I used to be a regular contributor here at TeachingAuthors, but now I am a guest. In my last post, I explained my difficult decision to step away from the blog because of an overwhelming workload. Now my busiest teaching semester ever is coming to a close, and I have a new book to celebrate. Hooray!
Write a Poem Step by Step: A Simple, Logical Plan You Can Follow to Write Your Own Poems evolved from the poetry workshops I’ve been presenting in schools for the past fifteen years or so. Poems written by students in my workshops illustrate each step in the process. I’m delighted that the TeachingAuthors have invited me back to tell you about it and to give away an autographed copy.
I used to be a regular contributor here at TeachingAuthors, but now I am a guest. As soon as I wrote that sentence, I remembered one of my earliest inspirations for helping students write poetry. Anyone familiar with Kenneth Koch’s classic Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry will probably recognize the form of the “I Used to Be/But Now I’m” poem that he used as a structure for student poems. When I started working with elementary school students, I pored over that book and his Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? Teaching Great Poetry to Children. What I took away from Wishes, Lies, and Dreams is underlined in my tattered copy: “Children have a natural talent for writing poetry and anyone who teaches them should know that. Teaching really is not the right word for what takes place: it is more like permitting the children to discover something they already have.”
A Celebration of Bees: Helping Children to Write Poetry by Barbara Juster Esbensen was an even bigger influence on my developing teaching/helping techniques. I took her words to heart: “If any one word can stand for the essence of creating a climate, an atmosphere that allows the creative impulse to grow and flourish, I think it would be the word accepting. Every child needs to feel that you respect and accept what he or she is trying to do.” I also latched onto her practice of asking questions to draw out children’s own ideas.
For the Good of the Earth and Sun: Teaching Poetry by Georgia Heard convinced me of another important aspect of my approach. “Poems come from something deeply felt; it’s essential for student poets to be able to choose their own topics according to what’s important to them.”
With those concepts in mind, I’ve developed and fine-tuned my own approach to working with student poets over the years. What I wanted from the start was a method students could follow all the way through the process of writing a poem. I didn't want to give them a form to fill in; I wanted them to find their own way, step by step. That process is at the core of Write a Poem Step by Step.
The results in workshops have been amazing: students do have original ideas, extensive vocabularies, and creative ways of expressing themselves. Here’s an example from a long-ago series of visits with one class for which I received the Barbara Juster Esbensen 2000 Poetry Teaching Award:
My mind plays tricks on me
in the dark.
An invisible man
in my closet
is wearing my jacket and shoes.
Miguel Rowell-Ortiz, Grade 3
Write a Poem Step by Step is available now from Lulu, amazon, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores. You can read more about it on my web site. Enter the Book Giveaway for a chance to win an autographed copy!
For a chance to win an autographed copy of Write a Poem Step by Step: A Simple, Logical Plan You Can Follow to Write Your Own Poems, tell us about a book that influenced your own teaching or writing.
To enter our drawing, you must follow the TeachingAuthors blog. If you’re not already a follower, you can sign up now in the sidebar to subscribe to our posts via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs.
You may enter the contest one of two ways: 1) by posting a comment below OR 2) by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.
Whichever way you enter, you MUST give us your first and last name AND tell us how you follow us (via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs). If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address (formatted this way: youremail [at] gmail [dot] com) in your comment.
This contest is open only to residents of the United States. Incomplete entries will be discarded. The entry deadline is 11 p.m. (CST) Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. I'll announce the winner on Wednesday, Dec. 19. Good luck!
READ, WRITE, HOWL.