Best New Poets of 2011.

Former WITS writer Marc McKee published a new book titled Fuse.  You can purchase your copy at amazon.com.

Executive Director Robin Reagler’s chapbook Dear Red Airplane was published  by Seven Kitchens Press.

Tria Wood and partner-in-art Tara Conley announced that their art installation, My Life as a Doll, will open at DiverseWorks on November 11th, 2011—that’s right, 11/11/11!

Map of My Heart

Posted August 31, 2010 & filed under Lesson Plan, Notebook.

The WITS approach to teaching creative writing often springs from the inspiring writing and art that we love. Here is a lesson–although not originally ours–that exemplifies our work with young children.

Grade level: 1st – 3rd
Genre: poetry
Objectives: To make discussion about brainstorming, symbolism and revision accessible to young students
Primary sources: My Map Book by Sara Fanelli
Materials: paper, markers
Contributors: Cissy Gully, Tria Wood

Many times, students forgo planning and brainstorming activities and immediately begin writing. This lesson utilizes a preliminary art project as a method of getting the students to brainstorm without realizing it. During the poetry writing portion of the lesson, reading an example poem and discussing the symbolism used in it is an important step in encouraging the students to use symbolism in their own poetry. Finally, sharing their poetry aloud with the class prompts revision in the friendliest and most comfortable of ways.

Begin by showing Sara Fanelli’s My Map Book to the class. Pass out a blank sheet of paper to the class and instruct them to draw pictures of things that are in their heart similar to the maps they saw in Fanelli’s book. After fifteen minutes of drawing, stop them and reveal that they all just engaged in brainstorming.

Share an example poem with the class. It is important for the students to see an example of how the words in a poem such as this one convey more than just their literal meaning. Discuss the symbolic meaning of each line of the poem, asking for student input with each new symbol.

“My Heart”

Tria Wood, WITS writer

My heart is made of rubies, antique buttons, and pencil stubs.
My heart is a piñata filled with clementines and caramels.
My heart is a tiny white finch singing in her nest of thorns.
My heart is a silver snowflake melting on your tongue.

When students begin to write their own poems, challenge them to use their words to symbolically describe what is in their heart, rather than writing a list of all the things they drew on the map of their heart.

After fifteen minutes of working independently on their poems, pick volunteers to share their poems with the class and then let those volunteers choose two students to say one thing they liked about their poem and one thing they wondered. The readers should take the feedback from their classmates and use it to revise their poems. Allow all the students who did not share with the class to pair up, read their poem to their partner, and get feedback to use for revision.



“My Heart”

Julia D., 2nd Grade

My heart is a giant stack of
books that won’t ever stop.
My heart is
a gray morning in rain.
My heart is filled with sweet chocolate.
My heart is filled with strawberries that I love
and daisies blossoming
in the Spring.
My heart is filled with snowy afternoons in Italy.
My heart is sprayed with fun
and laughter and happiness.

If you try this exercise with your students or if you do it on your own, feel free to share the results with us.

Where Are We Now: Tria Wood

Posted May 29, 2009 & filed under Notebook.

Tria wood works on a poem with a WITS student.

Tria Wood discusses a poem with a WITS 4th grade student.

Tria Wood has worked with WITS as a writer for  five years.  She is a gifted writer and educator, who combines writing, art, music, and science to make the creative process exciting to students.  Tria is currently completing a young adult novel, in addition to writing reviews of local art events.  This is what she had to say about her motivations for working with WITS and why she enjoys it:

In 1983, Jane Creighton visited my 7th grade classroom in Edna, Texas, under the Artists and Writers program, using a model similar to the one WITS uses today. It was her visits in particular that made me decide that I wanted to be a writer. I joined the WITS team as a writer in 2005 and have been teaching for WITS ever since.

So many of my students have come to me with poems or stories that they’ve written on their own because they’re so excited about writing since I’ve visited their classrooms through WITS. I love those moments when I can see that I’m passing the love of words on to them the way Jane Creighton did for me.

I feel like I learn as much from my students as they learn from me. These young writers inspire me every day with their creativity and enthusiasm. I’ve felt more “at home” working for WITS than in any other job I’ve held.

This summer Tria will teach with WITS at the Summer Creative Writing Workshops.

* If you were involved in WITS as a student, parent, writer, teacher or staff member, let us know in the comment section. We would love to do a “Where Are We Now” post about you.

Introducing 3 New Bloggers

Posted December 4, 2007 & filed under Notebook.

Three of the writers (teachers) from the Writers in the Schools (WITS) program will join the Poem a Day blogging team this week. Here’s a brief introduction to each one of them.

wits-blog-pics-007.jpgAmy Lin participated in the WITS program as an eighth grader at Sharpstown Middle School and fondly remembers her WITS writer, her Menil visit, and her anthology. She is delighted to have experienced WITS as a student and as a writer. Amy is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she received her degree in secondary education. Before joining WITS, she taught three years of freshman and sophomore English at Kempner High School in Sugar Land, Texas. Amy enjoys writing personal essays, reading mysteries, and perusing cookbooks. She is currently an associate editor with Texas Family Magazine and writes for their education section. This is Amy’s sixth year with WITS and her first as Field Coordinator.

wits-blog-pics-002.jpgJulian Martinez attended high school at Bellaire High School in Houston and graduated with a B.A. in liberal arts from the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to teaching with WITS, he als leads ESL courses through Literacy Advance Houston and can be heard on the radio every Wednesday at 11:30 A.M. on 90.1 KPFT’s “Human Rights Show.” He co-edited a student newspaper at UT and has contributed articles to periodicals nationwide. He has completed one unpublished novel and is currently at work on a second. He has lived in Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, and Texas and has called Houston home now for over five years. He’s an avid runner, and in between short stories you can find him at Memorial Park.

wits-blog-pics-003.jpgTria Wood  is a native Texan and lifelong art aficionado who earned her M.A. in English from Texas A&M University, where she also served as an assistant lecturer before moving to Houston. In addition, she holds an M.Ed. in Art Education from the University of Houston. For several years, she mentored disadvantaged youth through arts-based nonprofits.  Tria serves as Editor in Chief of Visual Arts for ArtsHouston magazine, which allows her to merge her passions for writing, aesthetic theory, and contemporary art. Tria’s poetry, fiction and reviews have appeared in a variety of publications; she also teaches creative writing to Houston area children through the Writers in the Schools program.

Look for their insights and their bylines in the weeks to come.