Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Wednesday Writing Workout: WORD BOWL POEMS!

What could be better during National Poetry Month than a Wednesday Writing Workout that teaches us how to create our very own Word Bowl Poems?
So, thank you award-winning children’s poet and language arts teacher Michelle Schaub, my SCBWI-Illinois kin, for creating today’s original and fun WWW!

Michelle’s newest book, DREAM BIG, LITTLE SCIENTISTS, published by Charlesbridge, is a bedtime book in verse…

Dream big, little scientists,
close your sleepy eyes.
The sun has tucked itself in bed,
the moon is on the rise.

…with a scientific twist! 
The twelve kiddos pictured within the story ready for bed in rooms that show their love for eleven different branches of science!  All dream BIG, from astronomy to physics to chemistry to geology. Posters of representative scientists and all sorts of scientific tools add to the illustrations.

I love the book’s tag line: “Twelve kids. A dozen bedtimes. Endless sweet ways to say goodnight with science!”
Kirkus was right to declare Michelle’s latest “a clever and inclusive bedtime book about science and possibility.” London-based Alice Potter’s illustrations are perfect.

Today’s WWW is one Michelle shares while presenting to students her 2019 Charlesbridge offering FINDING TREASURE: A COLLECTION OF COLLECTIONS, a story told in poems.

     My teacher gave us homework
     that has me quite perplexed.
     He asked us all to bring to class
     something we collect.

Michelle is also the author of FRESH-PICKED POETRY: A DAY AT THE FARMER’S MARKET (Charlesbridge) and several of her original poems appear in THE POETRY ANTHOLOGY FOR CELEBRATIONS (Pomelo Books). She also shares standards-aligned lessons and mentor texts to help educators weave poetry into their classroom on her blog POETRY BOOST.

Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your poetic talents and smarts with our TeachingAuthors readers.

Happy Word Bowl Poem Creating!

And, Happy National Poetry Month!

Esther Hershenhorn

. . . . . . . . . . . .


My poetry collection, FINDING TREASURE: A COLLECTION OF COLLECTIONS, is a story told through poems. In it, a little girl goes on a quest to discover her own unique collection of items to bring to school for show and tell. When I share this book with students, the most common question I’m asked is, “What do you collect?”  The answer: WORDS!

As a poet, I’m obsessed with words. To me, words have a sound, texture, color, and even flavor. Some words are smooth and supple. Meander. Others jagged and sour. Persnickety. When I come across a word that sparks my senses, I write it down and put it in my Word Bowl. I borrowed the idea for a word bowl from poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Woolridge who says “the great thing about collecting words is they’re free…Words are lightweight, unbreakable, portable, and they’re everywhere.” True, words are everywhere. And once you start collecting them, you begin to notice and savor them more and more.

As a teacher, I want my students to savor words as much as I do. I bring my Word Bowl with me to class and invite students to add their own imagination-tickling words. I encourage students to collect tangible nouns, verbs, and adjectives and avoid proper nouns. Midnight. Plink. Ruckus. These are some of the words my third graders have added to the bowl.  For fun, we also added a couple of plastic goldfish to the bowl and named them Syno and Nym. They enjoy swimming around in the pool of words.

What do I do with all of these words? Use them as a splash of inspiration to combat writer's block! One of my favorite writing exercises is to have students write Word Bowl Poems. Each student pulls five words from the bowl and tries using at least three of them in a poem. (Bonus points for using all five words!) I tell students not to worry about rhyme or logic, but just let the words take control and lead them to new places on the page.

Here is a Word Bowl Poem from one of my students. (The bolded words are the ones he pulled from the bowl.)

I saw fungus
disgusting and horrible
frosted like a snowball
or a cloud
caps like parachutes
a surge of disgust
white like a phantom

3rd Grade 

Another way to use Word Bowl Poems as a writing exercise is to have five different students pull one word each. Then challenge everyone in the class to write their own poems that include those five words. It’s fun to compare results and see how the same words can float writers down such different creative streams.

Word Bowl Poems free up your imagination and give you permission to play. The more words you collect, the more of a reservoir you have for those dry days when the words just don’t seem to flow on their own.


Michelle Schaub said...

Thank you for inviting me to write this guest post! It was an honor!

Carmela Martino said...

LOVE this idea, Michelle! You've inspired me to want to create my own Word Bowl! :-)

Carol Coven Grannick said...

I'd run out to get my own special Word Bowl if I wasn't staying at home to keep us all safe : )
I love this idea because it adds the element of surprise, which my brain loves!